Extras to Earn, Not Expectations to Receive :: A Week of Boundaries

leaving the house and boundaries

I read Boundaries with Kids in February (which feels like so long ago!).

While I felt like I understood the concepts, I floundered on the follow-through. I could see the issues described in the book being played out in my home, and like the true brainiac that I am – I just watched and I couldn’t seem to connect the dots.

I felt like I couldn’t come up with consequences that made sense. My kids would cross boundaries and disobey while I just watched, feeling paralyzed.

Instead of being constructive, I lectured and over explained how their actions made me feel. I saw their little eye glaze over again and again. Here she goes again… I reacted with words which doesn’t help at all. (And now I know better. This is explained in detail in the book.)

For a couple weeks, I felt like a train wreck.

So I did the only thing that made sense: I prayed.

Help me, Lord! I am so broken and needy. I know what’s right but I can’t do it! I keep repeating the same mistakes. I want to love my children by creating and maintaining loving limits but I honestly don’t know how.

For weeks, I felt like my prayers were going unanswered.

I was grasping at straws.

Then I saw our routine chart (you know, the one we never use and have visually learned to “not see” anymore – yeah, that one), and I realized that I had already done the work of creating boundaries. No reinventing the wheel necessary.

So, now I had my boundaries clearly laid out, but what about consequences for crossing the boundaries? Because as the authors said “It’s their job to cross the boundaries.”

And then I realized that the consequences should be the loss of the regular, weekly extra activities that we enjoy. In my desire to shower my kids with comfort and joy (great things!), I made the “extra activities” in our life the expected activities or dare I say the entitled activities. For example, a trip to the library is great! And when you take due dates into view, a trip is a need. But do we need to go there or do we want to? For us, the line between needs and wants in our schedule was blurred.

Not only was our schedule a blur, but our household chores were getting muddy too. Because there weren’t consequences for failing to follow through on tasks, I was turning to money to motivate them to obey. When I would engage with my older kids (7 and 9 years) to train them in some personal responsibility, they were beginning to expect monetary rewards instead of just doing the tasks for the sake of obedience. So, I allowed my lack of boundaries to fool me into the mindset that I should try to bargain, bribe, or beg them to obey.

And I’m not joking! The words: I’m begging you! Were becoming a part of my weekly vocabulary.


I took a hard look at my own life: why is this behavior so important to me? What is most important to my kids? How can I move them from consuming our schedule, home, resources, etc. to contributing to these? What will motivate and correct?

I already learned that money didn’t work. Like a cupcake with too much frosting, they bit a little and then scraped the extra off and continued without changing the behavior I was trying to change.

So, I considered my life again but more practically. If I want to enjoy something, what has to happen? If I want to have a peaceful morning, I put in the work the night before to wash pans, tidy up, and write the plan.

Plain old life requires work, but there are natural rewards in that work too – like peace!


I decided that I needed to train my kids to see life’s rewards as extras to earn not expectations to receive.

And this week has been so different.

Monday: I wanted to follow the routines. Now hear me, I’m a flexible person. I’m not hyper strict about most things. I enjoy my Type B personality (or my adult ADD) most of the time. So to reward my kids for their participation in our daily responsibilities, I said that I would take them to a new play place by 2pm as long as we each put our responsibilities first. I built free time into the schedule too. There was no need for anyone to feel burdened, just loosely guided.

One additional condition was kindness. No out of control arguments. I’ve been working for months on training my little people to treat each other with kindness and respect, to see and anticipate the needs and feelings of each other.

They were on board and super excited to go and play! What a treat. Usually Mondays are “stay home” days.

But they argued – again and again. I had to correct and redirect. I warned without lecturing or showing any emotion, until finally I had to say “You’ve lost the privilege. We will not be going to the play place.”

Boy, was it hard to stick to this consequence! They straightened right up, got back on track, and asked again if we could still go. Considering the fact that we actually hadn’t fallen behind in our routine. We could still make it – no harm, no foul. But I couldn’t give in or change my mind.

This is vital to establishing real boundaries. Boundaries that are consistent.

I told them that we could find another time in our week to add in this fun extra, but that they would have to continue to show me that they could respect the routine.

Tuesday: Library day. They couldn’t keep it together. Squabbles and dawdles robbed them of their “need” to go to the library.

