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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

We Don’t Need “Mother” and “Father” Anymore?

SOURCE:  Amy K. Hall/Stand to Reason

The Huffington Post celebrates the idea that non-traditional families are breaking down our understanding of gender differences: “We aren’t mother or father anymore; we’re just parents.”

Gay and lesbian couples and single moms and dads by chance or choice embody changing ideas about sex and sex roles, they are also transforming the gender based definitions of parenting. They are challenging us all to reevaluate the terms of marriage. Along with single parents raising children, they are also transforming the nature of parenting — and showing how Americans have transcended the gender-based definitions of parenting. We aren’t mother or father anymore; we’re just parents….

Yes, the terms “mother” and “father” do still usually convey a biological distinction between who inseminates and who gives birth, but the rise of donor insemination and surrogate pregnancies open debate even on that.

Whether we acknowledge it willingly or not, the differing social roles the mother-father nouns once designated are rapidly converging. Certainly, there are still things that fathers undertake more than mothers, such as teaching a child to ride a bike. Some things often seem to fall more to mothers, such as arranging childcare. But each parent can, and does, tend to everything.

The differences between the sexes are more than just biological. And they certainly go beyond preferences for particular tasks. All you have to do is reflect on your own experience to see that this is so.

Did your father tend to enforce standards? Did your mother encourage emotional intimacy?

Did your father push you to mature? Did your mother tend to nurture?

The list could go on and on because the differences between the sexes are as deep as who they are, what they value, and how they relate to people. These differences show themselves not merely in the tasks each sex chooses, but in how each approaches any particular task. Of course either parent can do any task, but what they teach their children in and through the completing of each task will be different.

Men and women are complementary. The lessons learned from both parents are valuable and unique to the strengths of each sex, and children are in desperate need of both. The obscuring of this is not something to celebrate. But it’s exactly what must be done in order to promote same-sex marriage, so you can expect to see more of it.

10 Insights of Remarkable Parents from a Family Therapist

SOURCE:  Angela Pruess

At any given time you’ll find four or more parenting books on my Amazon wish list, a few by my nightstand, and an email box chock full of insightful parenting theories and approaches.

Granted, child development is my career, but I speak with plenty of parents in my practice who find themselves in similar circumstances. With information around every corner and our culture projecting constant messages (many times contradictory) regarding how we should raise our kids, feeling like a confident and intentional parent can seem out of reach many days.

In my 12 years as a family therapist, I’ve seen many well-intentioned parents mistakenly employing strategies that aren’t meeting the emotional or developmental needs of their children or families. I’ve also observed an increasing number of parents who are successfully mapping out new and healthier ways of raising children.

These insights, collected over time and gleaned from experience, parallel what we know from current brain and behavioral research about what kind of parenting is most likely to contribute to the healthy development of children.

1 | Know that kids will act like kids.

Often parents forget that the way a child’s learning begins is by screwing up. Making mistakes. Behaving immaturely. The ‘magic’ happens when a supportive caregiver then steps in to steer them in the right direction. We get frustrated and impatient, becoming annoyed with whininess and ‘back talk’ when really, this is how kids are wired.

The part of the brain responsible for reason, logic and impulse control is not fully developed until a person reaches their early 20’s. Immature behavior is normal for immature human beings with immature brains. This is a scientific reality that helps us to be patient and supportive in order to guide our children when they struggle.

2 | Set limits with respect, not criticism.

Due to the fact that our kids need to learn literally everything about the world from us, they will require many limits throughout their day. Without proper limits in their environment, kids will feel anxious and out of control.

Limits can be delivered in the form of criticism and shaming, or they can be communicated in a firm but respectful way. Think about how you appreciate being spoken to at work and go from there.

3 | Be aware of developmental stages.

Have you ever questioned where your easy-going toddler disappeared to as he was suddenly screaming bloody murder while getting dropped off at daycare? Hello separation anxiety!

There are literally hundreds of very normal, very healthy transitions kids go through to become adults. Being aware of these puts their puzzling behaviors into context, and increases the odds of reacting to them accurately and supportively.

4 | Know your child’s temperament and personality.

