Posts Tagged ‘enabling’

Today’s blog was written by fellow mom blogger, Stacy Flury: Anchor of Promise. She has some excellent enabling1insights for parents of teens who are in crisis. I think you’ll find it helpful.

I have met a lot of parents with teens in crisis throughout the years and among them I found four common responses.

When a situation arises and your teen is in crisis, which one of these negative parenting styles are you implementing into your life?

The Denial Parent – Although you love your teen, you think that what they are doing is just a rebellious stage in their life in which they will finally outgrow it and get their life together with time. When you do see the outright dangers and concerns, you hope that it will quickly die down and be fixed on its own by the next day. If someone confronts the situation head on, you retreat and let them know that you are working on it but it is never addressed in the long run. When you cannot deny it any longer, you find many excuses as to why you couldn’t help in the first place. (more…)


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What is it called when I care more about something in someone’s life than they do?
When I try to“help them because I  don’t want negative consequences coming their way?

I remember an incident with my daughter. It was regarding getting her driver’s license. I kept planning when I could take her, but every time I set a day to go, she had an excuse. This would frustrate me so much. Then it hit me.index

I cared more about getting her driver’s license than she did.

One afternoon we sat down in  a quiet place and I apologized. I told her I realized I was pushing my agenda on her and it was wrong.  I told her when she decided she was ready, to let me know. If I was available, we would go.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t bring it up again.

I was shocked when she paused and responded, “Okay, how about Thursday?”  My schedule was clear that afternoon, so we went and she got her license.

That was so much easier and less frustrating for me. Why did I wait so long to put the responsibility back on her?

So, what do you think? What is it called when I care more about something in someone’s life than they do, when I try to “help” too much, spare them negative consequences, or begin to own their problem? In a word–enabling.

This driver’s license story is a simple example. Here are a few others: We give reminders, hints, FYIs; subtle or not so subtle placement of notes, bills, due dates or tax-related documents, with the hope that they will want to be as responsible as we think we are.

Often, I can see the long-term consequences of my teen to adult child’s decision, or indecision. I know what may happen.  I try to spare them pain or make their path less difficult. Frequently, I end up being the one who gets frustrated, upset, and angry over the issue– not them.  I find myself owning their problems.

What message am I sending? Be responsible, like “responsible me?”
Sounds like a movie title. Oh wait, that was “Despicable Me!”  Enough said.


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drowning2A parent recently asked us about rescuing someone who was drowning. Drawing an analogy from this, they wondered what the difference is between rescuing and enabling? What would you say to this sometimes confusing question?
This was our response:
A drowning emergency isn’t the same as something that has become a regular pattern of destructive behavior. Of course we’d jump in the water to save them or anyone else who was drowning. It would be ridiculous to suggest otherwise. It wouldn’t matter if it was their fault or not.
We’re not counselors or professionals, nor wise enough to know what you should do. The circumstances in which you find yourself are uniquely yours. And even if some advice is good, you may not always be in the emotional place to implement it.
So please see this email as my personal understanding and very likely inadequate. Take what you want and disregard the rest. I must always ask myself, “what is the context we’re talking about?”  An example would be a popular definition of enabling: doing something for someone that they could and should be doing for themselves.

Taken out of context does this mean I should never be a servant as Jesus suggested? No. But it is saying that when it comes to our teen or adult children who want to make destructive decisions, we are not to assist them in their destruction or step in to prevent natural consequences from taking place, especially if this action would assist them in continuing their destructive behavior.  
If my child were to come to me and say, “I’m broken, wrong and powerless to change but I desperately want to,”  I would do whatever I could to help them.  But that help needs to be considered along with my other vital obligations so it won’t jeopardize the well being of others in my family.
The point is, we’re not to step in and prevent our teen or adult children from experiencing  the natural consequences of their destructive decisions.
When we intervene, our actions may actually disrupt the lessons God is trying to teach them in order for them to become mature, healthy, functioning adults. Another question to ask is, “what is a healthy response to our child’s destructive behavior and what is an unhealthy response ?”  At times we think our children are our life. We go into all out rescue mode and deplete our finances, retirement accounts, emotions, energy, health and spiritual well being. In reality, the enemy is claiming more victims in his snare by destroying our lives as well.

