How Do I Stop Enabling

Morning friends,

 I’m making the adjustment to living in California and I have to say, I much prefer sunshine every day to cold grey skies. I spent some wonderful time with my granddaughters this weekend and love that I get to have this extra time to continue to develop my relationship with them.

Most of the questions in this blog are about marital relationships but sometimes I get a question about a parent/child relationship.

When we have a pattern of over-functioning and enabling we sometimes get ourselves in a destructive relationship with our own child. To break this pattern, we must learn to set boundaries, speak up, and implement consequences (tweet10that).

I’m reading Proverbs this month and I’m struck by the descriptions of three unhealthy individuals in Proverbs 6. The first one is the over-functioning person, the one who cannot say “no” and has poor boundaries – the people pleaser. The story told in this passage is that you have unwisely co-signed for a loan. You’ve said “yes” when you should have said “no.” What do you do?

The writer of Proverbs says we’re to swallow our pride (or fear), go and talk with them. Tell them you can’t do it. Do it now.

Wow, we think the Bible tells us to always be the giver, to self-sacrifice in order to show love. But this passage says the opposite. Don’t co-sign someone’s loan. Don’t do for someone what he or she should be doing for himself or herself. Stop enabling.


Question: My adult daughter has moved back home after making a mess out of her life. I think I’ve enabled her to be too dependent on me and now she is acting like an angry teenager instead of a responsible adult. What can I do to help her?

Answer: I hear this so often. Well meaning parents have crippled their children by not teaching them how to stand on their own two feet. My definition of a good parent is that you work yourself out of your job. In other words, your kids don’t need you in order to function anymore. With that said, you can’t change your daughter. But you can identify and own your problem.

What is that? You have given too much. You’ve been too nice and that may be one reason she is not taking responsibility for her own life. Unfortunately, this kind of unhealthy relationship fosters a love/hate relationship between you and your child. She loves you and is dependent on you and hates you for always being right and having to “need” you.

To change this dynamic, you will need to figure out why you have been overindulgent with your child for so long. Are you afraid to say no? Are you anxious that if she doesn’t need you, she won’t have a relationship with you? Do you pity her and believe she can’t do it without you? This is an important step so that you don’t revert back to rescuing her when things get hard for her.

Second, you need to evaluate what is in her best interests. I know you love your child but godly love acts in the beloved’s best interests, not just what feels good. I’m sure you didn’t give your child candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even if she screamed for it because you know that wasn’t good for her. It is the same principle here. To change things, you will have to say no to her requests for help, not to be mean, but because it is good for her to learn to figure out some things for herself.

Third, you need to let her know how you are changing. I talk about this in section two of my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship in detail. But let me give you a sample speak up dialogue that you may want to share with or write to your daughter.

         I love you. You are my child and nothing will ever change my love for you. But I realize now that I haven’t always given you what you needed most. I have given you lots of things, probably too much, but I have not given you the confidence that you can manage your life just fine without me. I fear you have grown too dependent on me to solve your problems, to rescue you from your financial woes, and to provide your living space, when at this age; you should be doing these things on your own.

         I will take responsibility for my part. I now see that by giving in to you, I didn’t help you grow up. I know you are in a tight spot right now and have moved back home but I want you to know that this is only a temporary solution. I expect you to get a job, work hard and save money toward moving out on your own. You will need to pay room and board while you’re here so that you learn that you have to be responsible for your bills and your life.

         I want to have a good relationship with you and we will not have one if I treat you like a child and you behave as one. I want us to respect and care for each other as adults.

If you haven’t done step 1 and 2 first, it will be hard for you to stick with your resolve. Make a plan as to how you will respond when she cries, complains, criticizes you, or doesn’t pay her room and board. Remember, you can’t make her be responsible or mature at this point in her life. That is her job. However, you can create an atmosphere where it is more likely that she will make those choices.

Friends, what helped you stop enabling others? Whether it was an adult child or a depending spouse, how did you change?

