There is this thing that happened back when Grace was home for those few months after her mission that I keep thinking about: Something that made me think about the importance of boundaries in the midst of a coddling world.

One of my other kids (who shall not be named to protect the not-so-innocent) was having a rough night.

Oh she wanted something pretty terribly (I can’t even remember what), and she was throwing quite a fit about it.

What I do remember is that I was about to give in. Because oh! I was so tired. That day had been a doozy.

Grace was standing behind the tantrum-thrower, she could tell my giving in was right around the corner, and she gave me the wide-eyed “stop, mom!” sign (her hand swiping across her neck). Thanks to her, I didn’t give in. I kept those boundaries.

Of course, the not-so-innocent child stomped off to her bedroom, mad as a hornet.

But do you know what? She cooled off and came to give me the biggest hug to apologize. (This girl, I must add, is my hero and yes, has her moments, but is learning and growing every day.)

She knew she was in the wrong. It just took a little time for her to internalize that. She was able to resolve things in her own mind after a little thinking. And she was SO MUCH HAPPIER knowing that those boundaries were still firmly in place.

Kids need boundaries

I was so grateful for Grace (who will be such an amazing mother some day), who reminded me that just because someone is wailing and I am tired doesn’t mean I should give in.

We all know this, right? Logically and outside of the emotions of it all of course we know kids need boundaries. But as I have thought about this interaction I realized I have been letting go of boundaries a little too much lately. It wasn’t just that doozy of a day when I was tired that I was tempted to let them go. Sometimes it’s just SO MUCH EASIER to let kids have their way!

Keeping boundaries is even trickier with teenagers

I am in the thick of tricky teenager-hood right now I tell you! Who’s with me? Every teenager has their own tricky business, but sometimes I think this particular teenager might just break me. Talking to other moms over the years I don’t think I’m alone in this: the stages where each teenager throws their mom for a loop.

I have to remind myself all the time to become a “durable object,” and not let my emotions get the best of me.

All that to say I have a renewed appreciation for the beauty of boundaries.

And if anyone else needs the reminder today: It really is ok to say no sometimes.

In fact, hold to your guns a lot.

Figure out some good consequences that work for your kids when they are sassy or throw their own version of a tantrum. There is safety and comfort to be found within the realms of what works for your family.

Curfews are beautiful.

Clear expectations help kids grow.

Consequences teach.

It’s ok for kids to be mad at you sometimes.

That often means you’re doing it right.

In a world where so many boundaries are diminishing, I am reminded how important it is for parents to fortify them.

Grace and Claire walking together in the sunset with boundaries on the street
This picture has nothing to do with this post, but you need a picture, right?

I love thinking about tips and tricks on raising teenagers:

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  1. I really appreciated this post. I almost gave in to one of my children today but I didn’t. I later found a way to give them what they wanted. I’m sure some would say I actually gave in, but there was some medical stuff involved so I made it something for them to look forward to after the medical stuff was over, if that makes sense. Thank you for the encouragement!

  2. UGH, I feel like you are always so down on Lucy and making her out to be so difficult. Please know that positivity towards the most difficult souls is the way to go.

      1. No. You need only turn on the tv to see that even respected adults have issues with self regulation. Behavior is a communication. WH briefing room, Hearings, cities under seize when the local sports team wins the championship, protests have long gone the way of holding up a sign, staying x feet from the public building relating to the thing being protested and allowing for foot and road traffic to pass. For us parent’s who deal with it we don’t notice the outside the world when it happens or remember most kids are good at hiding their distress. The older 4 would have stomped off to the bathroom after an eye roll and been grumpy behind the door. There are hormones and being hangry and not being understood and medical stuff (think growth spurt or ear ache) or some other trigger. Some kids just can’t sleep enough and the med formula has not been able to fix that or even caused it. When words are getting your point across the physical begins and that is a tantrum. Then there are meltdowns and you can’t reason with a meltdown while they are still in it. A tantrum they will react to being calm and a few other tricks. There is emotion control loss but the mind is clearer. This is her 5th child. Every high school has a vice principal with a list of parents to call daily, so yes this age can have an issue now and then. 180 days in a school year. More than one kid’s parent on the list. 30% of the school could have had some incident at least once. Then there are the this is what is happening and this is how we are handling it calls that don’t quite rise to the VP. It is more typical to have an issue at some point than to never have had an issue. To be fair this is happening to the parent’s and they have a perspective about it too. This is writing about it from that point of view not filming and sharing for the most clicks. The story was about these episodes passing even though they feel like they are going on forever while it’s happening, and passing because Lucy took initiative and walked away then returned when herself again.

    1. Oh gosh, I’m so sorry you feel that way! Lucy is incredible and is valiantly working so hard to be the best she can be despite some pretty serious trials (coming more abundantly and heavily for her right now), and I am sad if that’s not coming through in what I write here. Man alive, that girl is my hero (maybe I better add that more clearly in the post). But BOY, we are in the thick of some pretty tough stuff right now. For her and for me. There are real struggles when you’re raising teenagers, special needs or not, but I believe acknowledging and learning from the bumps in the road (and our shortcomings), are what make us grow the most, AND make our love grow even more.