I am convinced of these things:

  • God loves my child more than I could ever love them.
  • God is more concerned about my child than I could ever be concerned about them.
  • God is able to bring more redemptive change than I could ever bring into their life.
Will I trust my child to Someone who exceeds me in all areas of love and care – who acts only with their best interests at heart? I believe I can. What about you?

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chaosHave you wondered what to do about your son or daughter? Are they driving you crazy with their behaviors and choices? Do you feel like you’re always off-balance trying to keep up with the next outburst or crisis?

Maybe you know they’re flirting with danger – alcohol, drugs, disordered eating, self-injury, promiscuity to name a few. Maybe they are struggling with depression, bipolar, suicidal thoughts or another mental illness. Maybe they told you they’re gay.

What can you do? Here are three A’s you could follow. I did and they were the key to regaining sanity and wellness.

Admit.  Acknowledge that there is a problem and that you’re powerless over it.This is where you begin.  Open your eyes.Wake up.Stop denying.Face the truth. Yes, it’s scary, but you can do it.

Act.  Take action to get help for yourself and for your child (if they’re under 18). No matter how old they are learn all you can about their “issues”. Become an expert.Seek out a professional (counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, etc.) or take them to one.Go to the library or bookstore and do research on the internet.Find a support group and start going.Don’t just sit there, do something.  Don’t let the shock and pain you’re in paralyze you.Don’t isolate.  Instead, reach out for help. Take care of yourself and get strong. There’s a lot of help available.

Accept.  Face the situation.It is what it is.You can’t make it go away.You can’t change or fix your child.Take one day at a time.Give your child back to God and trust Him with their life.Let go and let Him work.Stop enabling.Detach with love.It takes a lot of courage.

It’s not easy, but with God’s help and the support of others you can do these things. If I did, you can, too. Start small with baby steps and keep going. Before you know it sanity and wholeness will return.

 This Scripture verse has encouraged me many times:

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.” (Psalms 29:11)

A book that has helped me on my journey is Parents With broken Hearts by William Coleman

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If you’re a parent who is hurting due to the self-destructive choices your child is making, or if they suffer from a mental illness and the repercussions of get well goalthese things are turning your life upside down, then this blog is for you. Does your child have an eating disorder but refuses to see a counselor about it?  Are they abusing alcohol or drugs while living in your home? Are they refusing to take medication for depression or a mood disorder (i.e. bipolar)?  You may feel like you need to start taking medication yourself (and maybe you do).

Do they keep getting in trouble with the law for DUIs, shoplifting, possession/selling drugs, or other offenses expecting you to bail them out and pay for a lawyer? You may feel like you can’t take it any more or you’ll lose it. You may feel like you can’t bear it one more day. You may feel like you’re going crazy.  Everything you’re feeling is normal. You’re not going crazy.  You’re not a bad parent.  It isn’t your fault. But there’s something you need to hear.

Take a minute to step back and look at what you’ve been doing. Are you helping or enabling? Are you doing things for them they can and should be doing for themselves? I know fear drives you to feel like you have to, especially if they’re under 18. You do have more responsibility then, but you still don’t have to do as much for them as you probably are. I know. I did that, too. Sometimes I still do. Fear drove me to get overly involved, but I’ve come to realize that when I do, it only makes me feel even more crazy and it doesn’t really help. It’s insanity!

Al-Anon defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result!” We all do it. Let’s get smart and rethink how we respond. Let’s strengthen ourselves so we can pull back and let our child experience consequences and take some ownership of the situation they’re in.