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  1. Sunshine. on February 10, 2016 at 7:53 am

    I have worked very hard at this for a few years. I recognized that my mom did too much for me so that when I said no to her help with my kids, she was angry and retaliated with a list of all the ways I owe her. I didn’t want to end up like that. I think about the end product. I have to keep that picture in my mind when my kids are yelling and protesting my “no” to their demands. I have to rise above their pouting and glares and their stomping little foot! I used to react and try to accommodate every little thing. Now I see the mess that could be their future if I continue to baby my children and allow them to under function. My kids could buckle themselves into their car seats at 3 years old. When I saw that my friend was still buckling in her two children at ages 4 and 6, I realized what a blessing it is to have children that can and will do things for themselves. When my boys are 40 years old, I don’t want them living with me, still telling me their work schedule and waiting for me to pick them up from work. That’s what my mom did for her son. I will not repeat that history.

  2. LA on February 10, 2016 at 9:26 am

    When my girls turned 16 and were able to get a job, I let them know that if they wanted certain things, they would be responsible for paying 1/2 of whatever it was, such as expensive shoes, prom dresses, clothes, etc. I still provided shampoo, TP, medicines, etc. things they needed, but I explained the difference between wants and needs. You may want an expensive prom dress, and you will need one if you chose to go, but you will be responsible for 1/2 of the cost, so decide how much you can afford and I’ll meet you halfway, so they learned to make wise decisions about wants and needs. To this day, they are very responsible with their money. My son on the other hand, the youngest, was involved in a sport and was too young to get a job. He started this sport when in junior high school and continued through college. Weekends were spent traveling to events so he would do odd jobs and pay for some things, but we spent quite a bit on travel and food, and we were in a position financially to accommodate this lifestyle until he was in high school. We then required that he find a job to help pay for the expenses. He did this and began to pitch in for entry fees and food and equipment repairs, etc. Unfortunately, we had a house fire in 2012, and 4 mos later, I was DX with breast cancer. We lived in a rental for 1&1/2 years, while working through ins. & getting the house rebuilt, as I was working my way through treatments. Everything moved slowly and we were all in “survival” mode and my son was also injured during an sporting event and required knee surgery. I also had a BC recurrence last year and did treatments again. It’s all a fog now and I’m not sure how we all made it through, but we did. When under stress, we regress. I finally have the strength to start again and have begun having the difficult
    talks with my son about his future plans and why I left his dad while he was working in another town doing seasonal work. He moved back in with his dad in Jan. and is really struggling with my leaving. My prayer is that God will help him figure out what he’s to do next as we are all still navigating our way through all of these upheavals… I continue to ask him about his future plans and I try to encourage him to start somewhere… He is one of those kids who seems to learn from the School of Hard Knocks and I’ll do it my way. I thank God that he’s growing in his relationship with the Lord and I wait patiently for God’s direction for him. One more area for me to practice resting in my trusting of God’s plan.
    Just breathing and trusting

  3. Jennifer on February 10, 2016 at 10:04 am

    My first husband and I created a monster. Our daughter is 17 and is out of control. We are guilty of enabling her horrible behavior towards us. She has attempted suicide and has been hospitalized twice. She struggled with an eating disorder as well. She has been diagnosed with ADHD, depression, anxiety, bi polar disorder and borderline personality disorder. Too many hours to count have been poured into getting her help and finding the right medication. I even switched schools to get more one on one attention. She has tried working but ends up quitting thinking “everyone hates her and is mean to her”. She just started a new job and I pray this one will last a while. She is too scared to get her driver’s license so needs a ride everywhere she goes. She has a boyfriend and has told me they are having sex. She had already been put on the pill to regulate her periods. She is abusive and demanding and makes me life a living hell. She blames her mental illness. I am riddled with guilt and shame at having produced such a horrible daughter. Definitely disappointing. I have 3 sons. My oldest is 20 and has been working the same job since he was 15, he goes to college full time, pays for his car and insurance and is responsible. My two youngest I am encouraging them to do things for themselves, like helping me learn how to cook and put their clothes away and cleaning up after themselves. Please pray for me and my daughter, I pray constantly for this relationship. Please grant me the wisdom in knowing how to parent her. Thank you.