  3. Shawni 💚
    PLEASE DO NOT LISTEN to Julie & Janice.
    You are AMAZING & ONLY YOU know your children & their needs.
    No one can judge you (or Lucy) because they do not know the situation. You are not hard on Lucy. You do not complain about Lucy. You were chosen to be her mother & you are doing a FANTASTIC job!!!💜
    Please know that MOST of us do not have any idea what it’s like to lose their eye sight. That has got to be so incredibly difficult & heart wrenching. I just cannot comprehend the loss that is taking place in your family and darkening her world. Her loss of vision will/& is being mourned. Bless all of your hearts for this unknown path you are traveling. 💙

    1. Nancy is 100 correct! You’re amazing! Those other two are jealous Debbie downer that want to bring you down with them. Don’t consider their comments for a second! At almost 40, I still have a tantrum or two! We all do! Thank you for being vulnerable! I love your honesty! I love that sweet Grace is learning from you!

    2. Aw thank you guys, I so appreciate the feedback and D, I agree, I still have a tantrum or two myself! I definitely have lots to learn as a parent (new tricky things every day, right?) and I do appreciate people being protective of Lucy. But I would be lying if I just gloss over these things that are heavy and dark right now. Thank you for cheering us on (Lucy and me too!). We can all use a little more cheering on in this world, so sending that cheering right back on over to you! XOXO

  4. Thank you for reminding me of the good in being a „durable object“! I heard myself say to a colleague the other day that it has just become so tiring – sticking to those boundaries. I have always done it out of conviction that it‘s best for my children but with the fourth one being right in the middle of a phase where her really tests me a lot, I realize that keeping up those boundaries with every kid is threatening to wear me down … So thanks for the reminder to not let that happen!

    1. Yes it’s much more difficult, I think, when you reach the younger kids and you’re just tired! But I do love the thought of becoming a “durable object,” a phrase my wise sister Saydi came up with a few years ago.

  5. I truly believe as moms we know them better than anyone else, so with that, don’t listen to the people see the tiniest fraction of your lives and think they know you. They don’t!

  6. Thank you for sharing the good, bad, hard, perfect, pretty, ugly.
    When I read your posts I see how proud you are of Lucy. How you fight right along with her. How much you love her and would do anything for that girl of yours!!! You share her challenges and how she is facing them…. Sometimes it is with bravery and sometimes it is with tears.
    Thank you for being an honest and open book.
    This post was great for me as I am navigating teenagers and had to set boundaries the other day and say NO. It is so hard but this post reminded me it is so important.
    Anybody who had been here for awhile and read your posts no that you love and adore all of your children!

  7. Growing up is hard to do and I can imagine growing up with special needs like visual impairment is even harder. I know you love your kids with all your heart and want to share challenging ups and downs. Still, I think protecting a teenager’s privacy, especially a teenager who is developmentally disabled, is something you should give more consideration to. Even if your child “consents” to her tantrums being written about today how will she feel when her friends, cousins, and acquaintances are talking about it later? You’re a prominent member of a large community I’m certain people are talking about what you write here.

    1. I’m sure they have seen them. This is a positive story and more about mom than child. Lucy left the space, got herself sorted and then returned when head clear so productive dialogue could happen. Mom didn’t try to force the tantrum end or micromanage her calming down. This is a game changer.

  8. I think you are an AMAZING mom and your love for every single one of your kiddos (and your spouse) is evident in everything I read. I appreciate the ‘real’ you share here — which I know is just a little snippet of the good and the bad of your lives. I wish keeping it real didn’t make you a target for criticism from people who don’t know you – that always saddens me, but you graciously look at it through the lenses of learning and growing.

  9. My friend is a therapist that works with a lot of young people. She reminds me a lot that teenagers feel emotions very intensely. They act dramatically because it feels very dramatic. OF course, they are not toddlers but they are going through a similarly intense emotional period of growth. It is part of their evolution into adulthood. whenever I turn to my friend for advice, she reminds me that kids this age are looking to be validated AND contained. She always says mothers are the vessels for the children’s emotions. It reminds me of the durable object example you use. I don’t take from your post that Lucy is acting inappropriately or young for age, it that she is going through a huge period of growth which is never easy (and I am sure harder for her in many ways). You are a wonderful and understanding mom!

  10. … and, by the way, how wonderful is it that Grace helped you in that situation?! When your older kids mirror what you have been teaching and help you keep up those boundaries which they themselves fought with and have learned were necessary – that is amazing.

  11. Shawni, you are amazing! And so is Lucy. I have never once felt like you were too down on Lucy. You are a wonderful champion of all your kids and I admire it so much.

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