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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Do You Understand What Enabling Is? It Can Look A Lot Like Love.

My wonderful husband is an ideal counterpart to me in so many ways.  Recently, he pointed out that I have a tendency to spoil our pets, especially one little runt puppy, to his frustration.  This little guy is so tiny and I do admit to adoring his little, needy soul.  I dote on him, carry him around and give into his little whines for attention.  And so while I'm gone from the house and Mr. Wonderful is hard at work in his at-home office, this little dog begs for his attention and follows him around whining.  It drives Mr. Wonderful a little crazy and we call this pup incurably co-dependent.  He gets so forlorn and can't seem to handle being alone.

My mama tendencies lean toward the same with my children.  In my desire to protect them from difficult things, I have shielded them from consequences of their own negative choices.  Those choices continued unchecked and so now correcting them is absolutely necessary - and so much more difficult because habits have been formed.  The behavior is more challenging to change, because it has been allowed for so long.  I wasn't doing my children any favors by shielding them.  In fact, I was enabling them continue in a negative way.

Enabling is a rich concept and entire books have been written on the subject.  My simple, working definition is shielding someone from the consequences of their choices or doing something for someone which they are capable of doing themselves.  Both aspects stifle maturity, but lately I've been working on the consequences side, which has required discipline and awareness on both my part and the part of my children.

I've had to identify each child's ingrained wrong habit - usually an attitude, followed by words and behavior - and point it out to the child.  Then, repeatedly point it out because the habit has become so ingrained that it happens multiple times each day.  Now, I am at the point of instigating consequences.  It is not fun, for them or for me.  I don't like being the one to mete out bad news and point out shortcomings and I have avoided it in the past.  But that very avoidance has cleared the way for their poor behaviors to continue unchecked.

What I'm learning, is that the real discipline is keeping myself in check, being consistent and willing to do the unlikable thing.  It's tough holding a child accountable each time poor behavior is exhibited when it happens multiple times each day.  It's not fun being the main police parent.

But I am doing it because I am living the example of what happens when I let the poor behavior slide...when I believe that magical maturity will happen and the child will self-correct.  It doesn't even make sense when I type it out!  So, it's worth it to conquer these challenges now.  I will be the bad guy for a few weeks now in order to develop better character in the years to come.  They are so worth it.  I want to parent intentionally, not just avoid the more difficult parts.

My greatest frustrations come when I haven't taken the time to train my children by telling them what I expect and following through with consequences.  In this season of discipline, for me and for them, my goal to establish better habits now rather than kick the can down the road and deal with greater, potentially worse consequences later.

As a step parent, my Mr. Wonderful has a more hands-off role in this kind of discipline.  He backs me up, directs the children and follows through with established rules.  He helps me discern what is trivial and what necessitates setting boundaries.  He gently points out my inconsistencies, where the children are likely frustrated and confused.  Most of all, he supports me.  He encourages me and helps me see the greater goal beyond one frustrating moment.  I'm so grateful for him.  During my single mom years, I was often too weary and lacked the emotional strength for the discipline battle.  Because of Mr. Wonderful, I'm now able to step up in the parenting role and my children will be better for it.

Please, someone tell me you have faced a similar battle?  Where do you find the emotional support to remain consistent and firm, but kind?

Stepping Back so He Can Step Up - sometimes I try to control, too!

There are some great reminders about mothering here.

A great reminder for why it's worth it!

I Raised An Addict - the comments are heart-wrenching.