    • Former rebellious daughter on February 16, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      I can see that you have a very heavy heart when it comes to your daughter. It sounds like your expectations for a relationship were everything but the kind of relationship you have now. I don’t think you can start to make changes with your daughter until you come to terms with your own feelings of guilt and shame and figure out: 1) Why you feel that way, 2) Is it true or false guilt, and 3)How has the burden you’ve been carrying affected the way that you have spoken to/spoken of/related with your daugher? You daughter sounds like she has some serious self-esteem issues (afraid to get her driver’s license, having sex without being married, etc.). How might your inefficiency in setting boundaries contributed to her insecurity? Like Leslie said, you can’t control your daughter anymore, but you can control your reaction and future expectations. You are right in praying for wisdom in this. Consider asking God to show you what your could appologize to your daughter for, as an ice-breaker to start that “new sheriff in town” conversation. But don’t have that conversation until you have your support system and plan of action in place. Empty words without consequences will only weaken your resolve and strengthen her defiance.

      • Leslie Vernick on February 16, 2016 at 7:00 pm

        Wise words. Thanks

      • Sandy on February 17, 2016 at 1:59 am

        I had my own experience with one of my granddaughters who was living in an apartment I made in my house for her and her mom. Her mom is my daughter. In this case my daughter had gotten divorced and became a negligent and permissive parent because she wanted as much free time as possible. My formerly sweet granddaughter became a monster during her early teens. Going out with her friends, not doing homework, becoming sexually active, and cutting herself. I cried and prayed so much for her.
        She quit school in her senior year and moved in with her boyfriend and his family. She had a baby. After two years she had had two abortions then left that boyfriend and the 2 yr old. I was absolutely devastated. She “fell for” a drug addict and was homeless for a year while driving him around trying to keep him safe while he got high. Eventually, she got locked up for having drugs in her car. His mom bailed them out but then he went to prison. Fortunately, she never used drugs.
        My daughter, her mom, had moved out on her own and my granddaughter moved in with her. Soon she was pregnant again by a new boyfriend. I just cried some more. Lord, why does this girl get pregnant there are so many others who long for a baby. She had that baby who is now 2yrs old. She has been in a relationship with this guy off and on.
        But amazingly in the fall of 2014, the Lord just grabbed ahold of her heart. She started reading the Bible out of the blue and she started going to church. This fall I attended her baptism. She also got her older son back without a problem and her mom and I are singing God’s praises!!!! I never would have guessed this would have happened like this. No one begged her or threatened her…just her sins and Jesus’ love.
        I hope this story gives hope to someone.
        Our God is an awesome God!

        • Sandy on February 17, 2016 at 1:59 pm

          I neglected to say that I had felt sorry for my granddaughter and started over indulging her a bit by making excuses for he bad behavior, temper tantrums,and poor grades.Her mom didn’t really seem to care what she did and my husband was very harsh and lacked empathy. Whenever she wanted to stay with me in our part of the house he would refuse to permit it. I felt that he forced her out to friends and into a relationship with a boy at such a young age.She did not have much of a relationship with her dad since he was always away in the Navy. She was so angry at her mom and felt so rejected and entitled because of it all.

        • Margie on February 18, 2016 at 11:43 pm

          Those prayers…God answers!

    • CBPP on February 18, 2016 at 2:12 am

      Jennifer, I have experienced some of your searching for help for a child and the relationship pain that occurs when things are difficult. I have a son with ADHD who endured major rejection from a narcissistic father and people in general, which lead to depression and suicidal ideation by age 11 and a stuggle launching into adulthood. My daughter tried to gain her father’s approval through perfectionism, which lead to anxiety, eating disorders, and a vulnerability to a trusted family friend who turned out to be a sexual predator .

      My spirit was troubled as I read your list of descriptors of your daughter, who sounds like someone in deep soul-scarring shame and pain. “She has attempted suicide and has been hospitalized twice. She struggled with an eating disorder as well. She has been diagnosed with ADHD, depression, anxiety, bi polar disorder and borderline personality disorder. … thinking everyone hates her and is mean to her…She is too scared to get her driver’s license”.

      I am left wondering if any professional ever sought to uncover the possibility of childhood sexual abuse in her past. Your mentioning Borderline personality disorder just adds more incentive to explore that area of her life, as childhood sexual abuse is often listed as a factor.

      Since you are reading and responding on this blog, you realize there is something off in marriage and family dynamic (That applies to all of us!). You referenced, ” My first husband and I” so I am assuming there is a second husband as well. Obviously she has experienced the pain of divorce or abandonment and all that leads up to that happening. Certain children in the family play the role of the sponge of the family pain in a effort to clean up the mess.

