Saturday, May 15, 2010

FIRST Presents "Setting Boundaries With Your Aging Parents" by Allison Bottke

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Setting Boundaries with Your Aging Parents: Finding Balance Between Burnout and Respect

Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Allison Bottke is the author of Setting Boundaries for Your Adult Children and the general editor of the popular God Allows U-Turns® series and the God Answers Prayer series. She has written or edited more than 20 nonfiction and fiction books. Allison is in frequent demand as a speaker and has been featured on The 700 Club, Decision Today, and numerous other radio and television programs.

Visit the author's website.
Visit the book's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736926747
ISBN-13: 978-0736926744
Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.


The Road to Burnout

At 3:25 p.m. on January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Moments later, it was struck by a flock of geese, causing its engines to fail. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger piloted one of the most remarkable emergency landings in aviation history, saving the lives of all 155 on board.

He later reflected on a discussion he had with his daughter, Kate, when she was nine years old.

I was driving her to school one day, and out of the blue, she asked me, “Daddy, what does integrity mean?”

After thinking about it, I came up with what, in retrospect, was a pretty good answer: “Integrity means doing the right thing even when it’s not convenient.”

Being a Christ follower also includes doing plenty of things that aren’t convenient or easy. God calls us to be people of integrity—to do the right things. And often, there’s nothing convenient (or easy) about it. In fact, in a world where tolerance has been raised to an art form, knowing what the right thing is can be difficult.

Does the right thing include compromising the health and sanity of your own life and the life of your family as you care for your aging parents? That’s a difficult question only you can answer. But if your answer is yes, what happens to your aging parents when you’ve gone past your breaking point? How does that help them?

It’s true, we won’t always have our parents. The time will come when God calls them home. How will you remember their last years—as a bitter battlefield of will and woe, or with loving memories for the season you experienced together? You build beautiful memories partly by setting healthy boundaries.

Adult children from all around the country tell me about their desire to walk in God’s will as they relate to their aging parents. Yet we aren’t always sure what this means. How responsible are we for them? Cloud and Townsend address this:

Some people were born to take care of their parents. They did not sign up for this duty; they inherited it. Today we call these people “codependent.” Early in life they learned they were responsible for their parents, who were stuck in childish patterns of irresponsibility. When they became adults, they had a difficult time setting boundaries between themselves and their irresponsible parents. Every time they tried to have separate lives, they felt selfish.

Indeed, the Bible teaches that adult children should take care of their elderly parents. “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God” (1 Timothy 5:3-4). It is good to feel grateful to our parents and to repay them for what they have done for us.

Yes, it’s good to feel grateful. However, does being grateful also mean we must willingly accept negative, harmful, and cruel behavior from our aging parents? In the passage above, Paul teaches that proper
recognition should be given to those who are really in need. How do we know when our aging parents are really in need? Cloud and Townsend have more to say about this particular situation.

But two problems generally crop up. First, your parents may not be “really in need.” They may be irresponsible, demanding, or acting like martyrs. They may need to take responsibility for their own knapsacks.

Second, when they are “really in need,” you may not have clear boundaries to determine what you can give and what you can’t give. You may not be able to limit your giving, and your parents’ inability to adjust to old age, for example, will dominate your family. Such domination can ruin marriages and hurt children. A family needs to decide what they want to give and what they do not want to give, so they will continue to love and appreciate the parent and not grow resentful.

Good boundaries prevent resentment. It is good to give. Make sure, however, that it is the proper amount for your situation and resources.

What is the proper amount? Have your emotional, physical, and financial resources been stretched to the maximum, leaving you burned-out, resentful, and just plain angry? Have you reached a point in your life where enough is enough? How do you determine if your parents are really in need? And when is it your responsibility to help them?

One of the most damaging myths we’ve come to believe is that setting boundaries is selfish, that we should never say no to our parents. Cloud and Townsend devote an entire chapter to exploding the common misconceptions we’ve come to believe about setting boundaries. These few lines provide a good summary:

Don’t boundaries turn us from other-centeredness to self-
centeredness? The answer is no. Appropriate boundaries actually increase our ability to care about others. People with highly developed limits are the most caring people on earth.

Being a caring person does not mean being an overly submissive doormat or an overly controlling steamroller. Either of these extremes will eventually lead to burnout.

Author and speaker Virelle Kidder knows firsthand about burnout and about caring for aging parents. In her empowering and inspirational book Meet Me at the Well: Take a Month and Water Your Soul, she shares her story.

Two summers ago I walked into my doctor’s office with hives. Actually I had chest pains too, and a jaw that was acting up. I was tired and feeling old. Just before I left the house, my wise husband, Steve, had said, “Tell Dr. Mastroianni I think you’re depressed.” I told the doctor adding a weak chuckle.

