Disabling The Enabler: Resist The Urge To Become Enabling Parents

Now that we have that straight (and if you’re still with me), let’s talk about a common negative side effect of VKS: enabling. Are you a control freak? Did you always want to tie your child’s shoestrings for them, clean their room, or even do some of their homework? You could be an enabler.

You’ll probably be able to find a number of discussion forums on the Web (here’s The Best college-related forum) where enabling is a hot topic. I have observed many semi-heated exchanges among forum participants discussing how much help parents should offer their children during the college application process. One extreme faction adamantly states that parents shouldn’t even mail their kid’s application for them. The other extreme admits to writing {“editing,” as they encode it) essays for their kid. There are many shades in between.

How does this relate to our discussion of the developmental years? Well, I’m certainly no behavioral psychologist, but my experience shows me that we can inhibit our children’s quest for self-identity by trying to insert ourselves into their developmental trials too strongly. When is it time for them to try to feed themselves (resulting in those classic high-chair-tray food flings)? How about those shoestrings (they might trip and fall down)? And those post-tornado room scenes (I struggled with that)?

It’s not easy. We all want what’s best for our kids, but sometimes we get in the way of what’s best. When we do more for them than we should, we take away some of their independence. Even today, when our adult son visits on holidays, I have to fight my tendency to check the oil and tire-pressure levels of his car. But I don’t. He’s been able to drive tens of thousands of miles successfully without my fussy maintenance checks.

I often wonder how many other self-sufficiencies my kids incorporate thanks to my butting out of their learning curve. Bottom line: Beware VKS and its fallout.