At this point, I could see that I was really getting through to them. Not only was I being firm on the limits of their behavior, but I was being loving! I was calm, compassionate, and willing to listen to them. I wasn’t willing to compromise or change my mind. I asked for the routine to be followed without fighting (little arguments and disagreements aside – they are kids for heaven’s sake), and I meant it.

Wednesday: we got out of the house and enjoyed a little perspective from the outside, which brings us to Thursday and the picture of us leaving the house!!!

We enjoyed the library and the play place! We got out of the house (easily!!) by 9am with chores done and no fighting!

Am I being too strict? Is it fair to cancel plans and make they follow the routine? (Side note: we [my older kids and I] created this routine together, so this isn’t just a “my way or the highway” plan. It’s a collaboration.) I don’t think so.

This is parenting. 


*I am not a parenting expert. This post isn’t written to diagnose or treat any parenting issues. If you see yourself in my experience or my kids’ behavior, I pray this post will encourage and not discourage. I would love to connect with you personally too! Click here to read my previous post reviewing the book on Boundaries with Kids.

Boundaries with Kids :: A Brief Book Review

Boundaries with Kids

Very few rules with very great follow-through.

That was my parenting motto before reading Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I felt like a pretty good parent with the exception of the occasional hormonal outburst when I felt like my brain and my mouth weren’t connecting very well.

I wasn’t sure how much I was really going to learn about parenting from this book, but I was given a copy and encouraged to read it. So, I did even though I usually avoid all parenting books.


Well, it definitely isn’t because I came naturally to motherhood or boundaries.  And I’m sure pride does play a major part in my previous avoidance of all books in the “parenting” category, but the bottom line for my aversion was fear. Fear of knowing more than I could do.

For me, consistency is huge. Follow-through is one of the foundational building blocks for trust, and I want my children to trust me almost more than I want them to love me (or maybe real trust is real love).

Selfishly then, I try to do my best on my own with what I already know so that I’m not over burdened by all the wonderful opinions and advice contained in all the popular parenting manuals. Because if I know better but can’t perform better then I’ll be too discouraged to even try.

Not to mention the confusion of conflicting messages contained within the top 5 books. Each book forms an “exclusive club” – spankers, praisers, behavior modifiers, etc. I didn’t want to feel conflicted by the pressure to be a purist in any single method.

But Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend was a lot more than just a parenting method book. This resource contains a wealth of information on how to define healthy boundaries, how to unpack the principles of healthy boundaries, and how to execute the principles.

Often when we are speaking on the topic of kids and boundaries, a mom will ask for help with a problem: “I set the boundaries for behavior for my child. But she keeps crossing them. What do I do?” The answer is, “That’s what is supposed to happen. You are the parent. You have a job. You job is to set the limits and enforce the consequences in love. She is the child. She also has a job. Her job is to test the limits many times with her active aggression and thereby learn about reality, relationship, and responsibility. It’s the divinely ordered training system.”

This quote contains the main concept of the book. The authors did a thorough job of answering my top questions: Why do we need boundaries? How are boundaries different than “rules?” What does it look like to set and maintain boundaries? And will there be growth and fruit in the parent-child relationship because of boundaries?

I discovered that I over empathize with my children’s emotions. The scenario of a crying three-year old when mommy leaves the house really hit home with me, and I had to take a hard look at some of the ways I project my feelings (adult size) onto my child. Doing this isn’t fair to the child and it isn’t helpful for building reliable (and loving) limits.

Speaking of “loving limits” – this reminds me so much of the children’s program in BSF. If you want to find a Bible study that has child care, check out Bible Study Fellowship. Their children’s leaders follow such beautiful guidelines for working with and training children that I often felt like this book and their manual could be complimentary. (BSF children’s leaders are some of my very favorite people!)

The other major wake up call for me was in identifying that my children are often passive boundary crossers. Oh my, isn’t it so sneaky how our bent towards self and sin can be masked by being compliant? This section is contained later in the book and up until this point I was reading along with a (slight) chip on my shoulder, thinking we were doing pretty good. I don’t have the kid that throws a WWIII level tantrum in the grocery store – so I’m good!  

Ugh. Nope.

I now think that how my children behave (and how I’ve trained them to behave) is harder to correct than a child who needs to be redirected in their active boundary crossing.


