Boundaries: Blame Your Mom

Reviewing Boundaries website teachings and comparing them with Scripture.

Beware of teachings which blame-shift problems onto parents. It's popular but leads to big losses all around.

For an introduction and review of the Boundaries online teachings, see Are Henry Cloud's Boundaries Teachings Biblical?

Although Boundaries is marketed as Christian, the author Henry Cloud explains on his About page that his beliefs are influenced by training in "psychodynamic ego psychology theory" and "Object Relations theory." These theories base our problems on factors beyond our control and/or early family interactions (source; source)

With this foundation, it's no surprise that "Your Parents, In-laws and Family of Origin" are at the top of Cloud's list of toxic people who are common boundary violators.

In the article What it means to be Independent of your Mom, Cloud discusses a young wife who has a husband with an anger problem. He's not physically abusive, but definitely needs some kind of counseling or intervention. 

Beware of teachings which blame-shift problems onto parents. It's popular but leads to big losses all around.
This young wife has a close and loving relationship with her mom and often seeks her mom's comfort and advice. Mom tells her to do her best to get along with her husband, but that doesn't really solve the problem.

When the young wife seeks counseling, Cloud helps her realize that the "real issue" is her "controlling" mom. He explains that it's harder to identify this problem because her mother is "loving and supportive."

So the problem isn't the husband with an anger issue. It's the sympathetic mother. 

I agree that this mother's advice was not enough, but there were no signs that she discouraged the daughter from seeking professional advice. And the daughter expressed gratitude for her mother's influence until the counselor told her that her mom was the problem.

Cloud warns readers to "pay attention to your relational, functional, emotional and spiritual symptoms; there may be a connection between your controlling mom and your present struggles."

The Boundaries teachings consistently imply that our personal problems might be related to our parents. This strong "power of suggestion" feeds our natural desire to blame-shift, something mankind has been doing since Adam blamed God, the perfect Parent. See the Fourth Oldest Sin in the Book.(1) And Satan wants us to blame our parents so we forfeit the blessings God promises to those who honor them.

Was this daughter wrong to seek her mom's advice? Not according to Scripture.(2) When we become adults, we should listen respectfully to our elders advice, whether we follow it or not. 

We can follow Boundaries guidelines, or we can follow God's:

Ephesians 6:2-3: Honor your father and mother--which is the first commandment with a promise “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 

How many parent-child problems would be solved if adult children spent thirty minutes a week doing something considerate for their parents?

What if a parent is genuinely controlling? The Bible has a command for that as well:

Romans 12:21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

If a parent is physically abusive, criminal, sexually perverse, addicted to drugs or mentally ill, we will need to enforce some boundaries. It's also appropriate to ask our parents to be considerate of our schedules. If a parent gets angry during a discussion, it may be wise to delay that discussion until they cool down. If you want to call these type of things "boundaries" then some boundaries are appropriate. 

If our parents are not interested in a relationship with us, then we need to move on. But there is no Scriptural support for cutting off contact or marginalizing family members who want to be part of our lives. And it's vengeful to limit a grandparent's access to their grandchildren for no good reason.

James 3:17: The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 

If you want to read a Bible story about a man who blame-shifted his sins onto his father, read about Absalom (Here).

For a collection of helpful articles about specific Boundaries errors in their teachings about marriage, family, and church relationships, see Are Boundaries Biblical? Collection.

(1) Our parents strongly influence us, but they do not determine our choices in life. In Ezekiel 18, God explains that a righteous man can have an evil son and an evil man can have a righteous son. Adults are responsible for our actions and we cannot blame them on our parents.
(2) Scripture commands us to seek advice from our elders and treat them respectfully.  The Pulpit Commentary offers this insight to Leviticus 19:32: "Reverence for the old is inculcated as being a part, not merely of natural respect, but of the fear of God." See Do Not Forsake Your Mother's Teaching and Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 6:20; Proverbs 23:22


  1. this is very insightful... thanks and God continually bless and keep you.

  2. This article was very helpful to me as well. It has given me more insight to several situations in my life and will help me navigate them.

  3. Praise to my God who has not left me alone! I am estranged from my 34-year-old daughter who was my best friend. She is going by the boundaries playbook. She was homeschooled and raised in a not-perfect but godly home. She married an angry and controlling man who encouraged her to cur off her family of origin which she did. We were a very close family having 6 children. I know that my daughter read this book by cloud/Townsend so I got a copy and immediately I thought something was off. It went totally against the spirit of Christian teaching. Thank you so much for your studying and insight. If you have a book in print I would like to know. Boundary teaching is destroying families!!!

  4. I bought Boundaries since my daughter was reading it. Yes, it appears it was her playbook too. I tried to read it, but it didn't feel right. We have disconnected, and much like Grateful my daughter who was very close is now estranged.