It seems pretty obvious, but if we are in tune with the characteristics that make our child unique, we will have a better understanding of when they may need additional support, and when and where they will thrive.

Once you know the basics of what makes your child tick, many important areas become much easier to navigate, such as pinpointing the best environment for homework, or understanding why your daughter needs to come home from overnight summer camp.

5 | Give your child plenty of unstructured play time.

Unless you studied play therapy in school, most adults will never fully understand and appreciate the power of play.

Play is how kids learn all the things and develop all the stuff. This means leaving time each day for straight-up unstructured, kid-controlled, exploration of the world kind of play.

6 | Know when to talk and when to listen.

Kids learn to be pretty good problem solvers if we let them. Because we love the life out of them and want them to succeed, it’s hard not to jump in and solve problems for them by virtue of lecture or criticism.

If parents more often held their tongues and waited it out, they’d be shocked at how often their children can successfully reach their own conclusions. Being heard is powerfully therapeutic, and it allows us to think things through and reach a solution.

Kids want and need to be heard, and feel understood. Just like the rest of us.

7 | Have an identity outside of your child.

Many of us often claim that our children are our world, and this is certainly true in our hearts. In terms of daily life however, parents need to have more. We need to nurture the friendships, passions and hobbies that make us who we are as individuals.

Doing this can feel like a battle, as our protective anxieties try to convince us our children can’t be without us, and also that we can’t be without them. But we can be, and need to be, in order to stay sane, and avoid saddling our kids with the task of meeting all of our emotional needs.

8 | Understand that actions speak louder than words.

The way you interact with your child and live your life will be your child’s greatest teacher. Kids are incredibly observant and way more intuitive than we give them credit for. They are always watching.

This can be slightly inconvenient for parents, but if we’re able to keep it in mind, knowing our children are watching our actions will not only teach them how to behave, but it will make us better people.

9 | Recognize that connection, fun, and creativity are the best ways to promote positive behaviors and a cooperative attitude.

Fear and control aren’t effective long-term teachers for our kids. While those dynamics may appear effective in the short-term, they won’t equip our kids with a strong moral compass, or effective problem-solving skills.

If our child feels valued as a person based on our interactions with them, they will naturally learn to value others and have the confidence to make good choices.

10 | Set the overall goal to shape a child’s heart and not just their behavior.

We often get the impression from the world around us that the goal of parenting is to produce a compliant, well-behaved child. While these are certainly desirable qualities for most parents, they are not core qualities that contribute to a happy and healthy human.

Helping our children understand the importance of their thoughts and emotions gives them coping and relationship skills. Skills that will protect and guide them throughout their lives.

Changing our parenting habits and styles is never easy, but if it’s truly in the best interest of our children, it’ll always be worth it.

Helping victims of domestic abuse: 4 pitfalls to avoid

SOURCE: Dr. Diane Langberg/Careleader.org

To understand domestic abuse properly, let’s start with the word abuse, which comes from the Latin word abutor, meaning “to use wrongly.” It also means “to insult, violate, tarnish, or walk on.” So domestic abuse, then, occurs when one partner in the home uses the other partner for wrong purposes. Anytime a human being uses another as a punching bag, a depository for rage, or something to be controlled for that person’s own satisfaction, abuse has occurred. Anytime words are used to demean or insult or degrade, abuse has occurred. And anytime there is intimidation and threats and humiliation, abuse has occurred.

Domestic abuse is something you as a pastor may encounter, or it may be a “silent sin” within the church that goes unseen. Either way, it is a reality, and one for which we must be prepared. But how do we do this? How can we prepare to minister to victims of domestic abuse? Below, I share four common pitfalls of pastors and leaders, then conclude by explaining how the church is called to act in these situations.

Pitfall #1: Not realizing the frequency of abuse

We need to realize just how frequently abuse happens. We are surprised by it in the church, but statistically 20 percent of women in this country will experience at least one episode of violence with a husband or partner.

That’s almost one-third of women, and that includes women in the church.

20% of women in this country will experience at least one episode of violence with a husband or partner.

Further, more than three women are murdered each day by their husbands or boyfriends.

Or here’s another statistic: pregnant women are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause.

That is astounding. And again, those numbers don’t change when you survey women within the church.

