How to recognize enabling behaviors

Watching a loved one suffer from the disease of addiction can drum up several emotions ranging from deep sadness and fear to resentment and red hot anger. There is no way to walk away from the wreckage of an addiction unscathed, even if you are not the one who is drinking or using drugs. This disease has the potential to permeate every single life it touches, which is why addiction is often referred to as a “family disease”.

If someone in your family is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you play a role in their addiction whether you intend to or not. Countless people approach the addict or alcoholic in their family with the best intentions but still find themselves working hard to keep them from experiencing any repercussions of their disease. This is known as enabling.

What is Enabling Behavior?

Anyone can become an enabler to an addict or an alcoholic. The desire to keep a loved one from failing comes from a place of love and compassion. For example, a person does not want their loved one to lose his job, get in trouble with the law, or grow withdrawn from others because of addiction. A person’s natural response is to protect their loved ones at all costs, so doing anything but seems disingenuous. But addiction is a highly complex disease, so sometimes doing what seems “natural” does not always bring about the desired results. In fact, attempting to protect a loved one while they are actively addicted to drugs or alcohol is unequivocally counterproductive to affecting any positive, lasting change.

It is important to know how to identify enabling behavior so that if you are actively enabling your loved one, you can take action to stop doing so immediately. Enabling someone while they are drinking or using drugs will only give them the resources they need to keep using, which is the exact opposite of what you likely want. So, what exactly are enabling behaviors? Consider the following:

Ignoring the user’s negative behaviors. When you ignore negative behaviors such as getting into trouble with the law, growing violent when under the influence, or neglecting responsibilities due to substance abuse, you are signaling to your loved one that their behaviors are not inappropriate or outrageous enough to bother you. Turning an eye to their behaviors is the equivalent of pouring gasoline on an already lit fire.

Rationalizing the user’s behavior. Addiction is a scary disease. No one ever wants to think that their loved one is an addict or an alcoholic simply out of fear for what that could mean for their future. So when you see your loved one engaging in substance abuse, your reaction might be to immediately minimize their use in your mind and find ways to rationalize it. You rationalize an addiction when you find acceptable reasons for why your loved one is using it. And while that is understandable, it is dangerous because it gives the user the power to keep using.

Covering up for the addict’s behavior. Covering up for your loved one’s behavior while under the influence means that you are always right there to clean up the mess before anyone even gets to see it. When an addict or an alcoholic does not experience repercussions of their use, they convince themselves that they can continue to use without consequence, which is extremely dangerous.

Blaming others for your loved one’s addiction. Whether you do this on your own or alongside your addicted loved one, allowing the actions of an addict or alcoholic to be the fault of anyone else but themselves in enabling behavior. For example, someone’s husband goes out to dinner with his friends and comes home drunk. It is enabling behavior to say that he’s only getting drunk because his friends encourage it.

Walking on eggshells (emotionally). A loved one’s addiction can have everyone feeling like they are walking on eggshells around them, meaning that if they say or do anything that is not in keeping with the opinion of the user, they will upset the user. An example of this would be a mother who withholds her real feelings about her son’s addiction for fear of him no longer speaking to her. Rather than being honest about her concerns, the mother instead continues to go along with her son’s actions even if they are dangerous.

Making threats with no follow-through. For example, saying that you are going to kick your loved one out of the house if they come home high one more time and then not following through with that consequence is enabling behavior. Anytime you tell your addicted loved one that there will be repercussions for their actions but fail to uphold those repercussions, you are enabling their continued use.

How to Stop Enabling Behavior

So, what are you supposed to do when you realize that you are enabling your loved one? You probably feel overwhelmed by the thought of changing so many of your own behaviors, but ending your enabling does not have to be a major overhaul. Some of the things that you can do immediately to stop enabling behavior include the following:

  • Encourage recovery — Instead of engaging in enabling behaviors, encourage your loved one to get help. Let them know that you are willing to help them get the process started and that you will support them along the way.
  • Set boundaries –Decide for yourself what your personal boundaries are and make a commitment to yourself to not let your loved one cross them. This can be extremely difficult even though it is necessary. For example, you may decide that you do not want your loved one to visit when they are under the influence. So, when your loved one knocks on the door, simply informing them that they are not allowed to visit when high or drunk is all you need to do to uphold your boundaries. Keeping it as clear and simple as possible is key.
  • Don’t react with them — Addicts and alcoholics tend to have a lot of chaos surrounding them, as their lives are out of control. If your loved one is high or drunk and starts to pick a fight with you, don’t react. If your loved one is panicking that they do not have any more alcohol in the house, don’t react. When you react alongside an addict or alcoholic, you fan the fire. Maintaining control during times of reactionary behavior is where your power lies.

