Lesson Learned "Healthy Boundaries"

Our local retired pediatrician Jeanie Wiest, MD, gave me a reading assignment that I welcomed: “BOUNDARIES: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. 

Dr. Jeanie Wiest has devoted her life to the health and betterment of our children. When she speaks, I listen, as an elected member of the Upshur County Schools Board of Education. She has never steered me wrong yet.

Just as impressive is the other half of the Wiest duo. In 1973, Dr. Joe Wiest was recruited to West Virginia Wesleyan to teach physics and increase the number of students who pursued the major. Going from three physics major students to 80 physics major students is a supreme success. Forty-six years later, Dr. Wiest is still integrally involved in what has become one of the most popular academic programs at the private residential college.

Together they began the WVWC Summer Gifted Program, which continues as an active legacy to their educational pursuits. If I scratch a bit deeper in their influence, I expect that I would find that the good doctors had a say in our Upshur County Schools Motto: EXPECT EXCELLENCE!

Healthy Boundaries is an important lesson to learn. When our families, community, and educational system have boundary issues, I would summarize the concern by recalling Pogo Possum, cartoonist Walt Kelly’s popular swamp character, who says, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Let me summarize just one chapter of the text Jeanie gave to me for my enlightenment—Ten Laws of Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend:

Law # 1: Cause and Effect

A cause and effect relationship is when something happens that makes something else happen. In other words, the cause creates the effect. ... Cause and effect relationships are also found in schools. If a student attends class, masters content material, then learning is taking place.

Law # 2: Responsibility

We are to treat others as we wish to be treated. We are to love one another but not be one another.

Law # 3: Power versus Powerlessness 

In a 12-step approach there is power in the serenity prayer, the common name for a prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. The best-known form is: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference. 

Law # 4: Respect

Freedom begets freedom. Are free choices being accepted?

Law # 5: Motivation

Freedom first, service second. Healthy boundaries guard freedom.

Law # 6: Evaluation

“Good fences make good neighbors.” Do set boundaries while being responsible to other people.

Law # 7: Proactivity

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Establish proactive not reactive boundaries.

Law # 8: Envy

Envy is a completely negative emotion. There is no gain in being sad if others are happy. Rather, take steps to do what you need to do to reach a goal or ask yourself sincerely if you truly desire it.

Law # 9: Activity

With children, the spirit to initiate must be nurtured. Growing requires the ability to measure resistance. Responding only is too passive.

Law # 10: Exposure

A boundary is a property line. It defines a beginning and an ending. We all exist in relationship and ultimately in love.

Thank you, Doctors Wiest, for giving me a lesson learned about living in a dysfunctional world. Here are tools for teaching family. If ever we needed to help families, the time is now.


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