      Sometimes the hurting victim is the one who is viewed as the perpetrator of family problems and even more shame is added. If you can peel away the layers, under the facade of inappropriate behaviors, is a little wounded girl who needs a lot of love. I am praying that you can see through the hurt and pain you feel and that she feels to find that little girl inside.

      • CBPP on February 18, 2016 at 8:58 am

        Please google ” Borderline Personality Disorder Demystified” to gain more insight and find resources for your daughter and your family.

        I found that I had problems holding boundaries with my son. When I started holding boundaries with him, I began to hold boundaries with my husband. While working on myself to find more strength, I realized that my weakness was due to my husband always crashing my boundaries. Deep pain and a good counselor lead me to uncover covert but deeply rooted narcissism. I searched for why I ever settled for this relationship and caved in to his demands, the Lord unveiled my eyes to see I had been controlled and my needs ignored by my older sister while my parents turned a blind eye to her behavior. It has taken me 62 years of life and 41 years of marriage to uncover the sources of pain, set boundaries and keep them, and find freedom from the pain. Narcissism is still in the picture but I am different. Keep digging to find answers for your daughter and you will find new resolve and strength for your self.

        • Sandy on February 29, 2016 at 3:45 am

          CBPP, Thanks for sharing. I too found that my controlling, narcissistic h is so much like my older sister. They dislike each other intensely and they both complain about the way the other has mistreated me through the years. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize the similarities until 30 years past. Thanks to Leslie’s book I am trying to place boundaries with my h and consequence. And I have cut down on my time with my older controlling sister until I get a stronger CORE.

          • Tracie on May 12, 2016 at 4:55 pm

            Sandy, Oh my, your comments sound just like the relationship between my ex (we are talking again) and my mother. They both complained of the same issue about the way each other treats me!!!

            Thank you so much for the “light bulb” moment. I can’t explain the feeling I just had when I realized you were talking about my life and what I’m going through.

            Looks like I need to work on my CORE and boundaries too.

            God Bless You

    • Elisabeth on February 18, 2016 at 10:32 am

      hej Jennifer
      thanks for your anguished sigh. Immediately I read: “She has attempted suicide and has been hospitalized twice. She struggled with an eating disorder as well. She has been diagnosed with ADHD, depression, anxiety, bi polar disorder” – I thought: maybe suffer your daughter from the diagnose PDA – pathological demand avoidence.
      I have for years worked with children and young adults and grown ups who are diagnosed with autism.
      PDA is not known in Denmark, where I live, but in England this special form for autism has been described by E. Newton, the Newton Centre way back in the eighties
      I would not be surprised if you can identify whith the mother who wrote the book: “pathological demand avoidence syndrom; my daughter is not naughty” by Jabe Alison Sherwin
      may God the Almighty bless you, your daughter and family

    • Sandy on February 29, 2016 at 4:24 am

      Jennifer, I wrote about my granddaughter below who sounds very much like your daughter at 17. She too had all the same Dx and was on medication. I tried to enroll in a couple of Christian boarding schools for girls with problems. I spent months trying to place her, but most places would not take her due to the meds.

      She is 27 now and she tells me that she was so angry when she was younger. She didn’t have any strong boundaries from her mom and felt very unloved by her absentee father. This made her feel very insecure. She had been court ordered to get psych therapy daily two different times. After she developed a strong sexual bond with her boyfriend it was impossible to pull her back to the family. I gave her an ultimatum that she stay in school and obey a curfew or get out since she was 18; so she left.

      As I said, things got much worse until last year when she decided to become a true Christian….pregnancies, abortions, hanging out with druggies, being homeless, even spending a week in jail. She still takes medication but she is such a different person. The angry outbursts are gone and she can control herself. She appreciates things, she is trying to be a good mom and is working part time. She even hugs me when she sees me.

      It was so painful to let her go and I really didn’t think it was ever going to change in my lifetime but it did. I will be praying for you, I know your pain.