A book that helped me a lot is Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children by Allison Bottke (it’s good even if your child is a teenager). It can be purchased at half.com for less! Bottke affirms that getting in a support group can help us be more courageous to stop enabling, because it’s very difficult to stop without a lot of encouragement. It’s painful to see your son or daughter suffer. It truly does hurt us much more than it hurts them. It really boils down to how much we trust God with our child.  Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s really hard to do. We have no guarantees of the outcome.

If your situation is a real crazy-maker, what can you stop doing today (or do differently) that might help you begin to regain your sanity tomorrow?  Just because your child isn’t in their right mind, doesn’t mean you have to lose yours. I couldn’t make these changes in my own strength.  I wasn’t strong enough. I had  to rely on God for what I lacked.

This Bible verse is so encouraging: “It is God who arms me with strength.”  (Psalms 18:32)

I don’t know about you, but I sure need God’s strength to do the hard things.  How reassuring to know He will provide what I lack. No more insanity for me. What about you?

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elephantsWhen you listen well to your son or daughter (or to anyone), you’re loving them. You are giving them the gift of yourself and of your time. Time is a valuable commodity. It’s one you can’t get back. Once you use it, it’s gone. So giving your time to someone is very valuable. Listening well can improve communication by leaps and bounds. Many strained relationships have improved just because of this skill.

If your child is making poor choices and dangerous decisions on a regular basis, struggles with mental illness or their sexual identity, it can be very difficult for you to even want to sit down and listen to them. If they share upsetting things you’d rather not know about or problems you have no solutions for (and you shouldn’t be solving them anyway, especially if they’re an adult – no enabling, remember!), these are a few responses you could try:

– I’m so sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine what this must be like for you.

– So you’re saying, ” . . . . . . . .  Is that right?” (Reflect back to them what you hear them saying. Repeat it the best you can. We’re often wrong. This gives them a chance to clarify.)

– That must be really hard, but I’m confident you will figure it out.

– I’m sorry that happened. Thank you for telling me about it/sharing with me.

– Tell me more about that. How do you feel about it?

– What do you think you should do?

– Boy, that’s a big challenge you’re facing. I’ll be praying for you. (Stay strong and be careful not to offer to help if you have decided to stop “helping” because you realized it’s not really helping – it’s only keeping them from experiencing consequences and keeping them too dependent on you. If this is a phone conversation, pray for the courage to say a short prayer for them on the phone. Ask if it’s okay first. They will appreciate that you asked and they just might surprise you by saying, “yes!”)

– May I share with you a few ideas I have about that? (Be sure to always ASK FIRST before giving any advice or suggestions, too. They usually don’t want it. Doing this sends the message that you don’t think they’re capable. Then they feel invalidated. More trouble. You probably never even knew what you did wrong.)

With God’s wisdom and help there is hope for us. We can improve our listening skills and in the end make our child feel more loved.

Lord, you are the expert Communicator. You gave us two ears, yet only one mouth. Listening might be more important than talking. Teach us to listen twice as much as we speak. With your Divine help we have hope that we can learn to communicate better, not only with our children, but with everyone. May they notice how much we’re trying and may they feel more loved because of our efforts. 

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If you are a parent who is hurting due to the self-destructive choices your child is making, or if they suffer from a mental illness and the anxietyrepercussions of these things are turning your life upside down, then this blog is for you.  Does your child have an eating disorder or is cutting themselves yet refuses to talk to a counselor? You may feel like you can’t bear it one more day. Are they abusing alcohol or drugs while living in your home? You may feel like you are going crazy!  Are they refusing to take medication for depression or a mood disorder (i.e. bipolar, etc.)?  You may feel like you need to start taking meds yourself (maybe you already do), or be put in the hospital. Do they keep getting in trouble with the law for DUIs, shoplifting, possession of or selling drugs, expecting you to bail them out and pay for a lawyer? You may feel like you can’t take it any more or you will lose it.

Everything you’re feeling is normal. You aren’t losing your mind. You’re not a bad parent. It’s not your fault. But there’s something you need to hear. (more…)

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