“I knew it the minute you walked in the door.” His gray mustache curled around a smile. “And it’s about time!” he added.

“What on earth do you mean?” I asked as he pumped up the blood pressure cuff.

“Look at your life, Virelle,” he said, and then listened quietly to the stethoscope for a moment. “Blood pressure’s a little high too. Look at what you’ve been through the last few years. Did you think you were immune?” I guess I did.

This much-loved doctor knew our family well. It’s true; we’ve had a lot of “stuff” to deal with. I suppose it began many years earlier with a prodigal son (who’s wonderful now, praise God!), then a child who struggled with regular bouts of mental illness, another daughter with lupus, a son with a heart problem, my own repeated surgeries, Steve’s stressful job, financial challenges during and following the college years and five weddings, both our efforts at ministry, and now my mother’s recent diagnosis with Alzheimer’s and all that has accompanied it. I’d become so used to living with toxic levels of stress, I thought it was normal.

Toxic levels of stress—can you relate? If not, could it be that you’re in denial? Virelle was.

I thought this was not supposed to happen to strong Christians. If we’re in the Word every day and all prayed up, aren’t we supposed to suck it up and go on forever? Yes, we often do, right to an early grave.

I heard a friend say once “Beauty may be skin deep, but stupid runs clear through.” But stupid can seem so right, so spiritual, can’t it? I only half listened to friends who cautioned me about overload, overwork, too much stress and responsibility. That is another name for pride.

We know that pride goes before a fall—and burnout definitely qualifies as a fall! (The actual Scripture is Proverbs 16:18 and reads, “Prides goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”)

Many have said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If you are on the road to burnout, you must understand this:

Rest isn’t laziness.

Boundaries aren’t selfish.

Saying no isn’t disrespectful.

Asking for help isn’t weak.

You can begin now to make choices to change your course—to get off the road to burnout. If God has given you people to care for and love, He will see you through this season. But you’re going to have to make some changes of your own.

My first book is called God Allows U-Turns. It’s a compilation of true short stories by people from all walks of life, stories of second chances and new direction, stories of how it’s never too late to change the course of our lives. Stories confirming that God not only allows U-turns but also continues to walk with us regardless of how many mistakes we make—regardless of how many times we have to turn around and change course.

We naturally want to make meaning of our lives. We were created in God’s image, designed to live in a garden with everything we could ever want or need, yet we’ve lost sight of what that means.

In his book Dealing with the CrazyMakers in Your Life, David Hawkins recounts a story about the time he and his wife were at JFK Airport in New York, returning from a peaceful vacation. Having just spent two weeks in Spain at a resort town on the Mediterranean, the assault on their senses from the busy terminal was a wake-up call. “Our chaos detectors blared their alarm: too much, can’t take it, sensory overload, and danger, get out now!”

After taking time off, he and his wife were now attuned to the fact that what they were experiencing at the airport wasn’t a rational way to live. The incessant din, the sardine-like cramming of bodies, people rushing and arguing, babies crying…it was too much at one time. This was not how God intended anyone to live.

Dr. Hawkins explains in more detail what we experience when we are dealing with crazy-making situations and personalities, and how we’ve come to accept this out-of-control life as something we cannot control. We’ve been living this way for so long that we don’t understand how wrong this is. Many of us have broken chaos detectors. Our warning lights should be telling us that something is wrong, but they’re not working.

We’ve spent years existing as human doings instead of as human beings. We are doing what is expected, doing things to gain acceptance, keep the peace, and earn points. Doing it all, often at the expense of being the people God created us to be. No wonder we don’t really know who we are or what we want. No wonder we have so much trouble setting healthy boundaries.

I know what I don’t want, you might be thinking. I don’t want to feel guilty, angry, used, controlled, or manipulated. I don’t want to feel like I’m beginning to hate the people I love.

Knowing what we don’t want is good. Knowing how we got here and then doing something proactive to change the situation is even better.

How We Got Here

The problems in our relationships with our parents didn’t happen all of a sudden because we took a wrong turn yesterday. We’ve made a series of wrong turns and wrong choices that have brought us here today. In her book Parents, Teens and Boundaries: How to Draw the Line, Jane Bluestein encourages us to reflect on this.

Few of us are especially adept at setting boundaries with anyone, and for good reason. Let’s back up a bit.

When you were growing up, were you told that other people’s needs were more important than yours? Were you rewarded for self-sacrificing and people-pleasing? Were you taught to obey and then shamed, hurt, or punished if you didn’t? Were you chided for questioning authority? Were you taught to avoid conflict at any cost? Were you often told that you were responsible for someone else’s feelings or behaviors? If you answer yes to most of these questions, the price was your sense of self, which is the foundation for boundary setting.

