Expert Reveals The Best Way To Tell A Parent They're Violating Your Boundaries

Your boundaries are for you to enforce.

Woman telling parents that they are violating her parenting boundaries Cookie Studio | Shutterstock, Koldunova_Anna, PP | Canva

My first rule for boundaries is that my boundaries are for me to enforce. I wasted a lot of time trying to get other people to adhere to my boundaries, and that resulted in a lot of unnecessary relationship angst and pain. If somebody is doing something I don't like, I get to remove myself (or my child) from that situation.

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Another critically important rule when preparing to have a difficult conversation (especially with parents and other family members), is to first consider whether saying something will be constructive.


 If you explain the "why" behind your request, will they be motivated to change the way they do things? If the person you are sitting down to talk with is genuinely interested in connecting with you, and open to feedback, then absolutely talk with them about the issue at hand. Do so in a way that doesn't make them feel defensive — avoid making them feel stupid, or shaming them for doing something different.

For example, "Mom, I love that you love spending time with our children! I know you only want what is best for our children, and some new guidelines have come out since you raised us about XYZ. We are following XYZ, and want things to be consistent when our children are with you. Are you open to following XYZ?" And then have a conversation.


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@morethangrand Grandparents and parents working together teaches children the lessons we want them to learn.Get New Grandparent Essentials to help manage expectations before problems arise. #grandparents #grandparent #CommunicationTips #GrandparentsLove #AdultChildren #NewGrandparent #newgrandma#newgrandparents #newgrandma #Grandparenting #HealthyBoundaries #Boomer #EffectiveCommunication #GentleGrandparenting ♬ original sound - MoreThanGrand

On the other hand, if you know there is no conversation to have and your parent will only be reactionary when talking about the thing you want them to change — then accept the fact that they are not going to change their mind. And decide if the issue is such that you really can't leave your children with your parent. 

For example, when I was growing up, seatbelts were optional. However, by the time I was raising children, they were not optional. If seatbelts were optional for my parents or in-laws when transporting my children, then I would not have put my children in the position of riding in the car with my parents. I would change my behavior.

Grandparents try not to violate boundaries with grandchild. Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock


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Expecting other people to change the way they do things to accommodate my demands is a surefire way to increase conflict. Some people are open to change, and want to be accommodating - and for those people, explaining the why behind your request may be persuasive in getting them to change. But if it's not persuasive, then you need to change — whether that's your level of interaction and involvement, your dependency upon them, or the requests you are making of them.

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Jennifer Hargrave is a divorce attorney in Dallas, Texas. Her specialty is in helping families bring an end to a broken marriage, in a way that helps them prepare for the next chapter of their life.