Learning how to stop enabling a loved one can take hard work and effort. If you are ready to stop enabling someone, reach out for help. Therapists and support groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon can show you the way.

Do You Have a Loved One Who Needs Help? Call Us Now.

Your loved one does not need to keep abusing drugs or alcohol. Addiction is a disease that is treatable and can be managed for a lifetime. If your loved one is ready to seek professional help for their substance use disorder, reach out to us right now. We can help.

How to recognize enabling behaviors

Correct your bad behavior and change your interaction with other people! Many people have problems with their behavior, smaller or even important, leading a life they certainly had not dreamed. Their colleagues avoid them and friends don’t bond with them… until they understand that the only one to blame is themselves. The following tips will “open up” the road to happiness, as long as you improve the way you’re thinking…

Focus on a behavior issue … and not on all of them!

If you try to solve two main problems of your behavior simultaneously … you will probably make mistakes! It is important to set a target, which triggers your “wants” toward your interaction with others. You can either deal with the issue yourself, or ask the help of a professional, so as to focus on the issue and to win the favor of life.

Be honest with yourself

Try to tell the truth to yourself and you will realize that the weight of your problems will lighten. You may need to deal with the consequences of your actions to proceed to the next step. Clear your mind and locate the source of the problem you are facing, so that you can “hit” the center of it! Don’t be afraid, but admit your mistakes!

Correct what you don’t like in everyday life

To be able to resolve any issues of your behavior, you must first remove as many of the things that “revive” it! If you see that your job is making you angry maybe it is time to look for something new, and if the cause is debt then perhaps you should stop overspending. Try in every way to get rid of those things that make you lose control of your life.

Change your attitude to life … recording your behavior!

Music, work, the media can guide your attitude, as strange as it may sound! It is useful to keep a diary in which you can record thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. This way, you can evaluate your current behavior and mistakes in your attitude so as to weaken your negative behavior.

Pay attention to your life ideals

Everyone has a set of ideals, which govern their lives and work therapeutically or not. It’s up to you to bring your behavior closer to your ideals, so you can adjust your actions but also your reactions based on a better version of you. If you follow a life filled with values such as self respect or the appreciation of others, you will be able to deal with difficult issues with self-criticism and courage.

Find incentives for good behavior

To be able to eliminate the bad behavior out of your life, you must have a positive incentive each day. In particular, you should spend at least five minutes a day studying your attitude and the reactions that need to change.

Incentives, however, you can find them everywhere… from a conversation with a friend and volunteering to listening to music while walking in nature! With these you will be able to get as much power required for the change in your attitude.

Don’t try to look like other people

The key to move towards the improvement of your behavior, is to accept the elements of yourself and find the strength to control your thoughts. If you try to look like others, you will be frustrated and will hold a bad attitude to life and others. Besides, if you are not in peace with yourself … how will you become better human beings?

Learn from the problems of life

Seeing people surviving through the worst problems can be the inspiration you need to correct your behavior. In most cases, a nearby problem can influence you and help you think differently. In fact, who knows? A jolt in life can lead you to change your way of thinking.

How to Recognize–and Stop–Enabling Destructive Behavior

How to recognize enabling behaviors

Learning to stop enabling destructive behavior may be difficult, but it’s vital for an addict’s successful recovery.

When someone you love is an addict, it is very easy to slip into a habit of enabling destructive behavior. This does not happen on purpose, of course. It is a natural thing to want to help someone you love.

The simple truth is, however, that your becoming an enabler does not help the addict. Rather, it has disastrous effects on both you and your loved one in terms of reinforcing negative behaviors for the addict and losing your own sense of self-respect.

Enabling Impedes Addiction Treatment

What does it mean to “enable an addict?” According to Huffington Post‘s “When You Enable an Addict You’re Not Helping, You’re Hurting,” a simple definition of an enabling behavior is “one that will keep the addiction going.”

In other words, an enabler is a person who helps facilitate a person’s addictions by shielding that person from the negative consequences of addictive behaviors. When an enabler intervenes to solve problems for an addict, he or she takes away the addict’s incentive to seek appropriate addiction treatment.