While this has created more work for me and has opened my eyes to see the change that needs to happen, it has birthed enough hope and desire for healthy relationships that I feel motivated to work on establishing healthy boundaries. Besides, this is the year of GROW, right? It all fits.

There were a few things that I didn’t love about the book though, and it took a lot of concerted effort to finish this book. (I was often tempted to put it down in favor of lighter, more entertaining reading.) But I want to FINISH what I start this year. I want to follow through on even the little things that I start. This is part of how I measure growth in my own life.

Here are the ways I feel like the book fell short of being the “perfect” parenting book:

  • There aren’t enough stories. The stories that are included mainly focus on working out boundaries and consequences with teenage kids. Some of the most powerful applications of consequences were dependent on the child having to stay home alone while the rest of the family enjoyed an outing.
  • The conversations included from their own younger children didn’t feel organic. I felt like I was reading “staged” material.
  • When scripture was included, it was used to support their principle without much context or explanation of the verses. I felt like they could have developed the connection using scripture as their starting point.
  • I was hoping for more practical ideas for consequences. I’m not creative enough to figure out a consequence that will really teach. A “time out” sometimes is exactly what my 9 year old introvert wants! Win win for her, she disobeyed and got alone time too! I was looking for ideas on how to correct without being too complacent or too strict.

I do recommend this book, especially for anyone struggling with discerning where their identity stops and where their child’s starts. It’s all too easy to get emotionally tangled up in doing our very best for our kids. But like it was pointed out in the book, my parenting is temporary. The goal is to raise an adult with healthy boundaries.

Check out Boundaries with Kids. And check out what I’m reading this year!


How to Make Parenting Decisions with More Efficiency and Less Guilt (Free Downloadable Guide)

How to Make Parenting Decisions with More Efficiency and Less Guilt Free Downloadable Guide

My kids were watching TV during the morning. But that wasn’t a part of our normal routine.

I was sitting at the table eating alone and starting to feel a twinge on guilt for being off schedule. And then a comforting thought came into my mind this isn’t harming them.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel overly guilty about things.

If some magazine article says that watching 30 minutes of Sesame Street is going to alter the brain waves of my 2 year old – I believe it! And suffer from panic-inducing-anxiety over any time my son points to the TV and says “Elmo!”

So it was a big step for me to be able to stay calm when I knew they were all zoned into a screen during our “non-screen” time of day.

Instead of wasting my time thinking through all the ways I knew this to be bad by their standard (whoever they are), I told myself we will adjust the afternoon routine.

For us, watching an episode of Sesame Street everyday is okay. I’ve taught myself to not feel bad about that. I let go of the convictions of others, in order to embrace my own convictions and in doing so I am able to have a clear conscience.

When I try to operate by following a list of someone else’s convictions – that’s when I feel guilty and defeated before I even start the day. When I try to carry someone else’s burden – I end up feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, guilty, and irritated.

Why is it that all these negative side effects come from trying to do something good?

Because there’s a difference between doing good and doing what’s best.

I’ve learned that I must own my identity in order to know clearly how I am to live with purpose. When I have my beliefs and security firmly rooted, I can parent with peace.

Living out this new way of parenting for me hasn’t been nebulous and abstract. On the contrary, I have strategically charted a way to discern my parenting convictions in order to have clear purpose and healthy boundaries – for my thoughts, actions, and feelings.

Since discerning my parenting convictions, I have noticed that I’ve been more flexible, less tempted to compare my parenting to someone else’s, and free to live with intention because I’m not afraid of the details.

So what is this strategy?

To create a Parenting Purpose Statement (see link at the end of this post for a free guide).

How to Make Parenting Decisions with More Efficiency and Less Guilt Free Downloadable Guide 1

A parenting purpose statement creates a bond between the internal mission and the external actions. It forms a grid or filter through which all thoughts, actions, and activities can be processed to know quickly if it is in line with my goals.

I can parent more efficiently – each decision big or small is quickly passed through the grid and I don’t waste time thinking about popular advice or what others are doing.

In the end, I want to be fruitful with my life. I want to sow the seeds that will nourish my family. I don’t want to waste my emotions on whether my kids watch Elmo at 10am or 3pm. I don’t want to feel accountable to parent the same way others do.

I want to focus on what makes me unique in my parenting and live up to the potential I have.

