In recent years the word ‘enabling’ has been turned from a helpful thing to a negative thing. We are no longer parents who enable their children but an Enabling Parent.  And there is a difference.  I think it is important that we understand this difference because it affects how we engage with our kids, especially teens and young adults.

When language changes – and we see the evolution of language happening all the time – we have to take our thinking with us as we use new words and new phrases.  I have heard parents say: I don’t want to enable my child/teen/young adult – and yet we can all see the child is floundering.  I think this is the wrong use of this changed language.

Parents are to enable their child – but we are not to be Enabling Parents.  Let’s dig into the difference.

Define Enabling Parent

The word ‘enable’ means to help.  In any other context than parenting, we still use the word enable to mean to help, to make something possible, to give the ability or power to do something.  (I looked at three online dictionaries to check how far our language has changed – and they all said the same thing.  Google, Cambridge, dictionary.com)

Parents are to help their kids, they are to give them the ability or power to do things.

But when we use the words Enabling Parents – the meaning switches.  This means (thanks to those who study behavior) parents who enable their children to do negative things.  That is, parents who either consciously or subconsciously help their child to behave or believe in ways that are harmful to their maturity and well-being.

When we spell it out like this we can see there is a difference.  Of course we don’t want to be an Enabling Parent – but that doesn’t mean we can’t help our children reach maturity and wellbeing.

So if you’ve read articles about being an Enabling Parent, and you’ve pulled back from helping your child/teen, I encourage you to think about this again.

Are you talking about helping them do what is good and healthy or are you helping them in a way that limits their ability to grow and mature?

Check your Parent Heart

I have found that when parents engage with their kids (of any age really) out of fear then they become more and more Enabling (in an unhealthy way).  They do things for their child that their child can do for themselves.  They don’t upset their child because they fear something negative will happen.  This of course isn’t healthy for any one.

Before you can find a healthy place of helping but not Enabling you need to know what is your responsibility and what is your child’s.  Boundaries.   These lines change as the child grows older.  What was once your responsibility as the parent is now your Teen’s responsibility – their life, their responsibility.  This responsibility should grow and increase as their ability (moral and skills-wise) grows.

And this is where the conflict often comes in.  What if they aren’t taking the responsibility or maybe even able to take the responsibility?  It is when we see such a gap in our child’s life that we need to step in – not to Enable (because it is their responsibility, they are just not taking it for whatever reason) but to help them towards taking that responsibility.  The caution is – don’t be the reason they don’t need to take responsibility (that is Enabling).  Be the one who gives them the ability, the power to take personal responsibility and step towards self-governance.

[Tweet “Be the parent who gives their child the ability and power to take personal responsibility.”]

We need to understand what being an Enabling parent really is and not be intimidated from helping our child or teen when they really do need help.

A better word: Empower

There is a better word that we can use.  Phycology uses the word Empower to be the answer against Enabling.  We are to be Empowering parents: it means help, to guide, to encourage someone to take responsibility for their own life.  This is the very definition of parenting.  If you see a lack in your child/teen – something that hinders them from living a moral, self-governed, involved life then you can step in and help them grow.

We are to give our child the skills and responsibility (power) to live their lives.

So yes, Enabling our child/teen is a problem – Empowering them is to be our mindset.

Tips to stop Enabling and Start Empowering

  • Foster a relationship with your child/teen so they know you are on their side, that you want what is best for them
  • Communicate what your expectations are and talk about how that is going to happen
  • Ask them what kind of person they want to be and how you can help them reach their intrapersonal goals
  • Teach your child what living by a moral code looks like (teach the moral and the lifeskills connected)
  • Once your child knows how to do something make it their responsibility – make this your expectation, the standard, the normal
  • Have consequences when your child doesn’t fulfil their responsibilities
  • Let your child make choices – even if you can see the consequences looming

We need to be committed to helping, guiding, encouraging our child towards self-governance and while we have our eyes set on this goal, we won’t be Enabling – we will be Empowering.

