Take a look at the following statements:
The devil made me do it.
Not tonight, I have a headache.
I can’t find a sitter to watch the kids.
Know what these are? Excuses. We have all used these and many other creative variations to either get out of doing something or get around something we did not want to encounter. But the excuse itself is not the issue. The behavior associated with it is the issue. Let me give you a definition before we jump into this deep abyss.
Enabler: one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior by providing excuses or by helping that individual avoid the consequences of such behavior. *www.dictionary.com
I have an issue with the definition in that it’s too narrow. It doesn’t account for those who enable themselves. Let me give you an example.
I live with my aunt who has a child who has several disabilities. He was born premature and had several complications. He’s now an adult, but he will never be able to live on his own. My aunt is single. She sometimes uses her son as an excuse not to go out with someone, not to get involved. She used to do this and not realize it. Then she took a really long look in the mirror. Now that she recognizes the behavior, she only does it if it’s really necessary. The point is that she’s enabling herself to live her life a certain way.
There’s nothing wrong with living life on your own terms. But you have to be careful that you’re not hurting yourself or those around you. I have some other friends who do basically the same thing. And it’s not all for the parent’s benefit. Sometimes if the child is being particularly difficult, it is easier to give in and do what ever it takes to keep them calm. This could be picking up their laundry, doing a chore, letting them make their own excuses, or letting them use their ‘disability’ to get out of doing something that they are perfectly capable of handling. Some people don’t even realize they do this. And if you’ve been doing it for a while, it’s become such habit that you wouldn’t recognize it until you were hit in the head with it. This behavior is not limited to parent and child, either. It is evident in every type of relationship.
The problem with this behavior is that it teaches the wrong things. It teaches the child that it’s okay to harass someone else into doing your chores. It’s okay to say I can’t do that because of…. and expect someone else to do the task for you. But it’s not okay. Not for the parent nor the child. It sets up a pattern of poor behavior that will last a lifetime and become an endless cycle unless someone has the cojones to look in the mirror and say, Enough is enough!
My aunt’s son does have a lot of issues, but he is far from stupid. I don’t like to use the word manipulate, but let’s say he knows how to play certain people to get them to do things for him.
For instance, I’ve seen her be tough with him and her ex let him get away with everything. This sets up conflict for the child because he’s getting mixed signals. It also causes conflict because one parent is enabling poor behavior without considering the consequences.
There are a lot of things he can not do. But there are a lot of things he is perfectly capable of doing for himself, he just doesn’t want to. On the other side of that is the person who has done it for so long it’s a habit. That person uses the child as an excuse for where they are in life, why they can’t achieve the things they want to. They see the child as a responsibility they can not walk away from. The thought of changing that situation fills them with guilt, with fears that they are a bad parent. The bad thing is that they are only hurting themselves. The cycle has to be broken.
There is a solution. But be warned, it ain’t easy! Looking in the mirror is difficult. You are responsible for only one person, Yourself! You can not take responsibility for someone else’s actions, especially if they are old enough to know what they are doing. A child needs a parent to give them the tools, physical, emotional, and psychological tools, that are needed to live a productive life. You give them the tools, show them how to use the tools, and then you have no choice but to let them live their lives as best they can. You can not be responsible for them all the time. I often hear my friends with kids say how much they sacrifice for their kids. Yes, some sacrifice is expected. But not everything.
So if you’re not happy with where you are in life, take a look in that mirror. What behaviors do you enable in those around you? What behaviors do you enable in yourself? What are you capable of changing to find yourself in that happy place? What are you willing to change to find your happy place?
We all have dreams and needs and desires. Don’t let bad habits get in the way of being happy.