Are you a parent who enables your grown child? Have you even stopped to consider if you do enable? Or are you not sure?
Enabling is not necessarily a topic that is frequently researched, but if you have a grown child and you regularly have to bail them out in some way or help them deal with problems in their life or even assist them frequently with making decisions or managing their life, then the chances are you are enabling your grown child.
Sometimes enabling occurs because of your parenting style which has continued to develop into your child’s adulthood. Again, there are times when enabling might be a result of your grown child being overly needy or seemingly unable to manage aspects of their life.
In other words, enabling is essentially where a parent or other person close to an individual, rushes in to solve a problem or situation that the enabled experiences or even that they have created for themselves!
For example –
A grown child buys a car on lease knowing that they can’t afford to keep up with the repayments and so the parent ends up paying to protect their child from the consequences of not paying.
Of course, there are many examples of the way a parent might enable their grown child, but how do they stop when they’ve come so far already.
Here are our best tips to help you learn how to stop enabling your grown child –
1. Recognize how or why you enable your child
If you are constantly thinking about saving your child from experiencing a difficult time because you can’t stand to see them struggling, then the chances are you need to begin to address the reasons why you cannot witness silently your grown child to go experience all that which will allow them to learn and grow.
If this scenario occurs for you, you don’t need to learn how to stop enabling your grown child. Your grown child needs to learn how to stop enabling you!
However, if your grown child likes to create situations irresponsibly either from laziness, or poor decision-making and you help them out of the problems, without allowing them to learn the consequences of their actions, then you are enabling your grown child.
If you don’t do something about it, then you’ll probably be bailing them out for the rest of your time together.
2. List the ways that you have enabled your child in the past
Take note of the ways that you have enabled your grown child, which you can recall and notice the patterns in the future.
Think about what happened to make you feel as though you had to help your child – Was it something they said, or did?
Note these reasons down so that you can begin to recognize as and when you are about to be triggered into enabling your child and why.
Awareness is always the first step towards change.
When you begin to notice the patterns that may have lasted your child’s lifetime, you can begin to consider how you will bring about the changes that are needed and also figure out how to move forward with your grown child healthily together.
3. Highlight one issue that you can begin to change
In the case of enabling, it’s possible that you have many different scenarios in which enabling occurs between you and your grown child.
So to avoid overwhelm, pick out the biggest issue, and work on that one with your child first. When you’ve mastered that issue you can move onto the next.
Which leads us on to the next point…
4. Discuss the issue with your grown child
Notice how your child reacts when you raise the issue with them.
Do they acknowledge that things need to change, or do they try to blame you or make excuses for themselves?
It’s important to be aware of these excuses and how your child makes you feel (or even tries to make you feel). Then, you can begin to toughen up and assert your boundaries and deal with your own issues concerning the enabling.
5. Make a plan to counter the enabling
Ideally, discuss how things will be in the future with your grown child.
For example –
If you are supporting them financially, let them know that this isn’t going to continue, give them a time frame for how long they have to buckle up and sort out their lives.
Encourage your child to tell you why they feel they can’t do what they need to do and help them find workarounds for this issue. Then stand by your plans even if your grown child does not stand by theirs and make sure your grown child understands that you won’t be changing your mind.
If you can’t tackle the greatest problem, first start with a smaller issue and use that as a way to demonstrate that you will be standing by the boundaries you agree.
6. What to do if your grown child doesn’t step up
Well, this is going to be hard, but it’s time for tough love.
If you have advised your child that things need to change and have given them a timeline to make the changes, as well as helped them with a plan to do so, but they have not followed up on any of this, then it’s time to let them face the music.
You can do this by removing the safety net that you have been providing regardless of what the consequences of this will be on your child.
When they realize what hitting rock bottom feels like, they’ll begin to build some strategies, responsibility, personal boundaries, and even confidence to start to fight for the life that you know they could have if only they changed.