Don't do anything for someone that they can do for themselves.
It's an interesting concept - this term "enabling". I see it over and over in my field of work which is addiction. And because of this continuous observation, it becomes all the more evident that this 'enabling' happens all over the place. I've done it with my own kids so know first-hand how easy it is. As my kiddos are below the ages of 12, my enabling looks kind of like this - "Kids, clean your rooms."...and after waiting an hour it's still not done and I do it myself. My actions of cleaning their rooms has done a few things besides save myself some time - some of which, you may not have thought of (ever).
Let's see how this whole cleaning up my kids room has benefited me.
My actions have first and foremost relieved my being uncomfortable with their rooms being unclean. I can't stand a messy room and am quite fond of organization (although you wouldn't believe that if you saw my house). Second, my actions have had the consequences of me feeling like quite the helper and I think to myself, "wow, what a good Dad you are." Third, I get to feel like I'm doing service; doing something nice for my offspring. "What a good PERSON I am - unselfishly serving my children. FOURTH, I get to hold this over their heads if need be. "Ok kids, I have cleaned your room so now you OWE ME a solid so quit fighting with each other and go to sleep." This benefit comes in quite handy if I'm a fan of the ever so effective GUILT TRIP. Fifth, I get to feel superior and look impressive to my wife and she'll think quite highly of me. It's great when people think highly of you, isn't it? I could go on but you get the point.
Now, let's talk about how this affects my children.
First and foremost, I have robbed them of feeling good about themselves. Yea, I stole it from them. It makes sense when you think about it - I asked them to do something and they didn't 'get' to do it so they never enjoyed to feel the sweet pleasure of accomplishment...a pleasure that I actually felt after cleaning the room. Second, they don't learn how to do uncomfortable things. Third, they learn that they don't 'get' to do uncomfortable things when they procrastinate long enough. Fourth, they don't 'get' to NOT accomplish the task and then be directed on how to do it right. Ok, that's a double negative so let me explain; when they say "Dad, I'm finished!" and I come down and find that there is still a lot of crap on the floor, they don't 'get' to feel that disappointment and frustration. Yes...they're supposed to feel those things. If they don't - or if they're handed things too easily in life - they never grow their own resilience and that will end up being a huge dilemma for them when (and if) they move out or start 'adulting'. Fifth, my enabling sends them the message that they're special. That the normal rules for society don't apply to them. They could very easily pick up behaviors of entitlement...or acting like brats (talking back, being sassy, being bully's, etc.) because they have learned FROM ME that the rules of society don't apply to them.
This - Is - Enabling. Don't do anything for someone that they can do for themselves - even when we think it's easier or takes less energy. If you do enable, you are robbing them of their independence which not only creates a human that isn't equipped for life - it also creates a human who will resent you in the end.
These are my thoughts on a Friday. Probably will do a Meaning To Live Life Hack on this. What do you think about this? Can you insert this into your own life?
Jed Thorpe, CMHC