Over to you:

How does knowing the difference between these two words shape your parenting?

2 Comments

  1. Michael Polidori

    I have an adult child, in her forties, a thousand miles away. Recently divorced with two children, coming out of a 20 year abusive marriage, I have been sending her money weekly to help with bills and rent and food.

    A friend said I’m enabling her… to be dependent on me.
    I tried to explain to her that is an incorrect way of using the word enabler or enabling.

    But I see I can turn the tables on that argument by saying I am actually empowering her, by helping her to get through this rough patch, hopefully to become a better person for the effort.

    There are of course many more details, but I tried to stick to the basics and keep this short.

    So what would be the correct interpretation put on the assistance I’m giving my daughter? Enabler or empowerer?

    Thanks for your time,
    Michael Polidori

    Reply
    • Belinda

      Good question Michael – I think it depends on the effort your daughter is putting into her responsibilities. If your effort is helping her rise up to do her responsibilities better, or fill the gap between her effort and reality then that, in my opinion is empowering. But if your effort (your money) makes her settle to letting you carry those responsibilities then in my opinion it is enabling and not helpful in the long run. Hope that helps.

      Reply

Let me know your thoughts...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Further Reading:

Do you need help in your Family?

Hi! I’m Belinda

About Me

Belinda and her husband, Peter, live in the far north-west of Australia on a small farm. They have four adult children whom they homeschooled from prep-year 12. Over this time Belinda has taught and supported women both face to face and online. Her heart is to encourage families to be intentional, relational and heart focused in all areas of family living. She continues to do this in her new season of life – as her kids leave home one by one leaving her with more time.

Certified Life Coach
Letting our children go doesn't have to hurt - we have been training them towards this day.

Letting our children go doesn’t have to hurt – we have been training them towards this day. Read here

Though it can be confronting to hear our kids opinion, they need to learn how to think and own their beliefs and it starts with talking to their parents.

Though it can be confronting to hear our kids opinion, they need to learn how to think and own their beliefs and it starts with talking to their parents. Read here.

We need to understand what being an Enabling parent really is and not be intimidated from helping our child or teen when they really do need help.

We need to understand what being an Enabling parent really is and not be intimidated from helping our child or teen when they really do need help.

We need to understand what being an Enabling parent really is and not be intimidated from helping our child or teen when they really do need help.

Individual Education Planning Worksheets - brainstorming every area of your child's life.

Get your Planning Worksheets

I will email you the download link so you can start looking at all the different spheres of your child's life before you make any curriculum choices. 

The download link is on it's way.

An Alternative to Chocolate

An Alternative to Chocolate

Not that I have anything against chocolate - but these jelly beans can help your kids share the message of Jesus, his love, death and resurrection at Easter time.  

The download link is on it's way.

Parent Guide: How to make your Family Bible Study Really Work

Family Bible Study is Tricky with all the Different Ages

 

But there is a way to make this a rich learning and bonding family time.  This Guide includes tips, planning worksheet, and discussion prompts.  

Thanks for being here! The download link is on it's way.

Download yourCharacter Certificates

Though true character is driven by internal motivation, our children will appreciate when we see that they are growing in character.

Thanks for being here! The download link is on it's way.

Download your Character Certificates

Though true character is driven by internal motivation, our children will appreciate when we see that they are growing in character.

The download link is on it's way.

Download your Cheat Sheet

 

A quick reference to help you discern between a heart attitude and a lack of skill for when your child loses it!

Thanks for being here! Your download link is on its way.

Three things for parents to pray for in the Moment.

Make God your First Response

Print out this parenting reminder to call out to God in the middle of the moment.

I'm excited to share this download with you. Watch your inbox.

Download Grow in Character Worksheets

Download Grow in Character Worksheets

I will email you the download link.

The download link is on it's way.

Download Grow in Character Worksheets

You will receive an email shortly with the details. Watch your inbox.

Thank you for being here - your download link will arrive shortly.

Download Parenting Poster

Download Parenting Poster

Learn to respond to your child in a way that changes their heart.

