Enabling adult children

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My wife enables her adult children.

Enabling happens when a parent removes a naturally occurring negative consequence from a grown child’s life, and the child doesn’t learn from the experience. Said differently, it’s when a parent and child get stuck in a cycle that keeps both dependent on the other in a way that doesn’t allow for the adult child to make mistakes and grow.

Part of the reason this may happen is because the parent doesn’t want their child to grow up and leave them. Sometimes parents enable without being aware of it when they are afraid of having a child separate into a full-fledged adult. When that separation is too painful, parents will take unhelpful steps to keep the child close, even if it impedes the child’s personal growth.

Steeping in to help them every time your child gets anxious keeps them needing you, which may feel good. But it stops the child from stepping out on their own and teaches them that they’ll only accomplish their goals with your help.”

So instead of learning how to become a functioning, independent adult, your child gains a sense of entitlement, learned helplessness and lack of respect.

Moving forward, they will expect the same enabling treatment from other people in their lives and only engage in relationships where they can be selfish and the center of attention.

Also, enabling does not require your child to respect you or consider your feelings. This may limit your ability to be independent and live your life on your terms because you will have to be constantly available and responsible for another adult.

Grown children are negatively affected primarily through stunted growth. Adults cannot reach appropriate emotional, financial, or mental maturity if they are constantly and consistently reliant upon their parents. There are some cases in which children must rely on their parents, but most children can care for themselves with little interference, and always relying on their parents is a breeding ground for irresponsible behavior, inflated self-importance, and inappropriate dependency.


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