Was your privacy respected? Was it OK to have your own feelings and opinions? Were you encouraged to solve your own problems and supported through the process, or was someone always there to tell you what to do? Or did you spend just a little too much time fending for yourself, perhaps taking care of other family members with very little support? These experiences, too, influenced your sense of where you end and where others begin.

How do you typically respond to conflict? If your pattern is either one of rebellion or one of compliance, you probably haven’t had much practice setting boundaries.

As a child, did you experience verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse? It’s hard to develop boundaries when any part of yourself, including your dignity and sense of worth, is violated.

Clearly, Boundary Setting 101 is not typically a part of a child’s education. If anything, most of us have been conditioned to not set boundaries as a way to avoid the negative reactions of others. The ability to set boundaries to take care of yourself begins with the belief that your “self” is worth caring for. If we’ve learned that taking care of ourselves results in conflict, rejection, or abandonment, it’s likely that we’ll shut down when we need to set a boundary, rather than take that risk.

I came across Dr. Bluestein’s book doing research for Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children and found her insight to be especially helpful for the parents and grandparents I was addressing. They needed to identify their own parenting style to better understand how and why they were enabling their adult children.

Returning to her book with a new focus, I’ve found this a valuable resource in helping adult children better identify the parenting style of their aging parents. This is a key aspect to a better understanding of who we are.

In addition, there has been, for most of us, a severe shortage of healthy role models. Most of the adults in our lives tend to fall into one of two categories: Bulldozers or Doormats.

Bulldozers may appear to take care of themselves, but their version of self-care does not take other people’s needs into consideration. Bulldozers need to win, to have their needs taken care of, and feel entitled to do so at the expense of the other person.

This is not boundary-setting. Boundary-setting considers the needs of the other person, although it does not always accommodate them. In other words, “My way or the highway” is bulldozing, not boundary-setting.

Doormats function as though they had no boundaries. They are agreeable, nice, FINE. (At least until their resentment builds up to one nasty tolerance break, after which they can make the meanest Bulldozer look pretty tame.) Doormats are terribly accommodating, but do so at the expense of their own needs. They tend to be on the losing end of most conflicts. However, by not sticking up for themselves, they not only avoid many conflicts, but they also get to “look good,” be self-righteous, and validate a self-perception of helplessness and victimization. So when you think about it, there’s a great payoff for being a Doormat, but there’s also a high price to pay in the loss of one’s self.

Clearly, these patterns have nothing to do with boundary-setting, although Doormats often function in the hope that being “nice” enough will inspire the people around them to figure out and accommodate their needs. Boundary-setting always takes one’s own needs into account and relies on honest and direct communication (rather than manipulation and clairvoyance).

Growing up with either or both of these models, we receive a number of messages that present obstacles when we attempt to take care of ourselves in relationships with others, messages that connect our worth and lovability to our ability to please others. If most of the people in our lives operated on some form of win-lose method of conflict resolution, either by violating and disempowering (as a Bulldozer) or by self-abandoning (as a Doormat), it can be hard to imagine win-win solutions that consider the needs of all parties involved.

Whew! That’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?

Dr. Bluestein’s categories, Doormat and Bulldozer, appear to be universal parenting styles. Four distinct personality types are also universal.

To better understand how we got here, we need to look at many influences, including our own unique personalities and the role models we grew up with. We’ll talk more about the dynamics of personality types in later chapters. In the meantime, let’s talk about how we are supposed to be living.

As Dr. Bluestein wrote, “Boundary Setting 101 is not typically a part of a child’s education.” We also have little understanding of the concept and principles of setting boundaries God’s way.

God’s world is set up with laws and principles. Spiritual realities are as real as gravity, and if you do not know them, you will discover their effects. Just because we have not been taught these principles of life and relationships does not mean they will not rule. We need to know the principles God has woven into life and operate according to them.

The Ten Laws of Boundaries

Many of us have broken what Cloud and Townsend call the laws of boundaries because we never learned them. We discuss many of these in coming chapters.

the law of sowing and reaping

the law of responsibility

the law of power

the law of respect

the law of motivation

the law of evaluation

the law of proactivity

the law of envy

the law of activity

the law of exposure

If you realize things must change in your relationship with your aging parents and are ready to change direction, make new choices, fix your broken chaos detector, and apply the laws of boundaries, your first step toward sanity is to stop the insanity. That’s where we’ll start in the next chapter.

Balancing Actions

Today, take at least 15 minutes of quiet time alone to meditate, pray, and just think quietly.
What does the road to burnout look like in your life?
List the fears and concerns you have today regarding setting firm boundaries with your aging parents.
Lay these concerns before God and pray for wisdom to make godly choices as you embark on this journey of change.

Happy Reading!



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