Well-Known Member
I'm reading Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend (which is a great book) and one part is so relevant to what happens when we set boundaries with our Difficult Child's that I thought I would share it here. This is a quote from p. 247 - 248 of the book in a section discussing outside resistance we get when setting boundaries with others: (emphases are added by me)

Angry Reactions
The most common resistance one gets from the outside is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.

When they hear no, they have the same reaction a two-year-old has when deprived of something: "Bad Mommy!" They feel as though the one who deprives them of their wishes is "bad," and they become angry. They are not righteously angry at a real offense. Nothing has been done "to them" at all. Someone will not do something "for them." Their wish is being frustrated, and they get angry because they have not learned to delay gratification or to respect others' freedom (Prov. 19:19).

The angry person has a character problem. If you reinforce this character problem, it will return tomorrow and the next day in other situations. It is not the situation that's making the person angry, but the feeling that they are entitled to things from others. They want to control others and, as a result, they have no control over themselves. So, when they lose their wished-for control over someone, they "lose it." They get angry.

The first thing you need to learn is that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem. If you do not realize this, you may think you have a problem. Maintaining your boundaries is good for other people; it will help them learn what their families of origin did not teach them: to respect other people. [note: we tried]

Second, you must view anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot jump across the room and hurt you. It cannot "get inside" you unless you allow it. Staying separate from another's anger is vitally important. Let the anger be in the other person. He will have to feel his anger to get better. If you either rescue him from it, or take it on yourself, the angry person will not get better and you will be in bondage.

Third, do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves. There is great power in inactivity. Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course. Just allow him to be angry and decide for yourself what you need to do.

Fourth, make sure you have your support system in place. If you are going to set some limits with a person who has controlled you with anger, talk to the people in your support system first and make a plan. know what you will say. Anticipate what the angry person will say, and plan your reaction. You may even want to role-play the situation with your group. Then, make sure your support group will be available to you right after the confrontation. Perhaps some members of your support group can go with you. But certainly you will need them afterward to keep you from crumbling under the pressure.

Fifth, do not allow the angry person to get you angry. Keep a loving stance while "speaking the truth in love." When we get caught up in the "eye for an eye" mentality of the law, or the "returning evil for evil" mentality of the world, we will be in bondage. If we have boundaries, we will be separate enough to love.

Sixth, be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences. One woman's life was changed when she realized that she could say, "I will not allow myself to be yelled at. I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk about this without attacking me. When you can do that, I will talk to you."

These serious steps do not need to be taken with anger. You can empathize lovingly and stay in the conversation, without giving in or being controlled. "I understand that you are upset that I will not do that for you. I am sorry you feel that way. How can I help?" Just remember that when you empathize, changing your no will not help. Offer other options.

If you keep your boundaries, those who are angry at you will have to learn self-control for the first time, instead of "other control," which has been destructive to them anyway. When they no longer have control over you, they will find a different way to relate. But, as long as they can control you with their anger, they will not change.

Sometimes, the hard truth is that they will not talk to you anymore, or they will leave the relationship if they can no longer control you. This is a true risk. God takes this risk every day. He says that he will only do things the right way and that he will not participate in evil. And when people choose their own ways, he lets them go. Sometimes we have to do the same.


Well-Known Member
I liked that book. Of course, not everyone here is a Christian and it has a strong Christian slant, but I think the wisdom is there even if you don't talk about the religious part.

I'm like the woman you quoted in your post. I learned to tell my son, "I am going to wait until you are calm to talk to you." Then I sign off the phone, I don't read texts, I let him settle down and if he calls me a few days later and is still stirred up I just rinse, repeat. I did not realize it was in that book...I have read so many books about how to detach and deal with our difficult adult children. That was one.


Pursuit of peace
I like what you quoted here, and as an atheist, unfortunately the religious slant would be turnoff as MWM suggested. The wisdom is wisdom whether presented in a secular or faith based view, and truly resounds with the issues we suffered until Evan moved out. Our ridiculous rules and unreasonable boundaries shifted him out of the comfort zone he wished for us to pander to. We just could not let our lives revolve around the police state he was instigating for us. Or we could have been stoners and not given a :censored2: about anything he wanted, but he may have gone without food or clean laundry as he lied about in reality.
I know I still react in anger, and it's hard, so hard. I grew up with the negligent parents who did nothing for me and plenty to me, even using me for welfare money to smoke and drink off my back, no clean laundry and no consistent food, yet he appreciates nothing. Not the fact I gave him everything I never had, I gave him stuff I wanted him to have, even took him places and cared for all his medical needs. He was entitled to all. Of that and more, we were just supposed to conscript ourselves to those demands i order to earn his respect and become reasonable parents.


I recently realized that my reactions to DQ are Pavlovian. Meaning she could come to rely on my reaction and knew exactly how to provoke them.

I began to see a pattern with her. When she didn't get what she wanted, she would chose the next best thing. A fight with me. Not physical, but badgering, screaming, name calling and so on. This article is correct, she views people for what they can do for her. And she could count on me to react to certain things, and as is natural, want to defend myself. Or worse, trying to get her to see a logical way of thinking.

When I realized I could not get her to see reason, I stopped trying to convince her. It was a waste of my energy. I've taken it further the past couple of weeks. When she asks a question, I give her my answer, yes or no. If I'm feeling generous, I'll give a brief reason why, but usually not. And I leave it at that. If she badgers me, I'll restate my answer, tell her it's the end of the discussion and walk away. I do not respond to anything she says after that. I listen to it, looking for keywords, like I'm leaving, cutting or a threat. But I act as though I don't have a care in the world, and nothing she says affects me.

DQ is most definitely not happy with this change. She would love nothing more than to fight. It took me a long time to understand that she isn't airing grievances. She IS trying to feed her own anger by fighting. This change has not solved any of our problems, and in fact probably made them worse. But there is a peace in giving myself permission not to fight back. I don't own her any explanations. I don't have to defend my choices. And it has taken a burden off of my shoulders. I no longer waste precious energy going back and forth with her.