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Posts tagged ‘balanced relationships’

Adult Children: What Is the Difference Between Helping and Enabling?

SOURCE:  Excerpted from a book by Allison Bottke

Helping is doing something for someone who is not capable of doing for himself.

Enabling is doing for someone what he could and should be doing for 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 in his detrimental behaviors. Simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which our adult children can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior.

Sadly, though, the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior is blurred for many enabling parents. Not only are we often unaware of what it means to enable, but we’re equally fuzzy when it comes to what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t. For instance, in the example I mentioned earlier, it should be unacceptable behavior for a child to ask to borrow 10 dollars and not return the change when given a 20-dollar bill. As you’ll remember, the mother told me this had happened repeatedly.

When we continue to allow these behaviors, we are setting up a pattern with our children that will be hard to change. We’re enabling their repeated inappropriate behavior. Then when we repeat the enabling pattern year after year—accepting what should be unacceptable behavior and instilling bad habits—it eventually becomes as natural to many of us as breathing. Yet all the while, a nagging feeling deep in our hearts and souls tells us something very wrong is happening. Take a moment now and look at the following sidebar. It will help you determine the extent to which you have or haven’t been enabling your dysfunctional child.

By the way, a word of caution is appropriate here.

In clarifying the difference between helping and enabling, I’m not saying that we can never loan our kids cash or help them out. We simply must know the difference between a responsible adult child asking Mom or Dad to loan them a few bucks when an unexpected expense pops up and an adult child who habitually asks for money and seldom, if ever, repays it.

What I’m saying is that we need to be aware of when an adult child gets into a habit of asking for money and not repaying it, or when an adult child exhibits a sense of entitlement to his parents’ money. Typically, a responsible adult child repays a loan, and the habitual borrower seldom, if ever, repays it.

The key to remember is, are we helping or enabling our adult children?

Make no mistake about it: If you have been an enabling parent, it may not be easy for you to change. Nor will any resulting changes in your adult child be easy for him to make. Learning to choose to do things differently isn’t easy after a long-term pattern has been established.

Years ago I founded an outreach called God Allows U-Turns. A key part of that ministry is a series of true, short-story compilation books focused on ways faith can help us find new direction in life. The subtitle of that book series is The Choices We Make Change the Story of Our Life. Never is that statement more true than when deciding to change the choices we make in how we relate to our adult children who are creating pain in our lives. Equally true is that for adult children who have been consistently enabled throughout their lives, it’s the choices they don’t make that will eventually tell the story of their lives.

In her best-selling book Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World, author Jill Rigby writes,

Respect was paramount when we were kids. But somehow over the years we substituted self-esteem for self-respect and lost our manners. Slowly, but surely, children became the center of the universe, spoiled, egotistical and disrespectful. I often refer to them as “aristobrats.”

As a result of this emphasis on self-esteem, twenty-somethings are returning home rather than facing the world on their own. College kids are flunking out because they don’t know how to manage their own schedules. Kids are growing up without problem-solving skills because many of their parents think love means solving all their problems for them. Many adolescents have no respect for authority because their parents didn’t command their respect. Instead, these parents gave too much and expected too little.1

Could this be true? Have we given too much and expected too little?

As long as we continue to keep enabling our adult children, they will continue to deny they have any problems, since most of their problems are being “solved” by those around him. Only when our adult children are forced to face the consequences of their own actions—their own choices—will it finally begin to sink in how deep their patterns of dependence and avoidance have become. And only then will we as parents be able to take the next step to real healing, forever ending our enabling habits and behaviors.

1 Jill Rigby, Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World (West Monroe, LA: Howard Books, 2006), 7.


Excerpted from:

Bottke, A. (2008). Setting boundaries with your adult children: Six steps to hope and healing for struggling parents. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.

Accepting People As They Are

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

Some of us have an “inner judge” who notices when others don’t do what we think they should do.

