Are You Helping or Enabling Your Kids?

Most of us would do anything for our kids.  We want them to be happy.  We want them to say we were always there for them.  We want them to be successful in school, in sports, and in relationships.  Our desire is for our kids to be the best they can be and compete at the highest level.  Yet, I wonder if instead of helping we are stunting their growth.  Are we enabling them to not take care of themselves because they know that we will be there to provide for them no matter what?

What is our real desire for our kids for their future?

And how do we raise kids who become mature adults who can think for themselves, solve their own problems, and have a desire to get ahead in life?

Last week there was a video on Facebook that was priceless and I think could teach all of us a thing or two about helping instead of enabling.  A baby elephant had slid into a stream and struggled over and over to pull himself up onto flat land.  The problem was that the ground where he was trying to get out had become so wet and muddy that it became a slide that would not allow him a firm grip.  Over and over he slid back into the stream.  At one point you could tell he seemed to be getting tired.  He quit trying.  He paced back and forth as if he was doing some self-talk.  Frustrated at his circumstance he kept circling lowering his trunk into the water.  He paused.  

Then he decided to try again. 

This time as the camera panned out we could see his mother from a distance coaxing him to try harder.  After much time she slowly walked toward him and seemed to hug him as she took her trunk and wrapped it with his.  Knowing nothing about elephants I wondered if she would try to pull him out with her strong trunk.  

But she didn’t.  She actually backed away several feet.

I could almost hear her.  “You can to this!  Come on.  Try again.”

After a few more rounds of slipping, mama elephant slid into the water, encouraged him to try again, and then behind him proceeded to give him a little nudge.  With that, he made it to higher ground.

The question that most of us need to ask ourselves is “At what point do we intervene with our kids and how much assistance do we give?”  Intervening too quickly and and with too much assistance moves us from helping to enabling.   

Sometimes we need to allow our kids to fail so they can actually learn from their mistakes.

Enabling allows our kids be irresponsible.  We intervene so they won’t suffer the consequences of their choices.   Sometimes we think we are showing our kids love by helping with homework or picking up after them or giving them money rather than encouraging them to get a job, but will that well-intended help cause them to realize that someone will always be there to bail them out?  What will be the consequences of our actions for their future mate?  Will they be looking for a mom-figure who they think should bail them out causing marital conflict for their future?

If you are a mom who likes to help your kid, maybe it is time to do some soul searching.  What is the driving force behind the extra help that you give your kids?  If your kid is successful have you bought into the lie that it means you are a good mom?  Is the extra help because you don’t believe your kid can do it on his own?  Or maybe you aren’t willing to trust God with your child? 

This isn’t an attempt at condemnation.  It is an honest assessment by you about you.  Is it time to let your kid be more responsible for his stuff.  Is he the owner of his to-do list or are you owning it?  

I know.  

I’ve been there.

And, yes, oh that realization hurts.  OUCH!  But sometimes painful self-assessment can push us to do things differently.

Here are 4 ways to move from enabling to helping:

  • Assess where you might be enabling and make a choice to back off.  Be sure to communicate with your teen that you feel like you might be hindering their future and that you want to help them mature.  Let them know when this will go into affect.
  • Ease your child into their new reality.  Too many times parents see that they are doing too much for their kids and make a statement that they are no longer going to do XYZ to help. It can come off as harsh and shuts down the relationship. Sometimes it is better to take baby steps as we try to wean our kids into their new mature behavior.
  • Be their cheerleader.  Send them a text, cheer them on, give them a hug, and let them know you think they can be successful.  It is important to remember that cheerleaders don’t take the ball and try to score.  Once you’ve communicated that it is their game, don’t take the ball back.  If they lose the first game, there is always another opportunity.
  • When they are stuck, give them a nudge from behind (that’s elephant speak 🙂 ) If you see your kid floundering, offer suggestions, and be ready to get in their space to give a nudge in the right direction.  

