8 Ways to Avoid Enabling Your Teen
“Enabling” is when well-meaning parents allow, or even encourage, behavior in their children that is inappropriate, irresponsible, destructive or dangerous. While it is normal to want to protect your children and to prevent their suffering, sometimes parents can go overboard, rescuing them from their problems or uncomfortable situations, rather than allowing them to feel the consequences of their negative behavior. Parents, especially of teenagers, need to empower their child so that they can learn to make the right choices. Taking over your teen’s responsibilities, performing their tasks, lying for them, ignoring their bad behavior, or covering up for a teen are examples of ways that parents allow negative behavior to continue. Parents must understand that allowing their teen to experience the cost of their own actions is not cruel. It is, in fact, one of the best ways they can prepare their child for a successful adulthood.
If you’re not sure if you’re enabling your child, here are some examples of enabling behavior:
- Doing your teen’s homework or project for them.
- Lying to their teacher to get them a second chance or avoid a punishment.
- Making up an excuse for their absence at school.
- Giving your teen more money when they spend all of their allowance so they can still go out with their friends.
- Giving in to your teen’s whining or bad attitude.
Here’s what you need to pay attention to in order to avoid enabling your teen:
- Refuse to tell lies for your teen for any reason. As a parent, you should model honesty for your teen. Do not make up excuses or cover up for your teen.
- Stop fixing your teen’s problems. You can listen to your teen talk about their problems and help them brainstorm solutions that they can implement, but you cannot step in and fix it. They must learn this skill or they will become a reliant, weak adult.
- Don’t bail your teen out. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is let things get worse. If you clean up their messes, they will never learn from their mistakes.
- Set clear limits and boundaries with your teen. You should have house rules that are understood by everyone in the family.
- Establish consequences in advance for breaking any of the house rules, and consistently follow through in administering the punishment.
- Take a time-out when deciding how to “help” your teen in any difficult situation. Discuss it with your spouse, or think it over for a night, so that you can carefully consider all the pros and cons, and possible results, of assisting your child.
- Encourage your teenager. Tell them you know they have all the wisdom, skills, talents and abilities to overcome their challenges.
- Do not take responsibility for issues or problems that belong to your teen and not you. Do not feel guilty that they made the mistake, nor feel guilty that you are not fixing their problem.
Enabling always develops out of love and concern. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help your teen improve their behavior. Many times, it also subtly communicates to your teen that you don’t think they are capable enough to handle difficult situations. But, allowing your child to experience the negative consequences of their own actions does not lessen your love for your teen. It teaches them. You need to encourage your child by telling them that you believe in his or her ability to initiate changes, make positive decisions, and take control of their lives.
One of the ways you can help both your teen and yourself is to choose to reflect on your teen’s strengths and positive qualities. Take a step back and look at your teen through the eyes of a stranger. This will help you regain perspective. Additionally, take time for yourself. Parenting a teen can be exhausting or overwhelming. Be sure to find ways to recharge so that you can be a better parent and role model for your teen. And, if you need help with stopping your enabling behavior, participate in a parent support group.