Last week as we were driving home my nine year old daughter was complaining about one of her friends always asking for help. We’ll call this friend Sally. Eleanor said that Sally would always want her to retrieve things for her or carry her things and if Eleanor didn’t do it, Sally would get mad. I told Eleanor, “It sounds like Sally doesn’t have good boundaries.” Eleanor looked at me funny, so I explained:
Boundaries are like a fence around a yard. They separate what you are responsible for from what other people are responsible for. When Sally asks you to do all these things, it’s like she’s asking you to mow her lawn. If her leg was broken or there was some reason that she couldn’t mow her own lawn, it would be great to help her. But generally her yard is her responsibility to take care of.
We talked about this for a few more minutes, then life went on. A few days later at dinner Eleanor said, “I told Sally to stop trying to make me mow her lawn.”
“Did she understand what you meant?” I asked.
“Not at first,” she explained, “but I told her about the fences and how her yard is her responsibility. So, today Sally asked me to do something, then she said, ‘wait, I’m asking you to mow my lawn.’ and then she did it herself.”
I sat with wide eyes. I have been in so many relationships with people who have poor boundaries (not you, of course). To think that I could make the friendship better by simply having a conversation. I have so many things to learn from my children.