When do you draw the line and make the distinction between helping your son or daughter or enabling them to be dysfunctional? Every parent wants his or her son or daughter to succeed and become all that he or she can be.
As parents, we spend most of our parenting career doing for our children. We will work a second or third job so that our children will have the opportunity to travel, have their first car or go on vacation with their friends. Doing without so that our children can have isn't even a thought.
Most of us give without condition or expecting anything in return. At least nothing material. It is nice to hear a thank you once in awhile or an occasional acknowledgement from your son or daughter that they realize you had to sacrifice or put yourself out on their behalf.
Unfortunately, many of our children are too caught up in the world of me. They don't see beyond their noses and realize what we do for them. They develop an attitude of entitlement. They believe they are entitled to that first car. As a parent, you feel obliged to give it to them, like you are obligated to feed and clothe them. They expect the cash for the spring vacation with their friends and are shocked and appalled if you suggest you might be short on cash.
The disturbing dimension of so much of this is that our children don't stop and think about what you as the parent might need to do to meet all of their so called needs and expectations.
Their incapacity to think about those concerns is caused by us. We give without condition, but too often fail to hold our children accountable. Too many of us are afraid that our children will be mad at us because we did not respond in exactly the way they wanted.
This failure contributes to their irresponsibility and the false sense that they are invincible and Mommy and Daddy will always fix anything they do wrong.
Most of us want our children to have everything and we would probably sacrifice almost anything to provide for them. We do them a disservice and literally impair their development, if we do not hold them responsible and accountable for the things they choose to do and the things they fail to do.
Bailing your son out every time he makes a mistake without holding him accountable is a lethal mistake. How does he learn from his mistakes? What will motivate him to not repeat his performance?
Loving does not always mean doing and rescuing. Sometimes the tougher side of loving is not doing and letting your son or daughter face the consequences of his or her choices.
PJ is twenty years old. He was born into a wonderful, intact family. He is the younger of two children. His parents worked hard to provide a very comfortable home. He had everything a teenager could want.
His sister is older. She was a model student. She excelled in all of her grades. At home, she was invested and cooperative. She could not do enough for her parents and her brother PJ.
By the time PJ reached middle school, he was a terrorist. He held his parents hostage. They did whatever he wanted, even if they thought it was inappropriate. He wore them down and made them feel guilty. So many times it was easier just to give in to him.
In his junior year in high school, PJ started smoking pot, drinking on weekends and occasionally taking the family car out in the middle of the night. His parents caught him a few times and threatened to ground him. He laughed in their faces and suggested they should try and then see what would happen.
Sadly, his parents backed down and did nothing. When they were confronted by other adults, they defended PJ's reckless behavior as a rite of American passage from teenage hood to young adulthood.
Unbeknownst to his parents, PJ graduated from smoking pot to experimenting with crack, cocaine and heroin. He loved the heroin because of the quick rush. He did not shoot up, but snorted it. It is pretty cheap because there is a lot of it on the street and at his affluent high school.
At the end of his senior year, he was arrested for possession of pot. He was pulled over for speeding. His parents hired a high-powered lawyer and the charges were reduced. He was charged a fine and the judge agreed to an ACOD as long as PJ stayed out of trouble for the next six months.
His parents were devastated. PJ said it was no big deal. He suggested that they lighten up. "These things happen when you are a teenager."
Eight months later he was partying at a local club and tried selling cocaine to an undercover cop. Due to the amount, he was arrested and charged with a serious felony. The judge posted a very high bail. PJ's parents used all of their savings to bail him out. He cried and finally thanked them for all that they had done to support him over the years. He promised them that he was a changed person.
Five days later while out on bail, he was busted again. This time it was for possession of crack. The bail was double. His parents left him in the county jail for nineteen days. He called daily, crying and pleading for them to rescue him.
Unfortunately, all of their liquid cash was posted for the first bail. He intensified the pressure. Finally, they caved in and put up their home. He was released. He seemed different, but as time has passed, many of his old attitudes have returned.
Presently, because of his poor choices, he is facing a very long jail sentence. The assistant district attorney assigned to his case is not too receptive to any kind of plea arrangements or alternative sentencing possibility. Because of his poor choices, PJ has presented himself as a very poor risk. His parents have exhausted all of their resources. Their lawyers are very expensive.
Time will tell what ultimately will happen to PJ. He is not a criminal, but a very reckless, immature twenty-one year old who needs to be held accountable. Unfortunately, his parents cannot rescue him. He will be held accountable this time and will probably pay a very high price for his foolishness.