Pitfall #2: Not calling abuse what it really is

One of the most important things we can do is call abuse what it really is, because people have a tendency to rename abuse into other things. For example, an abuser might say, “I was upset from a bad day at work … which is why I turned the table over, broke the dishes, and hit my spouse,” or “It was a mistake.” Abusers use words to minimize what has been done and make it seem normal. And unfortunately, those trying to help do the same thing, saying things like “Can’t you forgive so-and-so for that mistake?”

But domestic abuse is not a mistake. It is abuse; it meets the definition of abuse. So we have to call it what it is, because we are called to the truth. We have to call things by their rightful name. By changing the wording, we diminish the gravity of the sin.

Pitfall #3: Encouraging submission despite abuse

Sadly, many women have been beaten, kicked, and bruised, and then return home in the name of submission. Worse, many of these women have been sent home in the name of submission. But submission does not entitle a husband to abuse his wife.

Unfortunately, this instruction is one of the biggest mistakes pastors and church leaders have been known to make. So many women are sent home by church leaders to be screamed at, humiliated, and beaten, sometimes to death. Their husbands can break their bones, smash in their faces, terrify their children, break things, forbid them access to the money, and all sorts of things, but they are told to submit without a word and be glad for the privilege of suffering for Jesus.

Pitfall #4: Protecting the institution of marriage instead of the victim

Domestic violence is a felony in all fifty states. So, to send people home and not deal with it, not bring it into the light, and not provide safety is to be complicit in lawbreaking, which is also illegal. In sending women home, the church ends up partnering in a crime. But it is not the church’s call to cover up violence. Paul says in Ephesians 5 to expose the deeds of darkness so the light can shine in. That’s the only way there is hope for truth and repentance and healing.

I also find one of the things that confuses Christians is we think that if we take the wife and children out of their home to bring them to a safe place, for example, we are not protecting “the family.” We say that we have to protect the family because it is a God-ordained institution, which it is. But what we forget is that God does not protect institutions, even ones He has ordained, when they are full of sin.

It’s easy for us to forget that truth, and particularly when we know those who are abusive, we tend to want to believe them. We don’t understand how incredibly deceitful and manipulative they are, deceiving first themselves and then others. We think we can tell when people are lying—even though the Scriptures say we are all so deceitful, we can’t even know the depths of it. But we are deceived into thinking that they wouldn’t do something so severe. And while we think we are doing the right thing by believing or trusting them, we are actually completely opposed to Scripture.

The calling of the church

The church is called to be the church. What that means is that we are called to protect the vulnerable and the oppressed; that’s all through the Scriptures. And we are called to hold others accountable, despite the tough road to repentance, even if they are our best friends.

So when a pastor hears from a woman that she is being abused in her home, the first step is to find out what that means. It could be verbal abuse, or it could be that her life is in danger, and she and her children need to be taken out of the home and put in a safe place.

Unfortunately, though, not all victims of domestic abuse feel that they are able to leave, a source of frustration for many caregivers. The vast majority of women in these situations love their husbands and want their marriage to work, and many times, the husband assures her that he won’t do it again. She wants her husband, so she keeps going back. So while we want to ensure her safety by not sending her back to an abusive home, we also want to give her the dignity of being able to make her own decision, which he does not give her.

We must also have the humility to involve other authorities like the police, if need be. They are God-given authorities for matters such as these, but it can be a bit of a revolving door. If she wants to report the abuse to the police, go with her to the police. If she needs to file a protection order, go with her to the courthouse. We must walk with her as she makes her decision.

As pastors and leaders, we must not minimize abuse, nor should we teach women that submission means being a punching bag, even a verbal one. We also cannot minimize the gravity of the issue or be naïve to its prevalence in the church. Instead, the church is called to love and protect those who are vulnerable, to walk with them and care for them well.

How to Love Your Kids Unconditionally

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

One of the most important things we can do for our children is to teach them that God loves them unconditionally.

It’s extremely important that we teach our kids that they are loved, not because they earned our love or are good enough to be loved, but that they’re loved because God put them into our families to be loved.

This is hard for many of us because we have had a hard time receiving God’s unconditional love ourselves. God wants us to spend some time with him, letting him love us, and in turn giving that unconditional love to our kids.

