Several years ago when our oldest son was a high school senior, my husband and I found out he had skipped school. We kept quiet, deciding that we would let him deal with the natural consequences of the school and once he got in trouble at school, we would administer our own consequences.
After several days he had not been caught and held accountable so we decided I would call the school and speak to the assistant principal. I asked the principal what consequences were given if a student skipped school and he told me that they would receive a detention. I then told him that we had found out our son had skipped school one day and we wanted him to “get caught” and feel the full weight of the consequences. He told me that he would be happy to take care of that.
Then he said something I’ll never forget. He said, “Mrs. Savage, everyday I get phone calls from parents whose kids are in trouble and 99% of them are trying to defend their kids or get them out of trouble. I think this is the first call I’ve received from a parent asking me to punish their child for doing wrong. I find this rather refreshing.”
Today I’d like to introduce you to a fellow mom who has recently released a new book. Allison Bottke addresses an epidemic many parents succumb to when they choose to enable their children rather than allow them to feel the pain that comes with experiencing consequences.
I’m interviewing Allison today and I hope her words are of encouragement to you regardless of what season of mothering you are in. Her book Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing will be a help to many parents for many years to come.
JILL: The book comes out of your own personal experience with your son. Please tell us about that.
ALLISON: For years I really thought I was helping my son. I wanted him to have the things I never had growing up. I love my son, and I didn’t want him to hurt—but sometimes pain is a natural result of the choices we make. For a long time I didn’t understand the part I was playing in the ongoing drama that had become my son’s life—I didn’t understand that I didn’t have to live in constant chaos and crisis because of his choices. When I chose to stop the insanity and start living a life of hope and healing my life changed. It’s a feeling I want other struggling parents and grandparents to experience. I want other parents to know that change is possible when we choose to stop the destructive cycle of enabling. And we can stop it. I know, because I’ve done it.
JILL: Why do you think so many parents struggle with enabling their adult children?
ALLISON: We don’t understand the difference between helping and enabling, that one heals and the other hurts. We don’t realize that we handicap our adult children when we don’t allow them to experience the consequences of their actions.
JILL: How can we determine whether we are helping versus enabling our children?
ALLISON: Helping is doing something for someone that he is not capable of doing himself.
Enabling is doing for someone things that he could and should be doing himself.
An enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis and yet continues to enable the person with the problem to persist with his detrimental behaviors. Simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which our adult children can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior.
JILL: What are some of the most common ways that parents enable their children?
ALLISON: Being the Bank of Mom and Dad, or the Bank of Grandma and Grandpa. Loaning money that is never repaid, buying things they can’t afford and don’t really need. Continually coming to their rescue so they don’t feel the pain—the consequences—of their actions and choices. Accepting excuses that we know are excuses—and in some instances are downright lies. Blaming ourselves for their problems. We have given too much and expected too little.
JILL: You say the main problem with dysfunctional adult children isn’t the choice they make or don’t make – but something else entirely. If their choices aren’t the main problem, what is?
ALLISON: Our biggest problem isn’t about our adult child’s inability to wake up when their alarm clock rings, or their inability to keep a schedule, or their inability to hold down a job or pay their bills. It’s not about their drug use or alcohol addictions. It’s not about the mess they’re making of their life. The main problem is about the part we’re playing in stepping in to soften the blow of the consequences that come from the choices they make. The main problem is us. Instead of praying to God to stop the pain, remove the difficulty, or change the life of our adult child, we must rise up and pray for something entirely different. We must pray for the courage to look deep in our own heart and soul—pray for the strength to begin a journey that quite possibly may change our own life—and pray for the wisdom to make new choices in our own life
JILL: You say that enabling our children is “a nationwide epidemic with catastrophic consequences.” What has led you to believe this?
ALLISON: There is clearly an epidemic of major proportion plaguing our nation today. This has become obvious to me as I travel the country sharing my God Allows U-Turns testimony and outreach. Seldom does a week go by when I am not approached by someone in deep pain concerning their adult child. It’s not just audience members in conflict with this troubling issue, but fellow authors, speakers and entertainers, some quite well known, who are living in the throes of familial discord concerning out-of-control adult children. It’s happening all over the country to people from all walks of life.
JILL: Where can my readers go for more information on your book and on the S.A.N.I.T.Y. ministry?
ALLISON: Everything you could possibly need is contained on our web site at: http://www.sanitysupport.com/blogtourguests.htm.
I encourage your readers to tell me what they think about Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. I really do want to hear reader feedback. They can reach me at: SettingBoundaries@SanitySupport.com. Please be sure to visit our web site at http://www.sanitysupport.com/blogtourguests.htm where they will find additional resources for helping them on their road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. Remember to tell a friend in need and help save a life!
Thanks Allison for that great reminder! Most of us aren’t to the “adult children” season of life, but many parents begin doing this in the preschool, gradeschool, junior high, and high school years. Let’s have more “refreshing” conversations with teachers, school administrators, coaches and other authorities in our kids lives, supporting them when our kid needs to feel the sting of life. It’s hard to do as a parent because we want to jump in and protect, but that doesn’t help in the long run. Keeping an eye on the concept of “enabling” while we parent can help us give our kids the very best.
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