I was talking to a mom recently about her kid that she used to bail out because he would get behind on homework assignments and everything would be due at the same time.  When I asked her how things were going, she told me–‘great’.  “He seems to finally be grasping where my boundary is in helping vs. enabling.  When he comes in needing help with schoolwork, I ask him to take a calendar and decide when he is going to do each assignment.  It is forcing him to make some tough choices between fun activities and grades.”

Whether it is doling out money or giving our kids a ride to school when they could be taking the bus or helping with homework, our kids need to be learning that we’re here to help them be successful not make their life easy.

If we aren’t careful we will believe the lie from the Enemy that our job as parents is to pave the way for our kids such that they don’t stumble or experience frustration or pain.  

Galatians 6:5 

For each will have to bear his own load.

2 Thessalonians 3:10

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

Dare you to assess where you might be enabling rather than helping and choose to do things differently.  Doing so might help you raise the mature adult that you desire.

“Let go…and let God”,

What to become a MASTER at handling conflict with your kids?  Want to grow as a woman and help others grow in their relationship with God and their families?  Whether you are influencing others in your home or wanting to help other women who are stuggling in their relationships, we’ll help you develop skills that will give you opportunity to be all He created you to be.  Titus 2 Leadership Boot Camp


Team or Silo Parenting?

Parenting toward a team mentality is so much easier when our kids are small.  After all, their needs are more basic and we tend to do everything as a family.  The kids help us set the table, put away their toys, and we tend to celebrate each individual’s milestones as a family.  Birthday parties include everyone and usually extended family if they are in town.  Life is novel and there are lots of firsts–first tooth for the tooth fairy, first basketball game, first cheerleader outfit, or first time on a water slide. Everyone celebrates together! We are so much a part of our kids’ lives that at times we don’t know where we end and they begin.  We’re just together.

Usually by sixth grade or so, things begin to shift.  We trust our kids to be on their own more, they have their independent friends, and organized sports sometimes force us to create carpool opportunities so one kid can be involved in their sport while we’re doing something with another child.  

Somewhere along the way as a family we are able to fit in more and more into our busy schedules and spend time independently with each kid because we know the importance of each feeling special.  

But unfortunately as a culture we are seeing family silos as the kids get older.  In the midst of busyness we lose the family element.  Dad takes Marcus to his baseball game, Synda carpools to her track meet, Mom goes to watch Nicole’s tennis match, and Josh is hanging out with friends.  Everyone catches dinner wherever they can and the evening entails more soloing.  Mom is downstairs doing laundry, Dad is mowing the lawn, and each of the kids are doing their own thing–independent of each other.

Instead of the family unit rooting each other on, it becomes every man for himself.  

The result?

The kids think that the world revolves around them.  

They begin to think “the reason I exist is to be entertained and do the things I want to do”.

And the family/team element becomes non-existent as everyone feels that their “need to be somewhere” is more important and mom and dad become puppets to satisfy the need.  Somehow in the world of “making each kid feel special” we’ve forgotten that being part of something bigger than us is also important–a family, a team.

Please don’t misunderstand that sports aren’t important and that we don’t need to make each kid feel special.  All of those are greatly valued elements of life.

But do we get so busy making everyone happy with their thing, do we spend so much time making each kid feel special individually, do we get so involved in our own activities (work, school, ministry, work travel, insert the thing that you do) that we forget the importance of team and rooting each other on?  Are we so focused on independence that we forget about everyone being together in one place and making family choices that benefit the whole rather than just one sliver of the pie?

Maybe it’s time to take inventory of your own family to see if you operate as a team or individual silos.  

  • How often is everyone under the roof at the same time and interacting in the same space?  
  • How often do you eat a meal together as a family without technology?
  • Have you ever made a choice where you could accommodate one child’s desire but not two kids’ requests?  Was the other child able to give up his desire for the sake of the other in a healthy way? 
  • Are you always strategizing to make sure everyone gets to do what they want?
  • How often do you choose to say “no” for the sake of the family?
  • Is dad or mom traveling with work such that family interaction means that one parent is most likely missing a majority of the time?

Our kids will have plenty of opportunity to be individual silos as they go off to college or move out of our homes and start their careers.  However, at some point they will want to most likely start their own families.