  4. Recovering Empath on February 10, 2016 at 11:58 am

    I am a strange combo, I guess. While I now recognize I over-functioned for two husbands (all my adult life until last May), I was somehow able to avoid that with my children. At least the oldest two. I instinctively understood that they must learn to problem solve, that my role should be supportive, not managerial. Probably because my own parents did such an excellent job in this regard. It was so hard when my children were younger to let them fail, but that’s an important life lesson. My job was to be there to listen to them and help them learn from their mistakes. We also worked on what they could/would do differently next time. My sister was/is a helicopter parent and I saw the damage this created with her oldest child, who is still not self sufficient in his 30’s. My youngest child had learning and social disabilities (ADD, ODD), so it was more challenging to get him independent, but he’s doing fairly well, although a recent relationship failure has cut him off at the knees. He’s getting back on his feet, and because he’s quite independent, I fully expect he’ll do fine. I am proud to say that both my older children are responsible, self-sufficient parents, teaching their own children responsibility from an early age. My daughter recently said if they can figure out a cell phone and a tablet, they can certainly learn to operate the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher and mop. Her two are 6 and 7! While the end result is not picture perfect, it’s the principle that counts. Thanks, Leslie, for another excellent article on boundaries. I still have much to learn as it relates to my husband, but I’m working on it!

  5. Aleea on February 10, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    “Friends, what helped you stop enabling others? Whether it was an adult child or a depending spouse, how did you change?”

    . . . .The only success I have had was that he occasionally drank too much and I got him to agree not to have alcohol in the house. I felt that was enabling him. That somehow worked, now he despises alcohol. . . . . Favors and sacrifices are part of the Christian life but the enabling is not. I don’t know but it could be the difference is measuring if your giving or helping your husband makes it become better or Worse. The Bible requires responsible action out of the one who is given to. From Luke: And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down. . . . So, if you do not see progress after a season, set limits and stop enabling. That parable is really radical and that tree is cast into hell —But, genuine repentance, however late, avails to salvation. Notice the gardener does not say, “I will cut it down,” but refers that to the Master. I think the Bible teaches we should not enable –or- play God (I know mode), only the master (Christ) is allowed that.

    . . . .But here is a much better example from Leslie:

    “I understand you are hurt that I don’t want to have sexual relations with you right now. That would be hurtful to anyone who is married (E- Empathetic without enabling). The reason I cannot return to our bedroom is because I feel distant from you. I talk and you don’t hear me. I tell you what hurts me and what bothers me and you don’t care and you don’t stop it. I am a person too. Why would I want to be with a man who clearly shows he doesn’t care about me? If I say yes to you, I dishonor myself and end up feeling like an object that is used rather than a wife that is loved.” (No pretending).

    You can deliver those words in a neutral voice tone with polite body language. That is emotionally and physically distancing yourself without having to be hard hearted or cold or bitter.

    When he approaches you again for something wifely, you can say something similar, “I don’t know how to meet that need of your without pretending and lying to myself and that is something I refuse to do anymore. Nothing has changed in our relationship and I am more than willing to do my part, but I cannot do your part.”

    Boundaries and consequences will show him much more clearly what the problem is between you instead of a cold and hard heart.”

  6. Heidi on February 12, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Great stuff from Leslie Alea. Thanks for sharing.

    • Aleea on February 12, 2016 at 9:22 pm


      Re: “It gave me a sharp kind of sadness to think that no matter how much I loved him and tried to put him back together again, he might stay broken forever.”

      . . . . When I first started reading here I remember in prayer saying, “Lord God this is a TOTALLY miserable, depressing place. —Lord, I can not read all this and consistently pray for these to be healed, especially when I desperately need healing. —Lord, I will be on suicide watch if I keep reading all these heart wrenching stories with so much contention, my view of the world as a basically good and safe place will be shattered.” I didn’t want to know what I already knew: I knew I was already massively depressed and this would help me face what was already true: I’m broken, but I have to learn how to live. I feel stuck together with scotch tape, like after any breath everything could come apart. If it does, if it all comes undone, I think I’ll fall down and never rise again. . . .Yet, I would read someone’s story here and think: “—Wow, wow she just made broken look beautiful and shattered look totally invincible. —If she is so broken and so hurt and yet is still such a source of life, then I, too, maybe, . . . .maybe I am allowed to look at my own brokenness and to trust that I, too, can give life to others, even when I don’t believe it.” . . . . Finally, it dawned on me that brokenness gives birth to transformation and wisdom. We can’t even start to heal until we acknowledge our weakness, brokenness and frailty. . . . .And those failures in life are courses with very high tuition fees, so I don’t cut classes and miss my lessons: on humility, on patience, on hope, on asking others for help, on listening to God, on trying again and again and again. When we accept our unknowing and brokenness, we are not weakening our faith, we are boldly expressing it. It is our faith that brings us into this place of accepting humility and acknowledging our limits. . . . .When we gather only with people who are “whole” or who we basically agree with, we do not have to be confronted with the possibility that we could be wrong about all of it.

