How To Stop Enabling: When Our Grown Children Disappoint Us

Being a responsible parent is never an easy task, from the time our children first enter the world and well into adulthood, our job as parents to teach and train our children in all areas of life is often fraught with one obstacle after another, and parents need to know how to deal with the problems as they occur as well as prevent as many problems as possible.

Regular readers of Telling It Like It Is are likely familiar with previous articles where I have discussed the mounting entitlement issues so prevalent in society today, with adult children still living at home with mom and dad, and the struggles parents have in getting their adult children to be responsible financially, mentally and emotionally. For new subscribers and visitors, here are a list of the articles I’ve written that deal with money management, helping and enabling adult children, teenagers and yes, even very young children:

Getting adult children to be responsible for themselves in all areas of life is often hindered by well-meaning parents who want to “help” their children become independent or, “get back on their feet”, but instead come to realize later on that the help provided never seems to end.

Adult children continue to make poor choices and bad decisions regarding how they spend their money, then expect mom and dad to pick up the tab and continuously rescue them from experiencing the consequences of their choices and behaviors, wrongly thinking their parents are a 24-hour bank or ATM machine.

Enabling Adult Children

Adult children, some married with children of their own, are moving back home with their parents at an alarming rate, and shortly thereafter parents become frustrated when boundaries and rules are repeatedly broken, and requests for more money requires parents to dig deep into their life savings and retirement plans to the point where parents have gone broke helping their children.

Enabling occurs even when children are not living with the parents, with adult children and spouse working full-time jobs continuing to make regular phone calls to parents asking for money to pay utility bills because “It’s going to get shut off!”, or saying their “car is going to be repossessed” or the old standby, “We have no food in the house!”. My response would be, “I’m sorry to hear that but I can’t help you this time, and I have full trust and confidence that you will find a solution to the problem, and do what is necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen again”. Real NEED creates REAL motivation for change.

Not being an enabler myself, my message to parents is, “Just say no! Don’t give them anymore money and by all means, Kick them out of the house and change the locks!” I’ve heard from many parents who tell me their adult children are constantly asking for money “to pay bills”, while these “adults” are spending their own money on manicures, pedicures, Botox treatments, new clothes, expensive cell phones, concerts and sporting events, electronic gadgets and other luxuries, all while “there is no food in the house”.

Learn How To Let Go Of The Control

Enablers have to learn how to “let go” of their adult children, let go of the control and Co-Dependent tendencies that run rampant amongst enabling parents and their children, allowing their adult children to experience the consequences that go with making choices on their own.

Continuously rescuing adult children, paying their bills, giving them money, allowing them to live at home with the parents, shielding them from the realities of how the real world works has created an Entitlement society. Today’s society of teenagers and adult children have come to believe their parents “owe” them whatever their hearts desire, and if parents don’t put a stop to it and close the bank of mom and dad, the problems of entitlement are only going to get worse.

When your adult children ask you for money tell them, “I’m sorry but I can’t help you this time”. The next time they ask, repeat the same sentence. Do not give your adult children any more money! Able-bodied children, working or not, can and need to learn how to manage their own lives, and that cannot be accomplished as long as children know that parents are their personal “back up plan”.

Why would your children make the grownup decision to get smart with their money, when they know they can spend their own money frivolously on their extensive “want” list, knowing you will give them a handout time after time? Stop it and stop it now, before you find yourselves penniless in your elderly years with no financial means to take care of yourself.

How To Stop Enabling Adult Children

Children know what buttons to push with parents, especially when there are grandchildren being used as an excuse to get money from parents and grandparents, making it vitally important to learn how to stop enabling irresponsible adult children.

If your children have jobs of their own, no one is going to starve to death, and while their electric might be turned off due to bad choices, allowing them to experience the consequences of their own decisions really is helping them more than you may realize.

Oftentimes people in society equate enabling with alcoholics or drug abuse, with many books being written on how parents and family members can help these children and adults conquer their problems, but the overall subject of helping vs. enabling covers a wide range of relationship dynamics between parents and children, but without an equal number of books and resources.

Stop Enabling Your Adult Children

When Our Adult Children Disappoint Us When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us : Letting Go of Their Problems, Loving Them Anyway, and Getting on with Our Lives If you are a parent of adult children still living at home, or children continuously asking for money or help in some way, you must read this book. You don’t have to a Baby Boomer to appreciate the problem parents have in dealing with children moving back home with mom and dad, and taking advantage of the situation and their parents desire to help their kids get on their feet financially or otherwise. The writer, Jane Adams, reassures parents that they’ve done their jobs and that they don’t have to spend the rest of their lives picking up the pieces for their grown children, emotionally, financially, or otherwise. With warmth, empathy, and perspective, Dr. Adams offers a positive, life-affirming message to parents who are still trying to “fix” their adult children — Stop! She shows us how to separate from their problems without separating from them, and how to be a positive force in their lives while getting on with our own.

Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children 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.

The Enabler: When Helping Hurts the Ones You Love
The Enabler: When Helping Hurts the Ones You Love
Co-dependency of which enabling is a major element can and does exist in families where there is no chemical dependency. Angelyn Millers own experience is a dramatic example: neither she nor her husband drank, yet her family was floundering in that same dynamic. In spite of her best efforts to fix everything (and everyone), the turmoil continued until she discovered that helping wasn’t helping. Miller recounts how she learned to alter the way she responded to family crises and general neediness, forever breaking the cycle of co-dependency. Offering insights, practical techniques, and hope, she shows us how we can transform enabling relationships into healthy ones.

ToughLove
Toughlove
I’m a big believer in being a tough parent, setting guidelines and boundaries with children regardless of their age, and staying firm on what behaviors are or are not acceptable. Toughlove is not about being abusive towards our children, nor is it solely focused on children with drug or alcohol addictions, and I highly recommend this book for parents struggling with their children, teens and adult kids.

Are you an Enabler? Have you been struggling with the difficulties in trying to understand how to help your adult child but find yourself in the rather upsetting position of being an enabler? Do you understand that there is a difference between helping and enabling? What changes are you willing to make in letting go of the control over your children’s lives, so they can be independent and responsible financially, mentally and emotionally?

Further Reading:

Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children
Support Groups for Parents with Grown Adult Children Living at Home with Parents