4 Ways to Break the Cycle of Dysfunctional Relationships

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These 4 steps will help create boundaries and healthy relationships. (iStockPhoto | BCFC)

One of the difficult aspects of parenting (and, really, life in general) is the balance between doing nothing and trying to control everything. But recognizing God as the one who is ultimately in control of the script of our lives doesn't mean that we do nothing. God is entrusting our children's lives to us as parents. He is asking us to take care of them in an imperfect world. We seldom know all we should or should not do in any given situation, and this is why we need to be in constant and personal communication with God so that we can receive His wisdom (James 3:17, 1 Cor. 1:25).

One of the best ways to be a good parent to our children is to be a faithful son or daughter to our heavenly Father (because we can't give away something we don't have). When we need to give away wisdom, encouragement, strength, and forgiveness to our children, we need to be receiving those things from God as well.

So what do we do in this tension of doing nothing or micro-managing everything?

One tool that I have found helpful is to remember four steps. These words all begin with IN because it's a great reminder to each of us that God wants to "be in it" with us, and He wants us to "be in it" with our family members—but in healthy and helping ways, not overbearing or codependent ways.

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Let's take a look at these four steps that help give a framework to what we can do when we want to create healthy relationships, boundaries and solutions with family members.


The heart posture for Intake is to offer listening and love to your family member. In a world where everyone just wants to say something, listening is a gift. You want to make sure that when you listen, you also give eye contact, undivided attention and verbal cues to allow your child or spouse to know he is being heard.

After you listen to your family member, ask questions. Doing so will demonstrate that you fully understand what he is sharing. These questions can be asked for clarification or to determine specific feelings about the situation.

What is critical for this step is that your family member feels that he is in a safe and nonjudgmental environment. It's often hard to not look shocked and appalled, but as best as you can, try to listen in love.

And last, prayerfully put yourself in your family member's situation, and ask God to cultivate compassion in your heart to give you a perspective of understanding and empathy.


The heart posture for Investigate is to receive counsel and then offer it to your family member. As a spiritual parent who is seeking to have a spiritually healthy family, you want to receive counsel from God's perspective first. Praying with and for your child (or other family member) is a powerful way to build your faith together while declaring who is ultimately in control.

You can investigate His Word or receive counsel from your pastor or other Christian friends. In a generation where the world is telling your child that there is no objective truth, you can build her trust in His Word as the best place for finding out what is true and good. It's also important to solicit a professional in the area you are discussing.

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