Confident Boundaries with Children

Picture a white picket fence around a beautiful home, this is the analogy Henry Cloud gives In his books about Boundaries to create an image of our responsibilities in life. We each have a home. We may share our home, but within our common space there are times and places of privacy. Our lives are not easily separated from our family’s lives and often the responsibilities of life are ours to share.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ…. for each one should carry their own load. -Galatians 6:2, 5 

Giving up our time and possessions for our spouse and children is not poor boundaries; it is bearing their “burden” as long as we are each taking responsibility for our own “load.” My daughter’s homework is not my responsibility, for example, but helping her get the material she needs to do it is, since she is still dependent on me for rides and finances. She is still living within my home.

It feels good to be needed. 

The younger our children are, the more we need to sacrifice on their behalf. Our infants need us to sacrifice our needs in order to meet theirs. It doesn’t matter how tiered we are, we must get up in the middle of the night if they need us. As our children grow less dependent upon us we would be wise to adjust our boundaries. While it is proper boundaries to stop everything to care for the child who cannot even burp on her own, it may not be healthy to get up every hour to make sure a healthy, grown child is still breathing.

Healthy boundaries are sensitive to other’s needs but not obsessed with them. We will always want to care for our children, but there comes a time when we need to reconsider how much of a burden we bear for them.

It took me a long time to adjust my boundaries when my oldest moved out. After a few times (ok, years) of realizing that I was way more concerned with (whatever the issue was at the time) than he was, I finally began to distinguish between his load and his burden.

We should be training up our kids to take personal responsibility for their lives (their load: their finances, their choices, their habits, etc.) and then sending him out the door with all the confidence of knowing they are prepared. But too often our mommy heart still wants to take care of their every need. It’s especially hard when they make poor choices that could do them harm. Many of us stand in the door as they leave yelling at them, desperate to straighten them up, correct them, or fix their mistakes.

But they don’t need to be burped anymore.

We have trained them in the way they should go, so we must let them go.

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. -Proverbs 22:6

A mom with a lack of confidence is not beautiful.

Unfortunately–or fortunately, depending on how you look at it–we only have so much time to take responsibility for our children. Our adult children’s lifestyles are no longer our responsibility. We may, however offer help as needed and as desired, but a good mother is sensitive to her child’s pride and independence and does not receive this transition–no matter how rebellious it is–as rejection.

They say “a mom is only as happy as her most miserable child.” Trust me, I have lived that truth to it’s painful depths. But I am not miserable anymore because although I will always hurt when my kids hurt, I now respect their boundaries and my own.

An adult child has his own “house with a picket fence.”

Nothing can really break the bond between a mother and child, but the dynamics change as they become independent. They become our neighbors. With separate homes. We can see into each other’s yards and we welcome each other into the house for a short stay, but we do not live together anymore and so we must each take responsibility for our own needs.

It would be unreasonable for my neighbor to expect me to clean her house or mow her lawn. It would be poor boundaries for me to leave my door wide open for her when I am not home. But this doesn’t mean I do not love my neighbor. Nor does it mean she is not welcome when I am available to visit.

But then again, I didn’t give birth to my neighbor.

If you find yourself struggling with the choices your children have made, I encourage you that you are not alone. It is painful. But so was labor, and this too shall pass.


Catrina Welch is an inspirational author and speaker whose passion is empowering women and girls to BE and LET BE. Her expertise as a cosmetologist, image consultant and Biblical life-coach, as well as her personal experiences with abandonment and grief make her message relatable to anyone dealing with rejection, betrayal or loss.

Her latest book, CONFIDENT BEAUTY: Reflecting the One Who Made You, with the Images in your Mirror and in your Soul, is now available as an audiobook. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Linked in to see how you can get a copy free!