Maybe they’re not doing their “fair share” or not following through as promised or they’re promoting political policies that we dislike. What do we do with that “inner judge”? I’m on a learning curve of accepting people as they are. (I’m mindful that your journey might be different – that of speaking up – but I think this will still make sense!)

Here’s what my progress has looked like so far: I’m part of a group that highly values accepting others as they are, but I’ve noticed that group members aren’t very welcoming toward a certain person in the group who might be described as “socially disabled.”

  • Long ago: I would have quit the group in disgust.
  • A few years ago: I would have thought I wasn’t condemning them, but would have found myself judging each of the group members’ missteps.
  • Recently: I accept the group members as they are and am befriending the socially disabled person myself.

Before I continue, let me assure you that accepting people as they are does not mean that we agree with them, approve of their behavior, allow ourselves to be walked on, or pretend that their behavior is what is best for all. We still take appropriate actions to protect ourselves or others.  In other words, we still maintain healthy boundaries.

Here’s what I’m learning.

  • Talking to people about their disturbing behavior or opinion doesn’t always work. No matter how skilled or respectfully I communicate, they may not “hear” me. In fact, my experience is that “talking it out” is overrated. The other person typically walks away feeling they were attacked. For such as conversation to work, we both have to have open, receptive hearts.
  • Even if the conversation seems to go well, I need to keep my expectations in check. Why? Because expectations are the early stages of resentment. The longer expectations take root, the deeper the resentment can go.
  • Sometimes I have been appalled that a Christian leader does certain things. I need to get over it and be realistic. This is who they are at this moment (and this may not be their best moment). I may not like their behavior; I may even feel sad or angry about it, but at a deeper level, I need to be at peace within myself. Their behavior is their decision, not mine.
  • Accepting people as they are keeps me from tipping into self-righteousness, irritation, fault-finding, and badgering. These are not attitudes and actions I want to encourage in myself.

I’m learning to create space for God’s glory to happen: “So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified” (Rom 15:7 New Living Translation).When God is glorified, God’s goodness, beauty, strength and power are made obvious. I was recently told that if we have respect for people as they are and come alongside them as equals in life, their behavior is more likely to change for the good.

And so I have remained in the group I mentioned above. God continues to use these flawed people (like me) to benefit me. Whether I benefit the others is largely dependent on my having an accepting and loving heart.

The give and take of healthy relationships

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

I want to talk about the importance of reciprocity in maintaining healthy adult relationships.

Reciprocity means that both people in the relationship give and both people in the relationship receive. Power and responsibility for the care and maintenance of the relationship are shared, and there is not a double standard where one person receives the goodies of the relationship while the other person does most of the work.

There may be seasons where one person gives much more than the other due to illness, incapacity or other problems, but when both individuals in the relationship are capable, reciprocity means that both individuals are givers and both individuals are receivers.

For example, John and Mary constantly argued about their budget. Mary required John to be accountable for every penny he spent, yet Mary did not hold herself to that same standard. She always had an excuse as to why her spending was more justified than John’s. John agreed that Mary was a better money manager than he was yet there was something fundamentally imbalanced in their marriage. Over time, he began to feel resentful and started acting out like a rebellious teenager, taking money out of the ATM without telling Mary. That caused more conflict between them.

John wanted some decision making power as to how they managed their money. He wanted to be a part of a “we” decision regarding their finances instead of feeling like a child being given an allowance. In order to rebalance their marriage, Mary would need to share the decision making with John instead of informing him of her decisions.

In another example, Amber felt frustrated with herself for always saying “yes” when she wanted to say “no”. She lacked the freedom to say no in her relationships because she feared that if she said “no”, people wouldn’t like her or she would lose their friendship. But as she began to evaluate her relationships, she realized that most of her friendships were very lopsided, with her being the giver and her friends being the takers. It didn’t surprise her that she felt afraid that if she stopped being such a generous giver, she might lose some of her friends. Yet she was tired of having friends who gladly took from her yet never gave anything back.

Amber realized that if she wanted to have healthier relationships with these people, she would need to start speaking up about her own needs and feelings in the hopes of rebalancing their relationship.

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