The Fourth Commandment tells us to honor our parents. This means we should love, respect, and care for them.
But what if you have a codependent parent-child relationship? Codependent parents are unhealthily attached to their adult children and excessively interfere with their lives. This often makes the adult child feel resentful and want to pull away.
Does the Fourth Commandment require you, the independent adult, to submit to your parent’s every wish? The answer is no.
You have a right to set reasonable boundaries with your parents. Here are some tips for achieving that.
1. Don’t let your parents’ reactions determine your boundaries.
How people respond to your boundaries doesn’t determine the reasonableness of your boundaries. Because a codependent parent already has an unhealthy idea of what their relationship with you should be, they’ll probably respond negatively to some of the lines you draw. And that’s okay.
2. Don’t fall for the claim that boundaries are “unchristian.”
If you want proof that boundaries are compatible with Christianity, look to Jesus Christ. In the Gospels, Christ often removed Himself from the crowd, and even His apostles, to spend time alone with His Father.
It’s reasonable to assume that His apostles wanted to follow Him — they never seemed to leave His side! Yet Christ shows that it’s okay to have a well-defined personal space.
3. Implement boundaries in stages.
Start with a minimal boundary that will let you achieve whatever it is you need to improve your relationship with your parent. You don’t want to make things worse by being stricter than necessary. If that minimal boundary is not respected, take it up a notch.
4. Don’t create boundaries simply to hurt your parent.
The ultimate goal of boundaries is to create a healthier relationship with your parent. Don’t do it to get back at them or make their life miserable.
Communicate this to them. Even if your boundaries are completely justified, your parent may interpret them as a personal attack. Make sure they know you’re drawing these lines out of love.
In fact, setting healthy boundaries is a great example of honoring your parents. Codependent parents do themselves a disservice by being unnecessarily intrusive in their children’s lives.
The bottom line is, honor your parents, but don’t let them dictate your life. Respectfully listen to their opinions, but know that you are answerable to God and His call for your life.