 

I will email you the download link.

The download link is on it's way.

Download Parenting Poster

Download Parenting Poster

 

Learn to respond to your child in a way that changes their heart.

 

I will email you the download link.

Thank you for being here - your download link will arrive shortly.

Our children hear different words when we react to when we respond. Do your children hear blah blah blah when you correct them? Includes a parenting poster.

Download Parenting Poster

 

When we Respond instead of React we find a way to deal with the heart not just behaviour.

 

I will email you the download link.

Thank you for being here - your download link will arrive shortly.

Download Character Lesson Guide

You will receive an email shortly with the details. Watch your inbox.

Thank you for being here - your download link will arrive shortly.

When family relationships get tense - look for the niggles.

Heart Focused Parenting Resource for the Intentional Parent

 

Your download will arrive in your inbox shortly. 

Print it out and use to teach the hearts of your kids.

Thank you for being here - your download link will arrive shortly.

Hearts: Heart focus homeschool

Email Course

Daily emails  (6 days) to help you walk towards being a heart focused homeschool family!

You have joined the email course. Watch your email inbox!

Find ways to Re-engage your Student

Download this checklist and stir your child's curiosity

Watch your Inbox - the Checklist is on it's way!

Stay Heart Focused

 

When you parent the heart, the tone of your family will change. 


Weekly Heart Boost emails with practical and encouraging ideas to be heart focused in all areas of family life.

Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your family journey. I'll be in touch.

FREE Parenting Worksheet

This worksheet will help you move from addressing behaviour to really parenting the heart, one issue at a time.

 

 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Parenting Support Library

Join now for extra and regular heart focus family living support.
Weekly emails and bonus content straight to your email inbox.

 

 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Become a Better Parent

Personal growth starts with an honest assessment

Thanks for being here! The download link is on it's way.

Give Effective Consequences

Think before you React

Thanks for being here! The download link is on it's way.

 

Thanks for being here! The download link is on it's way.

One Another Verses

Be Intentional in the Teen Years

Use this Cheat Sheet to remind you of how you can love your teen.

Thanks for being here! The download link is on it's way.

Devotion Response Kit cover

Download your Devotion Response Kit

5 prompts to encourage the heart of your child as they learn to respond to God's Word

Thanks for being here! Your download link is on it's way.

Prepare a Heart focused Christmas

 

Free email course

Thanks for being here! The download link is on it's way.

Download your copy

Download your copy

Blending Life and Lessons - and start your journey of changing your thinking about education.

Thanks for being here! Your download link is on it's way.

Download: One Another Verses pdf

Download: One Another Verses pdf

Download this list of One Another verses and teach your children how to love others.

Thanks for being here! Your download link is on it's way.

Raising Kids with Character

ATTEND LIVE : FREE PARENTING WORKSHOP

A bonus for Heart Booster readers:  Learn how to teach character to your kids so that they can live their lives making values-based choices.

 

Live Session:  5th May 2021, 6.30pm AWST

Replay available until 16th May 2021

 

I'm so excited about this workshop - thanks for joining me!

Raising Kids with Character

REPLAY OPTION : FREE PARENTING WORKSHOP

A bonus for Heart Booster readers:  Learn how to teach character to your kids so that they can live their lives making values-based choices.

 

Replay available from 6th May until 16th May 2021

 

I'm so excited about this workshop - thanks for joining me!

Raising Kids with Character

WAITLIST

 

The Raising Kids with Character parenting workshop will be offered again this year - details yet to be confirmed.  Join the waitlist so you don't miss out. 

I will keep in you in the loop as soon as decisions have been made!

Join Heart Boost and gain access to de•vot•ed free for 1 month

 

Connecting everyday living with the Word of God

Thanks for being here! Your download link is on it's way.

Bonus Reading list

 

Sharing my Homeschool Belief File

Knowing what you believe and why about education and homeschooling helps you make good decisions.

Thanks for being here! Your download link is on it's way.

%d bloggers like this: