In part two of my three part article I would like to focus on Helping vs. Enabling. It seems almost like a sign of the times that more and more families find themselves with one or more adult children who are having trouble getting started in life. Often these adult kids end up living with their parents, sometimes beyond their 30th birthday.
Talking with parents in this position if have found that the situation they are dealing with have a great number of similarities with each other. In most cases the parents have raised multiple kids, most of whom have gone on to have relatively successful early lives. However they find themselves dealing with one child that just can’t seem to get their act together. The details of the reasons are as varied as the leaves you have in the yard during the fall, but the actual reasons are remarkably similar across the board.
The common thread seems to be that as some point in the child’s growth, their mind (maturity) stopped growing but their body continued. Now you have someone with the heart & expectations of an unruly teenager with a body of an adult and all the legal rights that brings them. Some cases these Adult Children even start having children of their own, which really makes things complicated for the parents who are still basically caring the adult child. The wellbeing of the grandchildren usually become great leverage for the adult children to use to continue in the life style they have become accustom to…
First, before we start talking about what to do about the situation, I first need to address a large concern of most parents in this situation. Almost all what to know the answer to the question – this is our fault?
The truth is, mostly no… I say mostly because the cause of situation was only somewhat within the parents control, the situation was a result of the child’s perception and instinctive reaction. The continuation of the problem is because the parents allow it to continue. I invite you to visit DragonTamers and review the posting on the PIFTB Cycle. As you will see, the B – Standing for Behavior comes about as a result of the combination of Perception AND the Instinct. Remember Perception is shaped by experience and education, perception changes over time, and perception can be influenced by parents. What parents cannot change is the Instinct which is a result of the genetic predisposition the child has from the moment of conception. Bottom line, as a parent you can do everything right by the best information available today, but still you end up with a 30 year old, unemployed child with kids living in your home, usually rent free.
So if you are dealing with this the question you most likely have is what do you do to fix it?
That is a complex question, and the first step to resolve this issue is to understand if you have a Helping or Enabling issue. Sometimes folks really NEED help, but more often the help you give just allows the individual from needing to make changes in their life. So how do you determine if you are helping or enabling? Well the rule of thumb is pretty simple. Ask yourself this, has the help you given to date resulted in steady and progressive positive changes in the individual’s life? Or have you do you find that your relationship is back to the same place, or even worst over and over again?
If you believe that all your efforts seem to have little or no influence to change the behavior of the adult child, it is more than just a little bit likely that you are Enabling this individual. If that is the case, what do you do? First remember that the moment to moment environment is a result of our choices. Free will exists for both the parent and the adult child. Unfortunately the child has place their own free will in a box and have embraced a life of “what they feel like” where what they want is more important than anything else. In these situation parents have the right and responsibility to exercise their free will and just say no. That is a great place to start. What we find in Enabling situations is that the adult child will not be denied the things they want and believe they need. If the parent does not provide it, the adult child will find it some other way to obtain it. Humans have fantastic instincts which have not only allowed us to survive but to exceed. So rest assured, if you cannot reach them through reasoning, they have all the necessary instincts inside to survive.
In part three of this series I would like to discuss at what point the responsibility of the parent or another individual providing the help ends and what point it begins with the adult child.
Coming back to my relative Jane and her son, Sam we talked about in part 1. Jane was accused of being the one at fault for her son Sam’s failure to basically grow up and stand on his own two feet. I invite you to visit us at http://www.dragontamers.com and let us know what you think. I and my fellow readers also would like to hear your stories and how you resolved this issue (if you did).