how to stop enabling your grown child


Most parents want to do everything possible to support their adult children. However, support can quickly turn into enablement. Adult children may grow accustomed to the extra help, causing them to expect it. In turn, they develop bad habits that hold them back and that put additional pressure on their parents. Fortunately, there are solutions. Here’s a look at how to stop enabling your grown child.

Reflect on Past Enablement

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Spend time reflecting on any past enablement, going back several months, years, or longer, depending on how long the cycle has been occurring. Identify the moment where your support altered your children’s behavior, as that can indicate the beginning of the cycle.

When you examine each situation, think about what your children presented, how you reacted, actions that were taken, and other aspects of the scenarios as they unfolded. This process allows you to see potential missteps on your part, such as when asking you for help became a norm, whether you became complacent, and whether the nature of the requests fell into a loop.

Don’t chastise yourself for any mistakes on your part. What’s important is to identify the issues, allowing you to find a way to break the cycle.

Set Boundaries, and Stick to Them

Usually, the next step you’ll need to take is to sit down with your adult child and set boundaries. Make it clear that continuing to offer the same level of support isn’t something you’ll continue to do. Then, set limits regarding how things will be moving forward, allowing remove yourself from the enablement cycle.

How you approach this can vary. Some parents may prefer a “cold turkey” approach and might cut off all enabling activities. Others may like to scale things back notably but not entirely at first, allowing them to wean their children off over time.

Which approach is best depends on your unique situation. However, either way, be prepared for your children to push back. There may be accusations that you don’t love them anymore or that you want to see them suffer. Often, this is a reaction to what can be an extreme change, as it can be scary from their perspective.

Additionally, once you set the boundaries, you have to stick to them. Budging to any degree could simply encourage your child to keep pushing, increasing the odds that you’ll end up back at square one. By remaining firm in your position, you are showing that this paradigm is the new normal, essentially forcing your child to find new solutions and gain independence.

Legitimate Emergencies

Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t help in legitimate emergencies. Instead, you may need to redefine what a genuine crisis is and how you’ll respond to one. For instance, if your children constantly ask for money, don’t give them cash. Instead, you could offer to pay for any related products or services that are needed directly. If the emergency is genuine, your child will likely appreciate the offer. If your child used fake emergencies in the past and was attempting to do so again, they’ll resist, trying to get cash instead.

It’s a simple way to gauge a situation where help may be justified. Then, you can continue to offer appropriate support without going as far as to enable them.

Do you have any other tips that can help parents figure out how to stop enabling their grown children? Have you struggled in this area and want to help others learn by discussing your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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