How can we show God’s unconditional love to our families? Here are two practical ways:

1. Forgive your kids as God forgives you.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ” (NCV).

I love that God forgives me, but I’m not always ready to give that same kind of forgiveness to other people. Parenting requires massive doses of forgiveness. You’re in a position all the time to forgive your kids for things that they do.

2. Never give up on your kids.

We’re told in 1 Corinthians 13:7a, “If you love someone . . . you will always believe in him, and always expect the best of him” (TLB).

From the Phillips translation, that same verse says, “Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything.”

We can face just about anything if we know somebody believes in us. Families are supposed to do that. We’re to give that kind of love to our kids.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. It’s unconditional. It’s a forever bond. No stupid mistake on our part, no dumb decision, no period of rebellion, no overwhelming doubt — nothing can separate us from that forever bond with God, our Father.

As parents we are to develop that same kind of love for our kids. No matter what stupid thing our kids do, no matter how many times they walk away, we believe in them.

God wants you to treat your kids the way he treats you.

Parenting is an emotional roller coaster. One minute you’re so proud of them, you can hardly wait to squeeze them. The next minute you’re frustrated with them and fed up with their behavior.

You may be worried about your kids. You may be frustrated with your kids. You may be fearful about the direction one of them is going. You may be discouraged. If the truth were known, you may be disappointed in one or more of your kids.

Maybe the deepest hurt in your life is when you think of your child or your children. You feel like giving up sometimes, but you can’t resign as a parent. You signed on for life.

If you try to parent in your own power, you’re going to fail. It takes God’s love. Human love runs out. There is a limit to how much you can handle. There’s a limit to how much you can take.

There are days and there are nights when you don’t have any more to give, and you know it. You want to say, “Take care of yourself!” Because human love does run out.

What you need to do is get plugged into God. God is love. He’s the source of all love. When you’re plugged into him, he’ll give you power and energy and love that you didn’t know you had.

God will also give you the wisdom you need. So no matter how you feel emotionally about your kids today, Jesus is ready to help.

The key to becoming a great parent is to become a godly person. How?

First, you invite Jesus Christ into your life. “Lord, become the manager of my heart.”

Second, you pray and say, “God, I need your help daily. I need the wisdom and the love and the patience to be a wise parent.”

Third, you ask your kids to pray for you. I pray for my kids so I ask them to pray for me. Say, “I want you to pray that I’ll be a good parent.”

It may have to start with an apology. There may have to be a little reconciliation first. You may have to contact them, call them on the phone and say, “I wasn’t always the parent I should have been. I feel bad about that. But I want things to change. I want to be the kind of parent God wants me to be and that you need, so I’m going to ask you to forgive me. I apologize.”

It’s never too late to start showing God’s unconditional love and forgiveness to your kids. God never gives up on us. So never given up on your kids!

10 Signs You May be an Authoritarian Parent

SOURCE:  Amy Morin, LCSW/verywell.com

 “My Way or the Highway”

Authoritarian parenting is one of the four main parenting styles recognized by researchers. It’s characterized by rigid rules and high demands. Authoritarian parents have high standards and can be highly critical when those standards aren’t met. They also tend to offer less emotional warmth compared to authoritative parents. Read on to find out if you exhibit any of the characteristics of an authoritarian parent.

  1. You have little patience for misbehavior.

Authoritarian parents don’t want to waste energy explaining why something isn’t a good choice and they’re not likely to spend much time discussing feelings. Instead, when a child breaks the rules, they’re more likely to remind him that he should “know better” without any room for discussion.

  1. You try hard to control your child’s behavior.

Rather than teach children to control themselves, authoritarian parents exert their control. Kids have fewer choices and fewer opportunities to practice self-discipline. The focus is on obeying the rules, with little room for creativity.

  1. You try to shame your child into behaving.

Authoritarian parents are very critical. They may say things like, “You aren’t a good listener,” or, “How many times do I have to tell you the same thing?” They aren’t concerned about building or preserving a child’s self-esteem. In fact, they often think that shaming a child is one of the best ways to motivate him to behave better next time.

