When is it time to say “No” to your adult children?
The first step in correcting the problem of enabling your adult child’s irresponsibility is to admit there is a problem. When you realize your adult child is always asking for money or is always in need and never takes responsibility for his actions then it’s time to step back, look at the problem, and do something about it. You know you want help your kids but you also want to bring sanity back into your life. It’s time to know what your boundaries are and set them. As a parent I understand that we want to protect our kids. We don’t want them to suffer but we need to ask how many of these problems are brought on by their bad choices?
Sometimes we get confused with the words “enabling” and “helping”. There is a big difference you know! Helping is when we reach out and fill a need by affording relief or support to a person under difficulties. Enabling is born out of our instinct of love. However, when we apply it to chronic financial problems that our adult children bring upon themselves, enabling has the opposite effect on what we really intend to do.
I’ve had clients tell me they can’t forgive themselves for things like divorce, abuse, etc. So what do they do? They try to buy their way out of their feelings of guilt! I had a client who divorced her husband and abandoned her children to marry another man. Unfortunately, the man she married wanted nothing to do with her children. Although this happened several years ago she is still trying to buy their love by paying their bills, giving them money and financing expensive trips. Her children never show any gratitude for what she does for them and her friends tell her she’s enabling her sons to be irresponsible young men.
You may ask “Where do I start?” I suggest the first thing you do is make a commitment to yourself to stop the enabling. Tell yourself, “I am no longer going to hurt my child by enabling their irresponsible behavior.” There is absolutely no reason to feel guilty about taking control of your life because what you are ultimately doing is helping your adult child do the things they should be doing for themselves.
When my parents decided to end the madness of enabling my sister they decided to do it immediately and not prolong it. My dad was fed up and couldn’t tolerate what it was doing to my mother. I was proud of them! They enabled my sister for 10 years. Finally, enough was enough! My parents sat down with my sister, shared their concerns and set boundaries on what they were going to do from that moment on. Undoubtedly, my sister was upset and tried to use guilt to manipulate them. Some of her excuses were: “How dare you tell me I have to get a job. There are no jobs out there!” “Everybody is picking on me and you hate me!” “I don’t have a car! How am I going to apply for work?” “I’m going to live on the streets so don’t worry about me.” Once you set boundaries with your adult child expect to hear all kinds of excuses. Don’t buy into them! This is when you have to be strong. My next suggestion is take some time to really think about the situation and then write down your goals. List all the things that will help you see the whole picture and what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish. This exercise will give you a peace of mind.
In this series we will examine why adult children take advantage of their parents. We’ll talk about how to regain control of your life, peace of mind and finances.
Are you experiencing a difficult time in your home because your adult children are taking advantage of you and your spouse? Do you feel manipulated and hear the same old excuses? “Mom I am so tired I can’t look for a job today” and “I promise to start looking for a job on Monday, you’ll see” or “Dad, it’s not my fault! They will not hire me” and “The economy is bad and nobody is hiring! What’s the use?” If you answered yes to any of these questions, I can help you. Give me a call today!
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