What are your limits and who pushes them?

What are your limits? That may be a curious question.  When I was first asked that question I remember thinking, “I don’t exactly know what my limits are, but I know when they’re pushed.”

My second and more reactive thought was, “They know when they’re pushing my limits! Why do they do it again and again and get me angry?”

What I realized was I was blaming them for getting me angry! I was giving them power over me and my happiness, or lack of it.

I worked with a client who would cringe at the thought of clothes shopping with her teenage son. It usually involved his wanting high-priced designer items which would cost far more than she wanted to spend. She reluctantly gave in and bought them for him, yet she didn’t see the need to own such expensive jeans and sneakers. She told me he had far too much, lost or didn’t take care of what he had, and was ungrateful.  While they shopped and argued the son would say his mom never let him get the things he wanted to buy and she was being cheap. That “cheap” comment would send my client “through the roof.” Her impending and final comment to him would then be, “You are a spoiled brat and don’t appreciate all the things you have.”  I’m sure you can imagine that the car ride home was silent and less than pleasant!

In working with this client I gained clarity as to why going shopping was such a “button pushing” event for her and her son. Apparently finances were tight, there was a threat that her husband would be downsized in the near future and she had another son in college. It took her a couple of months to pay off the credit card bill after the “shopping expedition.” It was understandable that she was stepping into the store feeling indebted before shopping.

I asked her what she thought her son’s impression was about their family lifestyle. She said he sees that they live in a large house in a very nice neighborhood. They have a built-in pool and go on at least one vacation every year. His older brother is going to a private college and they are encouraging him to consider that college or another private college. He sees that she has a cleaning lady twice a month. My client made a point of saying that she had a cleaning lady because she couldn’t keep up with the big house anymore now that she needed to work full time to help pay for everything.

As she told me what she thought her son believed about their lifestyle, she had an A-ha moment. “Wow! He probably sees compared to all of that; what’s the big deal about the clothes? I would too!” She also realized what her limits were so she could share them with her son.

Prior to the next shopping expedition she talked with her son about their household finances.  She gave him a dollar amount he could spend on clothing, told him he could buy whatever designer items he wanted and explained that they would not shop again until spring, even if the clothes were lost or damaged.

The outcome . . . My client said her teen chose some items on sale, evaluated and chose what he would like to wear the most, and took home more clothing while spending less money than previously. For the first time she had a great time shopping with her son and after they went out for lunch! What a success for both of them!

According to Stephen Covey, “We immediately become more effective when we decide to change ourselves rather than asking things to change for us.”

Think of a situation that pushes you past your limits. Who keeps pushing your limits? What is it that “bugs” you? List as many things as you can with as much detail as possible.

Look at what you wrote. What situation stands out the most to you?

In this situation what would be an acceptable limit? How can you calmly communicate that limit to the other person prior to the next time this situation arises?

What would it do for you to be able to enter this situation in the future more confidently and peacefully?

Contact me to share your thoughts & comments or if you are ready to know more about how to give your kids what they need while giving yourself what you need.

Enjoy Life Today!

Barbara Schmitt, Certified Professional Coach

Ansen Leadership Development