  1. You don’t hesitate to use corporal punishment.

Spanking is used liberally in authoritarian households. Parents may use other forms of corporal punishment – such as making a child do push-ups or assigning manual labor – as a consequence for misbehavior.

Read More: Is Spanking Effective?

  1. You don’t believe in ‘exceptions to the rule.’

You won’t catch an authoritarian parent negotiating. Their children certain don’t get any type of vote and it’s made clear that the household rules aren’t up for discussion. Parents often leave little room for any “gray area.”

  1. You’d rather use punishments than positive reinforcement.

Most authoritarian parents don’t believe in rewarding kids for good behavior. They think that kids should behave well and don’t need to be praised or rewarded simply for following the rules. But as soon as a rule is broken, a consequence is swiftly handed out.

  1. You value discipline over fun.

Authoritarian parents are more likely to be nagging or yelling rather than playing with their kids. They tend to want kids to behave in an orderly fashion and they expect them to “be seen and not heard” most of the time.

  1. You have a lot of rules.

While permissive parents have few rules, authoritarian parents thrive on having rules about everything. In addition to household rules about safety or morality, there are often unwritten rules about how to do things “right.” Authoritarian parents often micromanage their children. They may hover while their children do their homework or complete their chores to make sure that everything is done in the manner they want.

  1. You don’t trust your child to make good decisions.

Authoritarian parents have interesting expectations of their children. Although they have high expectations, they don’t allow for enough freedom for kids to show that they can be trusted. They’re quick to enforce their demands and prevent children from making mistakes and facing natural consequences.

  1. You often say, “Because I said so!”

Authoritarian parents don’t waste time explaining the underlying reasons why certain rules need to be followed or why they’ve set certain limits. Instead, they’re famous for saying, “Because I said so!” They expect that to be the end of the discussion and don’t invite a child to weigh in with his opinion about why he disagrees or why he thinks the rules are unfair.

 

Parenting Styles: What They Are and Why They Matter

SOURCE:  Kendra Cherry

The Four Styles of Parenting

Developmental psychologists have long been interested in how parents affect child development. However, finding actual cause-and-effect links between specific actions of parents and later behavior of children is very difficult.

Some children raised in dramatically different environments can later grow up to have remarkably similar personalities. Conversely, children who share a home and are raised in the same environment can grow up to have very different personalities.

Despite these challenges, researchers have posited that there are links between parenting styles and the effects these styles have on children. During the early 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted a study on more than 100 preschool-age children (Baumrind, 1967). Using naturalistic observation, parental interviews, and other research methods, she identified four important dimensions of parenting.

These dimensions include disciplinary strategies, warmth and nurturing, communication styles, and expectations of maturity and control.

Based on these dimensions, Baumrind suggested that the majority of parents display one of three different parenting styles. Further research by Maccoby and Martin also suggested adding a fourth parenting style. Here are the four parenting styles they identified.

Authoritarian Parenting

In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by the parents.

Failure to follow such rules usually results in punishment. Authoritarian parents don’t explain the reasoning behind these rules. If asked to explain, the parent might simply reply, “Because I said so.” These parents have high demands but are not responsive to their children. According to Baumrind, these parents “are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation.”

Authoritative Parenting

Like authoritarian parents, those with an authoritative parenting style establish rules and guidelines that their children are expected to follow. However, this parenting style is much more democratic. Authoritative parents are responsive to their children and willing to listen to questions.

When children fail to meet the expectations, these parents are more nurturing and forgiving rather than punishing. Baumrind suggests that these parents “monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative.”

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parents, sometimes referred to as indulgent parents, have very few demands to make of their children. These parents rarely discipline their children because they have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control.

According to Baumrind, permissive parents “are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation.” Permissive parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children, often taking on the status of a friend more than that of a parent.

Uninvolved Parenting

An uninvolved parenting style is characterized by few demands, low responsiveness, and little communication. While these parents fulfill the child’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their child’s life. In extreme cases, these parents may even reject or neglect the needs of their children.

The Impact of Parenting Styles

What effect do these parenting styles have on child development outcomes? In addition to Baumrind’s initial study of 100 preschool children, researchers have conducted numerous other studies that have led to a number of conclusions about the impact of parenting styles on children.