And what have we modeled?

Will they want to still be part of a team with family interacting as our grandchildren come along?  Or will they only remember the silos and still be striving to be the center of our universe passing what we’ve modeled on to the next generation?

Ephesians 4:16

From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Dare you to take inventory of your family and make adjustments as necessary.  Let your kids recognize that they are part of a bigger team where people love, learn, and make concessions for the whole so they can grow to full maturity.

“Let go…and let God”,

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How to Get Your Kid’s Attention When They Aren’t Listening

Last week I gave you two homework assignments.  If you didn’t see them, you can read about them here.  How did you do?  If you were able to complete them, especially the one about remaining silent when your kids weren’t listening, pat yourself on the back — well done!

I talk to moms all the time about their concern that their kids are addicted to video games or YouTube or their phones.  If you didn’t read it, I wrote about the potential of this addictive like behavior  and the frustration of trying to get our kids to listen to us when they are engrossed in something.  We ask them to do something (like come to the dinner table), they might grunt (if we are lucky), and continue without thought as to what we are asking.  It is almost as if they are oblivious to our voice.  We then get irritated and yell or potentially roll over and ignore the whole scene.  I’ve had moms tell me that they’ve unplugged the device they’ve been so upset and I remember one Facebook video where a dad actually threw a gaming system out the window because he was so mad at this kids.  None of these responses is healthy.

So what is a mom to do?

Before we go there, something you might not realize is that if your kids are engrossed in something–say video games, an intense movie, lively and intense music, or some other activity they are really enjoying, like texting with a friend–then they are revving up their dopamine levels.  Sometimes as much as of doubling them.  Dopamine works like a feel good hormone.  If they are engaging in these activities, then most likely they won’t hear you. 

The other thing is that they don’t want to hear you.  Who wants to go from happy, exciting things to listening to their mom?  That would be boring.

So how do we break out of the cycle of our kid being engrossed in an activity, not listening to our request, and then us getting upset and grounding them?

First, let me assure you that while  it is doubtful that your kid is an addict if he’s involved in other things, as a parent it sure feels like it sometimes.  

Second, if we can take a moment and look at addictive patterns, it might help us as parents figure out a way to break the cycle with our kids.


There is one thing I’ve learned about addictive behaviors that I’m told holds true 100 percent of the time:  You can’t help an addict unless they want help and recognize their need for help.

So, as mom, it becomes our job to help our kids recognize their need for help.  Here are some suggesting on how to do that.

  1. Make them aware of the problem.  Since most kids’ brains don’t fully develop until they are 25-27, your kid may not even recognize that they have a problem.  If they aren’t making the connection between their behavior and your response, you might need to have a conversation over ice cream or a hot mocha. Most teens don’t want privileges taken away .  The only thing they see is mom being mean.  It’s your job to help them make the connection.
  2. Ask questions.  Ask about their dreams for the future and let them know you want them to have fun and friends.  You might even ask them how they see video games, or whatever they spend their time on, helping them reach their goals.  Listen, listen, listen.
  3. Admit your own addictive behaviors (within reason of course).  Was there a time you became so engrossed in other things that the important things didn’t seem so important?  Empathize and make a connection between your current or past behavior and your teens’.  Let them know what is happening is normal.
  4. Talk about life balance.  Trust me when I say this is a real issue for college students!  Now is the time to teach these skills.  Draw a pie chart and have them draw what they think each piece of the pie equates to in terms of time in how they should spend their day.  Then have them keep track of the time in each category in how they do spend their day.  Most kids have no idea how much time gets consumed by their habits.
  5. Get their input on how to solve the problem.   Maybe a small reward if they can become more aware of your requests?  Perhaps a timer to put the device away at a specific time?  Or maybe a friendly competition to help both of you change behaviors.  Know that it will most likely need to be something they “want” to do over the activity you are frustrated about.  Again, they have to want to change.  

Anger and resentment or being a doormat for your kids doesn’t teach your kids the skills they need to be successful as adults.  Respecting them in a way that builds relationship — I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine — helps them see the need to move forward in maturity and obedience.