This focus allows for a clear conscience, faster decision making, and less guilt.

I’ve written a guide to help walk myself and others through creating Parenting Purpose Statement. Click here to download it.

If you enjoy it please copy this link to share it! And consider subscribing to TheHomeLearner for more free content like this.

Be Their Safe Place

Be their safe place

What comes to mind when you think of a “safe place?”

Your room growing up? A tree house? A favorite book or movie? Is it connected to a feeling, food, or friend?

Everyone needs a place where they feel invited and secure. A place where they belong.

I had the privilege of attending a conference a couple of years ago where I was introduced to Dr. Kathy Koch (“Cook”). Her seminar on the 5 Core Needs rocked my world.

This information wasn’t like the other seminars I had attended like: How to Homeschool with Toddlers or Struggling Readers. No the information Kathy shared went to the very heart of why it is the highest calling to be a parent.

I have the greatest influence on my children.

Whether their needs are met by me or someone else, I am accountable for them. At the end of the day, how I raise my children – the choices I make for their education, recreation, entertainment, etc. – will either feed them or starve them.

For weeks after the seminar, I observed my children. I took note of their personalities, the highs and lows of their days, their interests, and what got them excited. (Did you know that you can learn a lot about how your child is gifted by watching what they do when they become excited. Say something surprising happens – grandma stops over unexpectedly with a gift, they get a letter in the mail, or a friend calls to invite them for a playdate – the first thing they choose to do after receiving this often tells me what makes them feel the most alive.)

The reason I wanted to take the time to make my observations was so that I could best teach them. I felt like I had been failing them. I was forcing a curriculum that was boring, or I did understand their natural strengths.

The initial main goal was to figure them out. Graph their needs on paper.

And this I did. It was phenomenal. I saw my children in a whole new light. I started reading How Am I Smart, and saw just how the definitions of “word smart” or “picture smart” revealed the inner strengths of my children. I was constantly telling my husband about our children’s behavior and how their behavior fit into this new philosophy of nurturing them. I was with them and for them. They were fascinating to me. I was loving how much I was learning and discovering. It was like a whole new world of understanding was within my grasp.

They were blossoming quicker it seemed as I spend more and more time studying and encouraging them with my new found love of learning them.

Love of learning them

They loved it too.

I was becoming their safe place.

And over time, I realized that my initial goal was based on the wrong desire. Sure teaching my children is important – very important as a homeschooling family – but loving them, securing them, and allowing them to feel like they belong is so much more important.

How do I know that I’m their safe place? Because for my oldest that means being ready to receive her expressions at any given moment. She needs permission and space to pour out her creative passion for life. My middle needs my ear. He needs to be able to tell me anything at any time. He feels safe knowing that I want to listen. And my youngest needs to hug. He shows that he feels the most safe when wrapped up in my arms. It’s the first thing he does in the morning, and the last thing he does at night.

So how can you become your child’s safe place?

Here’s 4 ways to start focusing on building belonging:

  • Always be happy to see them even when days are long and nights are short. Think about your facial expression. My husband is a great mirror for me with this because it is not natural for me. Think about saying “I care about you” with just your eyes.
  • Affirm them in their gifts and talents. We all need reminders that we matter to our loved ones. Someone who shows me they are happy to see me boosts my satisfaction with myself and strengthens the bond of our relationship.
  • Earn their trust by meeting their needs (affection, food, fun, etc.) Meet their physical needs consistently. Don’t make them ask for everything. And don’t wait for them to tell you what their needs are. Study them.
  • Train their wants by doing life with them. Addressing their desires head on – do not trick, lie, or avoid their requests. Again, meet their needs, but don’t confuse them by always giving in to their wants. This doesn’t help them feel safe; it can make them feel too much responsibility. A child who behaves as if they are entitled to all their wants is actually more unhappy than a child who has a healthy view of their wants in light of their needs being met.

So did I figure my kids out? Yes and no. I’m still learning. I did chart their strengths and smarts. But more than that, I fell more in love with who they are, and they noticed. Our bond has grown deeper and our sense of security more sure.

Monday’s Mindset is: It’s worth the work to be their safe place.

There is an affiliate link in this post. Also, if you know me personally be on the lookout for more information coming soon! With more family pictures too. 🙂