  7. LA on February 15, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Beautifully written Aleea,
    Indeed, we are beautifully broken people and my hope is in the One who knows All things. He sees the beginning from the end and my view is ever so limited! I trust that He will continue to lead and guide each step of the way! I know myself well enough to know that if He showed me more than just one step at a time, I would rush ahead in my own strength and miss the fullness of learning to trust in the moments! I’m pretty sure I would birth many Ishmael’s in trying in my own strength to make things happen, as if He needs my help! How humbling to know that He really doesn’t need my help and that I Don’t have to figure it all out! It’s not in my job description! Much freedom and abundant energy in resting and trusting Him!
    Just Breathing and Trusting

    • Aleea on February 15, 2016 at 1:11 pm

      . . . .hmmm, exactly LA. . . . Fear is the glue that keeps us stuck. Faith is the solvent that sets us free. Unfortunately, faith comes, as you say, one small step at a time. . . . .I decide to trust Him for one little thing today, and sometimes before I know it, I find out He’s so trustworthy of everything. I do that . . . . but, I just take it all back too often. . . . .Now, that is with God, with men, in our earthly relationships, a part of disconnecting may be recognizing the difference between being desired and being valued. When someone loves you (—like, really, really loves you) they will never keep you waiting, give their attention and affection away to others, allow you to continue hurting, or ignore what you have gone through for them. On the other hand, a person that just desires you can’t see your pain, only what they can get from you with minimal effort in return (—also know as an employer.) They let you risk everything, while they guard their heart and reap the benefits of your feelings. We make so many excuses for the people we fall in love with and they make up even more to remain one foot in the door. However, the truth is God didn’t create you to be treated as an option or to be disrespected repeatedly. . . . . He wants you to close the door. If someone loves you and wants to be in your life no obstacle will keep them from you. . . . . Even more than that, if you truly loved someone and they couldn’t be in your life, you won’t hurt them. You would pray for them. You would pray that they find their happiness and God’s place for them in this world. You would want them to have the best life because love isn’t about possession, fear or desperation. . . . . We are supposed to have a grasp on eternity, that means we don’t need to feel time is running out but that is basically most of what I see folks operating out of. Time is all we have, we have plenty of it. Instead of musical chairs, grab a partner and sit down, it should be a search for truly the right fit for your soul and life purpose. . . . . And me, I usually blame God for this but the times I have found Jesus Christ wanting, . . . in my times of need, have been the times when I have confused Him with a genii (. . . like those spirits that do stuff instantly for you, like you see in Roman mythology.) . . . .If you’re wrestling with some sort of decision, maybe reflect for a moment and ask yourself, am I being brave, or am I being safe? That is always how I know whether I am trusting God or not and I am often not. . . . LA, thank you for reminding me that the future is in God’s hands.

  8. Shawna on February 16, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    I have a funky situation. I have two children. I have been married to their father for 22 years. Not a perfect relationship but it works. Our children were on the route to being great people. They are very aware of peoples feelings & situations surrounding them. They are both very compassionate & caring people.

    But…..our son was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma at the age of 17. Our life turned upside down. He was just graduating high school at the time and set to join the military. She was just starting her freshman year of high school. Our family went from two incomes to one. Which we could not afford to do. We also then had medical & living expenses beyond what we had had before. Also we added about 300.00 worth of gas each month to our pile of bills.

    Our son battled Ewings Sarcoma for three years like a trooper. Never complained & never asked why.

    I felt sad & guilty. Sad for my daughter that she all of the sudden was missing both parents. My son was in patient 7 days at a time. My husband and I tried to be there 24/7. Guilty feeling that he was there alone but guilty feeling leaving her on her own.