Enabling can occur on many levels. Some enabling behaviors are obvious, like financing a loved one’s drug habit directly. Others are less obvious, like purposefully ignoring signs of addiction in a loved one rather than pointing them out so the person can seek treatment.

How to Know When Kindness Turns Into Enabling Behavior

Since there are varying degrees of enabling, how can you determine whether the way you are handling your relationship with an addict is helping or enabling his or her addiction?

Psychology Today‘s “Are You Empowering or Enabling?” gives the following questions for reflection on whether your behavior harms rather than helps:

  • Do you often ignore the addict’s unacceptable behavior?
  • Do you find yourself resenting the responsibilities you take on?
  • Do you consistently put aside your needs and desires in order to help the addict?
  • Do you ever cover up for the addict’s mistakes?
  • Do you consistently assign blame to someone else rather than to the addict when his or her behavior is really to blame?
  • Do you continue to offer help even when it is not appreciated or acknowledged?
  • Do you have trouble expressing your own emotions or asserting your own opinions?

Some additional questions to answer honestly are:

  • Do you find yourself giving your addict second, third, and fourth chances?
  • Is your need for avoiding confrontation clouding your judgment about the seriousness of your loved one’s addiction?
  • Do you ever engage in risky behaviors with your addict?

Generally speaking, if you have to lie to yourself or to someone else to “help” an addict, you are probably enabling, rather than helping, the person suffering from addiction.

How to Stop Enabling Destructive Behavior and Start Helping

There are a number of things you can do to stop the cycle of enabling and start to make a positive impact on your loved one. First, you must accept that when you stop enabling the addict, uncomfortable situations will arise.

How to recognize enabling behaviors

Putting a stop to enabling destructive behavior ultimately helps the addict.

However, think of it this way. Suppose your loved one had a terminal illness that could only be cured by a painful and costly medical procedure. You would willingly submit your loved one to that procedure to save his or her life, would you not?

Addiction, when unchecked, can be just as deadly. Accept that you and your loved one will have to experience discomfort in order to heal. Stop shielding your addict from the consequences of his or her choices. Refuse to clean up after your loved one, both literally and emotionally. Accept the reality that sooner or later, the addict will have to come face-to-face with the results of his or her addiction in order to have the insight to seek treatment in a drug/alcohol rehabilitation center.

The Huffington article plainly states: “In reality, addicts need their loved ones to make it as uncomfortable as possible for them to remain in their active addiction. If you have an addict in your life, this is actually the most loving thing you can do for them, because it holds them to a higher standard and encourages them to take responsibility for themselves.”

Help your addict by encouraging him or her to enter a drug rehab program and stick with the treatment plan. Provide support in the form of honesty about the ways that his or her behaviors impact your life together. Make it plain that you can no longer allow his or her abusive behaviors to continue in your own life, both for the addict’s benefit and for your own self-respect. That is love.

We’re Here to Help

To discover more ways to help an addict without crossing the boundary into enabling him or her, please contact Harris House. As specialists in the field of addiction recovery, we stand ready to provide you with the tools you need to successfully help your loved one battle addiction.&cid=44526″ alt=”” />

Nobody likes seeing a loved one suffering from addiction or alcoholism. The desire to do all you can to help and alleviate his or her pain is natural. However, if you find yourself in this situation, there are some dos and don’ts that should be followed. Although the line is fine, there is one between supporting and/or helping an addict or alcoholic and enabling his or her addiction. And because it is such a fine line, and difficult for loved ones to discern the difference, it is one that gets crossed frequently. Support is great; addicts and alcoholics need lots of it, however, enabling is detrimental to both the addict and you. Knowing the difference will help you know how best to be there for your loved who is still using or drinking excessively.

Understanding the Difference

Simply stated, helping an addict or alcoholic is offering to do something that he or she is incapable of doing for him or herself. But in doing so, it does not make it easy for him to use or drink or obviate her of the responsibility of her self-made situation.

Examples can include:

  • Your loved one is ill with the flu and cannot cook for himself
  • Your loved one is on parole and needs transportation to her parole officer
  • Your loved one lost his driver’s license, but the closest AA/NA meeting is not on a bus route or the bus passes through a neighborhood he used to frequent to buy drugs
  • Your loved one landed a job but doesn’t have the money to buy a car. You agree to shuttle back and forth until she can save the money to buy a car. You do not give her the money to buy a car.

