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)


The posture of the heart for Instigate is to offer encouragement and confidence to your child. In this step you want your family member to take a baby step, but that step should be his idea. If he owns it, he is more likely to act upon it.

You can ask questions to help your family member determine what this step should be. But, ultimately, this is where you really want to partner with God's Spirit to have your child or other family member hear from God (not merely your voice telling him what to do). Cheer him on with positive support about his decision to act.

Next you can together determine "homework." This is something that will be followed up on as a result of the baby step that your child has come up with. It should have a due date with the understanding that you will be holding him accountable to his goal.

Keep in mind that often a baby step can be to confront, confess, or simply have a conversation with someone. Sometimes it's about displaying a contrite heart before God.


The heart posture for Integrate is offering support. This is different from doing it for your child or family member (which, as a parent, I find I often want to do). The Micro-Managing parent wants to rescue, not necessarily come alongside of, in order to empower. After you hold your child accountable to her "homework" from Instigate, you want to celebrate her progress. Acknowledge the courage or the faith it took to take action, and then rejoice together.

What will allow this to be more than a onetime act (and actually more spiritually healthy for a lifetime) will be to determine the next steps immediately. Again, you should allow this to be your family member's idea—not yours.

Finally, determine who will hold your family member accountable for the long run. (That person is usually a parent when your children are young, but when they are older, it can be a mentor, teacher or coach.)

As you finish these steps, it's important to continue to pray with and for your family member. Of course, as our children get older, and when the situation involves multiple people, the steps may be drawn out over weeks or even months. And these steps are in no way magically formulaic. Still, our children need to have this pattern of steps repeated over and over again in their lives for them to understand how to live as broken people in a broken world with other broken people.

For practical examples of these steps and more, read Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family: Avoiding 6 Dysfunctional Parenting Styles by Michelle Anthony.

Dr. Michelle Anthony is the vice president of Learning Resources at David C Cook and the author of Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family and Spiritual Parenting. Anthony has graduate degrees in Christian education, theology and leadership and more than 25 years of church ministry experience as a children's and family pastor. michelleanthony.org 

©2015 David C Cook, used with permission


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