    My issue now. He is lazy & has a job but only from 8am to 3pm Monday thru Thursday and the rest of the time does little outside of watching TV. He has a temper & gets offended easily if you mention his TV hours. Our daughter is spoiled & thinks she deserves everything she wants. Like a 99.00 Michael Kors wallet. I don’t even have one of those. We are still financially upside down from our Cancer nightmare. We tried in the beginning to do everything. Tried to buy and get our kids things that were not needs but made them temporarily happy which eased the stress in our world.

    Its hard to get mad at either one of them. He continues to suffer from chemo related after math. His teeth are now rotting from the inside out. Something they don’t tell you that Chemo does to your body. So mass dentist appointments. Frustrating. We feel like she deserves a lot because of what she went through as well. Kids are mean. Girls were telling her to go home to her sick brother & kill herself. I think she has gotten stronger but has the attitude that she deserves the world for the three years of struggle that she went through, that we all went through.

    I am trying to be positive but my marriage is failing because of the financial strain. We can’t have a conversation without a giant fight. My kids are making me crazy with their attitudes & I feel so sad and broken. I thank God that our son was just recently given the Cancer Free results December 5th 2015. I’m fighting to not lay down in a nightmare of depression. I pray for my family to find it’s way. Pray for this fabulous job to go through for me. Positive thoughts appreciated.

    • Maria on February 16, 2016 at 6:20 pm

      Shawna, Sounds like you have been through a lot. Thanks for sharing. Have you thought about seeing a counselor?

    • Leslie Vernick on February 16, 2016 at 7:02 pm

      I would highly recommend you read The Entitlement Cure by John Townsend. Your kids went through a very tough time but now they feel entitled to be irresponsible because they went through trauma instead of being stronger from it, it weakened them. The book will give you specific ways to help them but you have got to get over your guilt that you weren’t able to be there for them as much as you would have liked during this time.

    • Maria on February 17, 2016 at 3:24 pm


      Here’s one of Leslie’s articles on how not to turn a disappointing relationship into a destructive one

      From your post, you have not mentioned that your marriage is destructive.

  9. Anewanon on February 16, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    How I wish I would have have that knowledge and tried that before our relationship hit the courtroom. So happy for you!

  10. Jennifer on February 17, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Thank you for sharing your story Sandy. I gives me hope that God is bigger than the situation I am in now. I know he has a plan for my daughter. She has a future. I pray too that one day it will hit her and she will open up that bible again and transform her life! Amen!

    • Sandy on March 1, 2016 at 1:08 am

      I think of you very often. I remember how much pain I was in watching her. I only felt better when I stopped thinking about her after I let her go. Hopefully, your daughter won’t have to go that far. God be with you and your family.

  11. Jennifer on February 17, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Shawna, that sounds like a tough situation. In a way it sounds like my situation with my daughter thinking she can act out due to the fact that she has a mental illness (not cancer but still an illness that has required Hospitalization and financial stress) The book Leslie recommended sounds good, because I too need to get over my guilt. Guilt for somehow causing her illness, guilt for divorcing her dad, guilt for remarrying and having two more children, guilt for not being the best parent, guilt for giving in to her demands etc.

  12. Jennifer on February 17, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Thank you former rebellious daughter 🙂

  13. Sandy on February 17, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Shawna, I will pray for you. It would be such a shame to have worked through all the cancer and years of marriage to let it go away now. I do believe that it would be much better to have both parents working on this together. I really think a third person could help a lot if you find yourselves arguing all the time. I pray that you can have a serious talk with your family and discuss what has happened over the years and how much you need to redirect each one of your family member’s purpose and position in life. Each member is needed to make the family function like it should.

  14. Jennifer on February 17, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    I can really sympathize Sandy. Kind of a similar situation with my current husband and me feeling like I needed to excuse her bad behavior. He was harsh on her which only led her to rebel even more. It’s a vicious cycle.

    • Sandy on March 1, 2016 at 1:40 am

      My granddaughter just had a confrontation with my husband because she wanted to see me when she had a problem at her job. He didn’t want her to stay at my house when she came here to talk to me about it.