Authoritarian parenting styles generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem.

Authoritative parenting styles tend to result in children who are happy, capable and successful.

Permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school.

Uninvolved parenting styles rank lowest across all life domains. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers.

Why is it that authoritative parenting provides such advantages over other styles? “First, when children perceive their parents’ requests as fair and reasonable, they are more likely to comply with the requests,” explain authors Hockenbury and Hockenbury in their text Psychology. “Second, the children are more likely to internalize (or accept as their own) the reasons for behaving in a certain way and thus to achieve greater self-control.”

Of course, the parenting styles of individual parents also combine to create a unique blend in each family. For example, the mother may display an authoritative style while the father favors a more permissive approach. In order to create a cohesive approach to parenting, it is essential that parents learn to cooperate as they combine various elements of their unique parenting styles.

Limitations and Criticisms of Parenting Style Research

There are, however, some important limitations of parenting style research that should be noted. Links between parenting styles and behavior are based on correlational research, which is helpful for finding relationships between variables but cannot establish definitive cause-and-effect relationships. While there is evidence that a particular parenting style is linked to a certain pattern of behavior, other important variables such as a child’s temperament can also play a major role.

Researchers have also noted that the correlations between parenting styles and behaviors are sometimes weak at best. In many cases, the expected child outcomes do not materialize; parents with authoritative styles will have children who are defiant or who engage in delinquent behavior, while parents with permissive styles will have children who are self-confident and academically successful.

“There is no universally “best” style of parenting,” writes author Douglas Bernstein in his book Essentials of Psychology. “So authoritative parenting, which is so consistently linked with positive outcomes in European American families, is not related to better school performance among African American or Asian American youngsters.”

Parenting styles are associated with different child outcomes and the authoritative style is generally linked to positive behaviors such as strong self-esteem and self-competence. However, other important factors including culture, children’s perceptions of parental treatment, and social influences also play an important role in children’s behavior.

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References

Baumrind, D. (1967). Child-care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, 43-88.

Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56-95.

Bernstein, D. A. (2011). Essentials of psychology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Hockenbury, D. H. & Hockenbury, S. E. (2003). Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers.

Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent–child interaction. In P. H. Mussen & E. M. Hetherington, Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, personality, and social development (4th ed.). New York: Wiley.

Maccoby, E.E. (1992). The role of parents in the socialization of children: A historical overview. Developmental Psychology, 28, 1006-1017.

 

3 Common Mistakes of Addicts’ Families

SOURCE: Taken from an article by 

Families of addicts feel desperate to help their loved ones stop abusing drugs or alcohol. However, if their desperate, though understandable, responses to their loved one’s behavior are not informed by biblical principles, they will unwittingly and sometimes tragically do more harm than good. Here are some of the common mistakes families of addicts make, followed by tips on how to help families become aware of what they need to change.

Mistake #1: Trying to control the addict

Sometimes families try to control the behavior of an addicted member by limiting that person’s access to funds, monitoring his or her time, or keeping constant tabs on the addict’s whereabouts.

Unfortunately, this approach frustrates the addict and becomes an excuse for him or her to entrench deeper into drug or alcohol abuse. Though trying to control a loved one’s addiction is counterproductive, it is understandable. Families are desperate to keep their loved one from taking illegal drugs or drinking alcohol. And they may experience a small measure of peace when they know their loved one isn’t getting into trouble. But such a high level of control is impossible to maintain in the long term. Plus, exerting so much control stresses out family members who end up becoming more aware of all the many things they can’t control while trying to police their loved one. Dr. Joseph Troncale, medical director at Retreat Premiere Addiction Treatment Centers in Lancaster County, PA, says, “Family members with addicted loved ones would do well to consider becoming familiar with Al-Anon1 principles: (1) you didn’t CAUSE the addiction; (2) you can’t CONTROL the addiction; and (3) you can’t CURE the addiction.”

