Parents want to help and protect their child, but sometimes the best help is by allowing them to learn from their mistakes. Helping your child to understand that there are natural consequences to their choices is a way to prepare them for the future. Asking them how they will handle the situation, is a wonderful way to show them that you trust them to learn from their mistake.

An “enabler” is defined as a person who enables another to achieve an end; especially to persist in self-destructive behavior, by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior. You may consider yourself a caring person, wanting to help someone, whether they ask for it or not. It may be your relative, a friend, a co-worker or your child. You may feel that you need to help your adult child, who may not seem able to take care of themself. However, if you really consider the long-term effect of the situation, it can raise a very difficult decision for you: Are you actually helping, or hurting your child or the person you are trying to help?

An enabling father I know explained how his son is so stubborn, and told me he had to leave our appointment to go pick him up his son from high school. On the face of it, when your child is calling you to pick them up from school because they didn’t wear a winter coat, you may think: I’m so tired of fighting with him to wear a coat. But if I don’t pick him up, he’ll get sick, and then I’ll be the one having to take care of him/her anyway! I might even have to miss a day of work because he’s gotten himself sick.

Perhaps if you pay attention to this story you will realize that you child has you well conditioned. He has continuously refused to wear a coat. He knows that you will pick him up if the weather is bad. Children are great at getting their parents to do what the child wants. Parents naturally are trying to protect their children, but may end up harming them by not having the child learn from his or her mistakes. The child is not learning about the natural consequences of their choices.

I could have commiserated with the father, but I’ve heard too many times about how his son won’t do this, won’t do that. If this were my child, when he or she called me expecting a ride home, I would give a typical “Love and Logic” answer.

“What a bummer (that’s the love), how are you going to get home?(that’s the parent who is a “consultant, not a” helicopter”)
“Pick me up”, says your child, believing that although they made a choice NOT to wear a coat, despite your warning about the weather, that YOU would bail them out.

“I’m not available. I guess you’re going to get really cold, unless you can find a ride!”

I believe that letting his son walk home in the blizzard would be a perfect example of life’s natural consequences teaching the son a lesson. After being told to wear your coat umpteen times, and refusing, the weather has finally conspired to teach the child the lesson that the parent would not. If you don’t have a coat in a blizzard, you are going to be freezing cold, and possibly get sick. But, the NEXT TIME, you will bring a coat, or go through the same experience. All life lessons will be repeated until learned!

So, do you understand that picking up a child who refuses to wear a coat as enabling? As another example if your child refuses to get their homework in on time, without you constantly reminding them, or helping him or her, they are not learning to do this task on their own! Are you also going to be at their first job when they don’t get an assignment done on time because you weren’t there to remind and nag them?

Natural consequences is how we learn our best lessons in life. Furthermore, the worse the mistake you make, the less likely you are to repeat it. If you decide to go out in your car without a seat belt, and get hurt in an accident, believe me, that will be the last time you don’t put on your seatbelt!

Look at your other relationships. Are you truly helping people or enabling them? Are you preventing them from learning a life’s lesson by bailing them out? Nietzsche said: “The things that don’t kill us make us stronger”, and sometimes that lesson is a life changing event that sets us on a different course.

Now here’s a hard question: Are YOU being enabled? Are you depending upon someone who is preventing you from experiencing life’s lesson that you need to learn? Sometimes it’s time to look in the mirror and honestly see who is looking back at you. It’s never too late to get on a path that will empower you to be the best you can be.

Author's Bio: 

According to Lianda Ludwig, M.S., “Happiness, Wellbeing and Success is what happens when what you think, say and do are in alignment with your heart’s compass… when not, that creates stress.” Author of Align, Expand and Succeed, Lianda is a communication skills specialist and licensed HeartMath© Stress Relief “Coach-Sultant”.
Lianda was a popular speaker and Behavioral Therapist at Canyon Ranch Health Resort. Her blogs and articles are known for humor, creative imagery and famous quotes to illustrate her points. Her Best Selling book as a co-author, “Align, Expand and Succeed, Anthology” about creating conscious business hit #1 in 4 categories on Amazon!
Get her FREE report , The #1 Essential Factor To Know If You’re Ready For Relief And Change In Your Life” on her website
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