      She heard him talk to me then she started to cry and asked him, “Why do you always try to keep me from my grandmother? She is the most important person in my life too and I need to talk to her. I always used to hate you so much because you would do this, but now I am telling you. I became a Christian and now I feel sorry for you because I know how much you feel that you need her too. I am afraid that you are going to die and go to hell because you are not a Christian.”

      By now she was sobbing hysterically and he started to hug her. I was surprised to see that. They had quite a talk for about 30 minutes then she and I had a good talk.

      Later that night my husband told me how touched he was by the things she said to him. He is an atheist now and he is going through major depression party because of his 70 birthday and also because we had been caring for his parents for 3 years when they passed away two years ago. He keeps thinking about dying and he is afraid and very agitated.

      Our home life is miserable. This is my newest problem. I need to learn how to deal with a narcissistic, controlling, and depressed, atheistic husband.

      I will be praying for you often. Keep me posted on your daughter.

  15. Robin on February 17, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Because the subject is ‘enabling’ I have something to throw out there. My husband convinced me when my daughter wanted to go live in a friends home- I was to blame for enabling her behavior. We were down at DSHS talking to a counselor on options. When I went into the bathroom briefly and then came out my husband had convinced the counselor the step daughter was rebellious and the Mom – enabling her behavior. I was asked by the counselor to sign the bottom line on a document. I said what for?? He said we’re going to put her in a foster home many miles away from her home. I said WHAT??? He continued to tell me her rebellion had to be dealt with.
    My point is my husband was the one being enabled and I was done with that. I tore up the document in the counselors face and said NO WAY!!!! NO NO NO WAY! My daughter is coming home with me.
    BE CAREFUL THAT YOU REALLY KNOW WHO IS TRULY BEING ENABLED!!! Abusive men are manipulative, deceptive, and as in my case, will get a child out of the home, because he wants all the attention on him.

    • Leonie on February 19, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      You are so right Robin, they was my experience to. How frightening when our eyes are opened to the extent of their evil intentions My husband was suggesting my three kids from my first marriage move over to their dad’s permanently ‘so we could work on our issues’ – I saw it as a ploy to isolate me further do he could abuse more effectively! Realizing that was hugely instrumental for me to know his true heart and intentions & that I had to separate. Not only that, our youngest child gets to live with her 3 siblings who love her so much. That was a positive thing that was actually reinforced in court in my favour too – that she gets to be with her sibling.

      • Robin on February 19, 2016 at 1:09 pm

        Leonie, I should have added, the daughter was not manipulating . The daughter was abused and her sister had run away from home. She was desperate to get away from the abusive environment.

  16. Jennifer on February 18, 2016 at 8:18 am

    There is a lot of wisdom is what you wrote CBPP. Thank you.

  17. Jennifer on February 18, 2016 at 10:53 am

    CBPP, I am in therapy and working on my own issues right now too. I have failed in many areas as a parent and have made poor choices, which I am trying to repair. One thing for sure I know is God never gives up on us and I will never give up on my daughter or any of my kids.

    • CBPP on February 19, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      Jennifer, with a missing father and a stepfather, you are the only one to be her advocate so I am thrilled to hear you say you will never give up. I had to be my son’s protector and advocate and stand against his own father’s harshness/rejection and lack of empathy/emotional abuse. God preserved him to age 35 when he married a good wife and had a son, and finally found a good job all within the last 2 years. God does not give up on us, even in our sin.

  18. Jennifer on February 19, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    CBPP, Actually her father is very much a part of her life and he is still my best friend. I like to say we had the easiest divorce ever. My problem was I had an affair and ended up marrying the man (my current husband) The grass was NOT greener for me but I am making the best of this situation as we had two children together.

  19. Jennifer on February 19, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Elizabeth, I have never heard of PDA, I will have to look that up. Thank you.

  20. Jennifer on February 29, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Thank you for your prayers. I know I have failed in many areas as a parent. Some days are better than others. So far she has been able to hold this job and has been going to school. Thank God for that. I know God has a plan for her life.

    • Sandy on March 1, 2016 at 1:48 am

      That is so good. Amen

  21. BJ on December 31, 2023 at 12:29 pm

    Great stuff here! Not sure the characterization of Proverbs is historically accurate, though:

    Also, while enabling can be an expression of our desire to control, so can “tough love.” The truth is, we have to give what we give without fear or obligation, and let God do the rest.

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