Beyond that, it is really easy to start crossing the line into enabling territory. If your loved one lives with you, there will always be a certain amount of support and help being asked of you. This is inevitable. The key is to be able to be able to immediately recognize the difference so your best intentions aren’t inadvertently allowing your loved one to use or drink. Addicts and alcoholics are cunning and very shrewd. Sometimes they request help out of genuine need, and other times they are completely cognizant that they are taking advantage of your kindness.

Enabling is what happens when helping your addicted loved one to either avoid the consequences of his using or by helping, she is put in a position where she can make poor choices. Generally speaking, it is never advisable to give any addict/alcoholic money. This is the case whether he is still using or she is very new in recovery. Asking an addict not to spend money on drugs is futile. Despite your insistence that it be used for rent money, to buy a car or groceries, left to his own devices, he will invariably make the wrong choice. Remember, this isn’t out of malice; addiction has such a strong hold that money in hand is too tempting for the voice who wants him or her to use. It will be so strong that it is more powerful than your logic, reason or desire to help.

Some other examples of enabling are not so obvious. Here are a few that you may have done in the past or have considered doing.

  • Calling in sick for a loved one who was out drinking or using the night before
  • Your loved one gets drunk at a social gathering, and makes a fool of himself. You make excuses like,oh, he had a bad day at work and needed to unwind.
  • If a loved one continually misses family functions, making excuses to the family is not acceptable. It lets your loved one off the hook for her behavior.
  • Caring for his children so he can use, although a very difficult one, is one that many parents will do. It doesn’t help the addict, you or your grandchildren. Offering him help into a rehab facility to kick the habit and then offering to take care of your grandchildren is a better solution.
  • Allowing a loved one to verbally, emotionally or physically abuse you is never acceptable. Making excuses for the abuse suffered is one that many enablers find themselves doing.

The Rule of Thumb

When faced with the question of whether your actions or offers to help are considered being supportive or enabling, there are a few things you can ask yourself to determine for certain. If you help, will it prevent him from taking responsibility for his own actions? Will helping allow her to use or drink? Will it prevent him from hitting bottom? If you are constantly holding up your loved one to keep him from finally hitting bottom, you are doing both of you a disservice. Let him fall! It’s really the only way he will get the help he needs.

We can refer you to an experienced interventionist who can help you help your loved one.

It is human nature to want to care for and help someone you love. There is a very fine line, however, between being supportive of someone you care about and enabling bad behaviors. Often it can be very difficult to see the line at all. Because of that people frequently end up on the wrong side of the line and don’t even know it.

Whether it is alcohol, other selfish behavior, or general irresponsibility, allowing someone to continue to choose damaging behaviors by being passive, or assisting in them through your own actions, only deepens the damage. When your intention is to help, acting as an enabler does just the opposite.

So what is the difference between supporting and enabling? Simply stated supporting or helping includes assisting with things that he or she is incapable of doing for him or herself, or doing things that help facilitate them gaining control of their behaviors and life. Enabling behaviors, on the other hand, keep someone from dealing with the negative consequences of their actions. Not dealing with these consequences gives the impression that their behavior is somehow acceptable.

For instance, a parent who let’s a child skip school because they are late with an assignment is enabling irresponsibility. A partner who accepts a hangover as being “sick” is enabling alcohol abuse and overlooking the symptoms , and the partner who never says no and is taken advantage of time and again, is enabling selfish behavior. These people may feel as though they are being supportive, helpful, or accepting, but the reality is that they are causing the behaviors to worsen.

Enablers will also often try to solve the problems for the people they are trying to help. Solving their problems makes the enabler feel as though they are doing something good for the person they care about. The truth, however, is that they are hurting them. Enabling behavior that needs to change will also create a negative dynamic in the relationship. The person needing the help becomes unable to live their life in a healthy, independent and responsible manner, and therefore becomes dependent on others. The enabler then takes on responsibilities that are not truly theirs. This can ultimately create resentment in the enabler and a very unhealthy and unbalanced relationship overall.

