Are You Enabling Your Teen?
Parenting a troubled teen can be extremely difficult, especially when you consider the diverse array of psychological health issues that your teen may be struggling with. Unfortunately, sometimes the things that well-meaning parents do to try to help their teens can actually hurt in the long run. This is because they enable deep-seated issues to continue rather than be addressed as they should. Here is a look at some ways that you as a parent might be enabling your teen rather than helping.
One form of enabling a teen is making excuses for problem behavior. For you, this might mean “calling in sick” for your teen when he or she is not really sick; lying to extended family members about your teen’s absence from an event; or calling a teacher to explain how an occurrence at home may have affected behavior at school. There is a place for keeping private matters private, of course, but if lying or making excuses for your teen is allowing for problem behavior to continue unaddressed, then you know something’s not quite right.
Similarly, perhaps you have shifted blame onto yourself, accepting partial responsibility for spotty attendance, slipping grades, or sub-par work. You might accept blame internally, or you might accept blame externally when meeting with your teen’s teachers, coaches, etc.
It is completely normal for a parent to give a teen a weekly allowance; the problem arises when financial support begins to enable irresponsible financial activity to continue. For you, this might mean incurring legal fees, covering expenses that are your teen’s responsibility, or supplementing quickly-spent allowance money.
Taking over responsibilities
Taking over responsibilities is a another common form of enabling. In the case of your teen, this might mean doing homework, taking over weekly chores, running errands that are your teen’s responsibility, etc.
Similarly, doing “clean-up work” to fix problems that your teen has gotten himself or herself into will ultimately deprive him or her of the opportunity to learn from his or her mistakes.
Playing the friend
A lack of discipline can definitely allow problem behavior to continue as well. Some parents, rather than laying down guidelines or sitting down for an important one-on-one talk, “play the friend” by going lenient on rules, avoiding giving discipline, giving in to whining, putting values aside to “connect,” etc.
Do you fear how your teen might respond to your constructive criticism or discipline, and therefore avoid saying anything at all? Do you avoid expressing concerns over your teen’s mood or behavior? Or maybe you’ve chosen to believe a lie your teen has told you, rather than calling them out on the lie and asking for the truth? These are all ways to avoid confrontation with your teen—all of which ultimately hinder your ability to communicate effectively with your child.