Mistake #2: Enabling the addict

Trying to love the addict, some family members enable that person to continue his or her destructive behavior. “They’re trying to please this family member and make him or her happy, and they do so in ways that are just encouraging sin. Rather than taking a stand and reproving, they’re encouraging the sin to take place,” said Dr. Mark Shaw, executive director of Vision of Hope in Lafayette, IN, and an ordained minister, biblical counselor, and certified drug and alcohol abuse counselor.2

The family may also enable out of fear of losing the relationship (e.g., a child has threatened never to speak to his parents again if they don’t pay his rent) or of violent retaliation (an addict may lash out violently if kept from her drug of choice). If fear for one’s safety motivates an enabling situation, you should address this first.

Mistake #3: Ignoring the needs of other family members

Often, families ignore the needs of other family members by focusing all their attention on caring for the addict. When this happens, those who are ignored can become bitter toward their parents or their addicted family member because the addict receives all of the attention, time, and resources. Siblings become bitter because their college funds are used to fund rehab. Spouses give up on marriages because their partners are consumed with their child’s addiction. Children who would excel in school don’t because a parent’s addiction robs them of the support and encouragement they’d typically receive. Neglected family members are often tempted to turn to unhelpful ways of coping with the pain and instability caused by living with an addict.

How to help the families of addicts recognize the effects of their actions

While it may be clear to you that the family is hurting their loved one or that they are not acting in his or her best interest, the family members may not be aware of this. In fact, they may believe that their approach is wise, is in the best interest of the family, and keeps the loved one from living on the street. So how do you get them to see what they’re doing wrong?

One of the best ways to do this is to ask them questions that help them see the effect their behavior is having upon their loved one. Author, counselor, and CareLeader.org’s own Dr. Jeff Forrey says that questions should elicit facts that help loved ones see the consequences of their actions.

He also points out that while it is important to help people understand the impact of their choices, it’s also important for family members to realize what’s not happening as a result of their choices. For example, ignoring the actions of an addicted family member may keep the peace, but the addict does not learn how his or her behavior is affecting others, and family members do not learn how to deal with conflict. Devoting hours to controlling behavior may not seem detrimental to the mother of an addict until she is led to realize how other family members are being neglected.

Guiding families to wiser responses

Once family members become aware of the immediate consequences of their behavior, you can also help them think through the long-term implications of their behavior. Once they realize the futility of their actions, here are a few truths that you may want to guide families of addicts to realize.

Truths for those who tend to control
Help family members realize there is so much that they can’t control. Consider reminding the family that God is the one who is ultimately in control of the situation and that He is able to rescue and work all things for good. Philippians 3:21 reminds us that His power “enables him to bring everything under his control.”

Families attempting to control an addict often fear the consequences of addiction. Remind them that God has a history of using bad things—even the consequences of sin—for good and, ultimately, His glory. This is a difficult truth for family members to accept, especially because ultimately it means wrestling with the idea that God could use even the death of their loved one for His purposes. Even the most mature believers may struggle to be at peace with the simultaneously heartbreaking and comforting realities of God’s sovereignty. So be patient with families struggling to embrace the idea that God is in control.

You can also explore other possible motives family members may have for trying to control the addict. A desire to keep others from finding out about the situation can be problematic, for example, when it is rooted in the family’s desire to protect its own reputation.

You can explain to families that the addict is worshipping the substance: the alcohol or drug has become his or her god, and no amount of human control can break the bonds of spiritual slavery at play.

As you suggest new ways family members can interact with the addict, a simple verse like Proverbs 3:5 can help family members: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Encourage family members to pray and trust that the Holy Spirit will help them learn to embrace God’s ways of responding to sin and not trust their instincts.

Truths for those who enable
Remind families with tendencies to enable that protecting the addict from experiencing the consequences of the behavior shows a wrong understanding of how God loves His children. The family members may think they are showing God’s love, forgiveness, and mercy, but forget that God still allows His children to reap what they’ve sown. When dealing with an addict, Christians can and should allow people to experience the consequences of their behavior.

Proverbs 3:12 reminds us of another side of God’s love: “The LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” And Ephesians 5:11 states that Christians are not called to hide but to bring to light the sins of others: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”

When counseling an addict’s family, help them consider whether their response is somehow facilitating addictive behavior. Disciplining an adult child, spouse, or other adult family member may not be possible or appropriate. But you can help them see that taking steps to stop destructive behavior (not enabling, but allowing people to experience the consequences of their behavior) is consistent with God’s character.

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