Love, Self

8 Simple Steps To Create Boundaries With The Ones You Love


If you struggle in your relationship with your mother, and if you've been in therapy, it's probably been suggested to you that you learn how to set boundaries.

Many of us (and in many cases our mothers) believe that boundaries are about other people's behavior—that they are designed to make other people do what we want them to do, in order for us to be happy.

And the reason many women struggle with this crucial life skill is because it wasn't modeled for them, at least not in the way I am about to explain it!

First, Let's Talk About What A Good Boundary Is NOT.

Healthy boundaries are not mean, rude, or selfish. Healthy boundaries are not orders.

They are not designed to control, manipulate, coerce, or threaten others. They are not meant to change someone else's behavior. They are not ultimatums.

So What IS A Healthy Boundary?

A healthy emotional or personal boundary is a line you draw around yourself and your own behavior. Like a physical property boundary, it delineates where you end and where others start.

Healthy boundaries promote self-responsibility and empowerment. Healthy boundaries are a gift you give to others and to yourself. They are how we take care of and protect ourselves. We create them for ourselves, not for other people.

By contrast, weak boundaries promote enmeshment and emotionally childish behaviors, which distances us from others.

There are two parts to setting a boundary.

  1. The Request: you ask your mother to stop doing something that infringes on your property (literally or emotionally).
  2. The Consequence: you tell her what YOU will do if she doesn't comply with your request. It is an action that YOU will take.

Here are some examples:

  • Request: Please stop yelling at me.
  • Consequence: If you don't stop yelling, I am going to leave/hang up the phone/not respond.
  • Request: Please don't smoke in my house.
  • Consequence: If you continue to smoke in my house, I will ask you to leave.

Notice that when you make the request, the consequence is the action that YOU will take. Your mother can behave however she would like. The goal isn't to control her.

Now, here's the tricky part. Most of us want to have clear boundaries (especially with our mothers), but we don't want to follow through on the consequence part. We don't want to take the action that we say we're going to take. And then we get even angrier with Mom if we have to actually follow through. 

We believe that she should respect and honor our boundaries! And that is the number one mistake women make when setting boundaries with their mothers!

Love And Honor.

We have to love and honor ourselves enough to set proper boundaries with our mothers, not just for our sake, but also for hers. It's not your mother's job or responsibility to respect your boundaries—it's yours. It's your job to know what they are, to honor them, and to keep your word to yourself if your boundaries are crossed.

Setting good, healthy boundaries with my mother was one of the hardest things I've ever done, especially given that there was 40+ years of me NOT setting boundaries with her. But it was also one of the most empowering things I've ever done. I was finally being honest. And I finally felt in integrity with myself AND her.

Let me tell you what's amazing about that. I rarely have any resentment, bitterness, or anger when it comes to my mother. Because I have honored my boundaries – rather than feeling resentful, bitter, and angry—I feel love.

Boundary Setting Tips.

Here are my go-to tips for boundary setting:

  1. Decide: Decide that you value yourself enough to establish boundaries and that you value your mother enough to teach her how to be with you.
  2. Be compassionate: You are modeling an important skill for effective communication. Being compassionate and setting boundaries go together.
  3. Avoid Frustration: If you're frustrated, angry or resentful, you're not ready to set a boundary. Work through those emotions first. Journal (or talk with someone who WON'T continue to validate your anger) until you can get to a space of calm, peace, and love. The reason you are upset is not because of what your mother is doing (or not doing), it's because you don't have proper boundaries in place and you haven't been speaking your truth.
  4. Boundary Conversation: Once you're clean and clear (which basically means that you've taken responsibility for your upset), then you can have a boundary conversation.
  5. Charge Neutral: When you are setting a boundary it is critical that you use a neutral tone of voice. If there is a negative (or falsely positive) charge to your communication, then the message can get lost and the clarity of the boundary becomes clouded. Practice speaking without a charge in your voice so it feels natural.
  6. Practice: Practice your new skill with someone who will offer little resistance. Get a feel for what it is like to make the request. When you get more confident you can start setting boundaries with your mother.
  7. Responsibility: Be responsible for your own communication, but understand that you are NOT responsible for how your mother receives or interprets it, nor for how she feels as a result. Create clear direct ways of communicating and allow your mother to feel how she chooses.
  8. It's Not Personal: Don't take it personally if your mother doesn't change or respect your boundary. How she chooses to behave, act, and think has nothing to do with you.

You can only be responsible for your own communication.

Karen C.L. Anderson is a writer and master-certified life coach who helps women make peace with difficult family members and embrace their pasts without shame or fear so they can rock their amazing lives.