I think the words that Hannah Whitall Smith writes in her book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life about how God parents us is so applicable as we parent our teens.  She writes, “He writes his laws on our hearts and on our minds, and we love them, and are drawn, by our affections and judgment, not driven, to our obedience.”

Dare you to woo your tweens and teens to obedience by writing on their hearts and minds through respectful communication.  If you do, maybe they’ll want to hear and respond in kind to you.

“Let go…and let God”,

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Do Your Kids have Addictive Behaviors?

I got a call from my college student on Thursday evening, “Mom, I think I want to come home this weekend if that’s cool.  I’m bringing my XBox.  (Insert long pause.)  I lost two days this week.”

I was thankful that he recognized his addiction relapse.  You see, he agonized over whether he should take his XBox to school with him after Christmas break.  He understood what it could mean for him if he couldn’t maintain self-control–for his study time.  He recognized how easy it was to get sucked into the vortex of video gaming because it was an easy way to escape from the riggers of school.

I have experienced that pull of addictive behavior myself, but it is always with food.  Chocolate is my downfall.  For me it is like that old commercial slogan “You can’t eat just one”. One piece and I am destined to give in to my sweet tooth for weeks.

About two months ago I came face to face with addiction in a whole new way.  You see, my son and I have spent many hours waiting in the doctor’s office over the past five years.  Typically he plays a video game on his iPhone while I sit and read a magazine.  On that particular day I had read just about every magazine in the office and instead downloaded a solitaire app on my phone. According to my son it was really lame, but it kept my mind off the waiting.

It didn’t take long until I found myself on the app while I was eating breakfast by myself, or before I went to bed, or when I needed a break from my work, or just because I could.  And it hit me–this is what addiction is.  It is a mind-numbing opportunity to not have to deal with the _______ (boredom, frustration, stress, housework, kids, insert whatever you want) of life.

I also found that my days were not quite the same.  Something was missing.  What I discovered was that I didn’t wake up with a praise song in my mind as I usually did.  I couldn’t feel the Lord’s presence during the day, like I was used to.  I didn’t long to spend time with Him–because the stupid game was calling me.

Our culture breeds addictive behaviors, whether it be constantly on the go, on our phones, games, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, television, or the sugary foods we eat.  You name it and it can become addictive.

Do you long to hear His voice yet have something that is in the way?

Is there something more powerful that is calling you that takes precedent over Him?

I’ve had many moms share that they see the addictions in their kids’ lives–texting, gaming, the endless YouTube videos, and the list goes on.  But do we recognize them in our own lives?

What kind of influence do our addictions have on our kids?  Do they see us tuning out real life rather than being in the moment–with them?

Romans 7:15

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Typically our kids’ addictive behaviors tend to drive us up a wall.  We try to talk to them, but they are so engrossed in whatever it is that we feel we need to yell to get their attention.  Then, if we’re like most parents, we start adding rules to get rid of the problem.  When that doesn’t work, we start taking away privileges.

Instead of success in dealing with the addiction problem we create another problem that sets us up for failure when it comes to building a relationship with our kids.

And then we either feel like a mean mom or fear that our kid is doomed and destined to become an irresponsible adult.

Something that I’ve learned through this process is that you can’t help an addict unless they want help and recognize their need for help.  

Let me say it a different way.  All the yelling or punitive action won’t help, unless they recognize that they have a problem and want you to help them.

So why even go down that path?

Next week I’ll talk about a different path that it more likely to help you and your kids with those addictive behaviors.  But in the meantime, I have an assignment for you.

  1. This week, pay attention to your addictive behaviors and those of your kid.  Just identify them.  Nothing more.
  2. If you see your kid engaging in those activities and they won’t listen to you.  Don’t yell.  For this week, just ignore them if you can.

Dare you to actively complete the assignments above for you and your teens.  It has the potential to bring peace to your home like never before.  And next week I’ll share what to do with that information.  Until then…

“Let go…and let God”,

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So glad you are here!