If you are wondering whether you are being helpful or enabling, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do you find yourself making excuses for someone else? “Oh, he was just sick today,” “She meant to turn it in, but she was just too busy,” “He was just blowing of some steam.”
  • Do you regularly put your own needs second because someone else needs your attention? This can be normal with a newborn, but in most instances is unhealthy.
  • Do you have a feeling (or know full well) that the behavior you are seeing is unhealthy or irresponsible?
  • Have you lied (or routinely lie) for someone?

If you have answered yes to any of these you may very well be enabling behaviors that need to change.

So what should you do? In a word — stop. That sounds easier than it actually is. As mentioned earlier, it is in our nature to want to help those we care about. And it takes work and self-control to allow someone to suffer the consequences of their own choices. No parent wants to see their child fail and no person wants to see someone they love suffer the effects of bad decisions. But “helping” and “supporting” in these situations often requires you to do just that.

So you may need to become the parent who makes the child explain to their teacher why their assignment isn’t done and accept a poor grade. Or the spouse who calls the hang-over alcohol abuse and insists on change, or the partner that requires selfish behavior stop and insists on balance in the relationship. These roles are not easy and you may find that you need help yourself in enacting them. By putting a stop to the enabling behavior, however, you will ultimately make a true difference in someone’s life. You will help them live life in a self-sufficient and healthy way.

September 4, 2014

On This Page:

  • Signs of Enabling
  • Break the Cycle
  • Getting Help
  • Give us a call615-490-9376
  • You May Want to Know

Substance abuse and addiction is a serious problem for many people. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that, in the year before the survey, more than 23 million people needed treatment for a substance abuse problem. However, out of these people, only 2.5 million of them received treatment; additionally, 19.5 million of them reported that they saw no need to seek help.

These figures suggest that not only are drug abuse and addiction serious problems in the US but also that many people are in denial about the severity of their substance abuse. The reasons behind this denial are complex, but one common reason is enabling, which means that someone implicitly accepts the substance abuse, and allows it to continue with relatively few problems.

Enabling can be extremely dangerous, both for drug user and his or her loved ones. Since enabling discourages users from addressing their problem with professional help, it can lead to situations that cause physical, mental and psychological harm.

How to recognize enabling behaviors

Signs of Enabling

Morteza and Karen Khaleghi list several clear signs that someone is enabling an addict:

  • Ignoring the addict’s negative or potentially dangerous behavior – This behavior can involve anything from overlooking problems to denying that a problem even exists
  • Difficulty expressing emotions – Enablers are often unsure how to express their feelings, especially if there are negative repercussions for doing so
  • Prioritizing the addict’s needs before their own – While it is natural to want to help loved ones, enabling takes helping a step too far, where the addict has her needs taken care of while the enabler neglects her own
  • Acting out of fear – Since addiction can cause frightening events, the enabler will do whatever it takes to avoid such situations
  • Lying to others to cover the addict’s behavior – An enabler will lie to keep the peace and to present a controlled, calm exterior
  • Blaming people or situations other than the addict – To protect the addict from the consequences of drug abuse, the enabler might accuse other people of causing drug abuse
  • Resenting the addict – The result of the above behaviors is that the enabler will likely feel angry and hurt. They may act on these feelings by resenting the addict all while continuing to enable the addiction.

If you notice these behaviors in yourself or a loved one, then know that they may enable addiction.

Read Next:

How to Break the Cycle of Enabling

While enabling can be a serious problem for everyone involved with addiction, it is completely possible to break the enabling cycle so the addict can heal in productive, meaningful ways.

Darlene Lancer gives the following suggestions to help someone stop enabling:

  1. Leave messes as they are: Leave the addict to clean up the messes he or she makes while intoxicated
  2. Weigh your options for short-term and long-term pain: Will helping the addict one more time cause more pain in the long run?
  3. Get back autonomy: When possible, you should not allow the addict to put you in situations which may endanger yourself or others
  4. Follow through with plans: Even if the addict refuses to participate in a planned activity, you should go through with it without them

In other words, take action now against enabling behaviors.

How to Learn More about Enabling an Addiction

Enabling an addict can be a difficult habit to break. For the addict to realize the consequences of their behavior, their loved ones must stop enabling their substance abuse. This is sometimes the only way an addict will ever get professional help. If you think you are enabling a loved one’s addiction, or have questions on how to get them started on a new path toward recovery, give us a call at 615-490-9376.

Give us a call615-490-9376

How to recognize enabling behaviors

When someone enables a loved one, they may not realize the behavior is happening until much later, if at all. Sometimes, in recovery, families can walk through together and do therapy to understand the mechanisms of addiction but realize they’ve enabled someone’s addiction rather than helping them seek treatment. The challenge is to realize enabling behavior is destructive to everyone involved and must be stopped. Here are some tips to recognize the behavior and how to get a handle on it for the better.

How Enabling Works

Loved ones and friends often try to step in when they see someone they care about struggling with addiction. They may not realize what they are doing at the time, but enabling behavior actually allows the person to continue what they are doing rather than stop. It might mean making excuses for them, offering reasons why they show up late or leave early from functions and events, or completely miss them altogether. Some other behaviors can include paying money for rent or expenses on a regular basis, using drugs with that person, or hiding their use from others to ‘keep the secret safe’ for them. Any of these behaviors, and more, can come from a place of love initially, but they only serve one purpose. The focus shifts to supporting them in addiction rather than recovery.

Key Parts of Healing

Everyone has a stake in healing from addiction. There are times when someone needs to step away from their journey and experiences to see where they are in the moment. If it is not working as they intended or is doing the opposite of making things better, then it may be time to reassess. Part of healing from addiction is learning to recognize behaviors like enabling and accepting the willingness to do something about it. Here are some of the ways to do that:

  • Have boundaries: prioritize self-care and the message that people’s addictive behavior is harmful and must stop. Don’t let that loved one walk all over everyone by asking for money time and again, crashing on the couch when they keep losing jobs or getting bailed out of jail over and over
  • Recognize codependency: codependency is when a person feels they will get what they desire (love and security) but it is dependent on taking care of that person (enabling the addiction). If they know that person will be more loving toward them if they keep paying their rent because they fall behind when they spend the money on substance use, that is codependent (and enabling) behavior
  • Making excuses: letting the person know what they are doing is okay, even if it is not verbally said, can be detrimental to the healing journey of recovery for everyone. For instance, telling them it is okay that they continue not following through on their word or showing up when they say they will due to substance use, this can create painful relationship discord for everyone involved

Stopping the Behavior

One of the best ways to stop the behavior is to seek treatment. This means holistic, family treatment and therapy that gets everyone involved. Addiction is not just one person. It can affect so many people from friends to family members, there is no person untouched by addiction. Keeping open lines of communication is important along with finding the right support. Treatment may seem like it will not work but if the person feels supported, it is more likely to stick. This leaves more room to focus on recovery and healing.

The Guest House Ocala doesn’t want people to feel they can come to treatment and be done with the journey or feel alone going forward. We are here to partner with you as you take the next steps forward. We will support you as you grow in recovery, and your family, with the support of all those who love you. Call us to find out how to get started: 1-855-483-7800

Have you ever been told that you’re coddling your child — or worse, enabling his bad behavior? You may be too close to tell. Here’s how to figure out whether you’re actually an enabler or if you’re laying the foundation for him to take control.

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How to recognize enabling behaviors

Are you helping your kids more than you should be? One of the challenges facing parents of children with ADHD, and all the decisions that come along with it, is knowing when to step in to help and when to step back and allow your kids to learn for themselves.

You usually have to make quick decisions when this question arises. Trying to get out the door in the morning, on the verge of being late to school, you have immediate decisions to make: Do I find his backpack and shoes? Do I bring food into the car to make sure he eats? Do I remind him to take his ADHD medication?

If that’s not hard enough, you are aware of the watchful (and judging) eyes of spouses, family, and friends that suggest you should be handling things differently. As a parent of a complex child, there is always someone around who thinks that you’re not doing it right — or enabling your child’s poor behavior. How do you know when or when not to help?

Shed the Shoulds

The first step is to know your child and his or her challenges well — so well that you can trust your instincts in the heat of the moment.

No matter how long it has been since your child was diagnosed, “shedding the shoulds” starts with parent management training, which is widely recommended by the medical community as a primary treatment for children with ADHD. When parents understand the nature of their children’s challenges, they will respond appropriately. With training, parents can determine when their kids are struggling and need support, and when they need encouragement or accountability.

It’s true that your child “should” eat a good breakfast before school. But if getting breakfast on her own comes at the expense of the whole family being late every day, or of damaged relationships due to frustration, is breakfast time the right time to hold the line?

Transfer Ownership

Parenting is the gradual process of transferring ownership of our children’s activities and behaviors over to them. Step by step, we want to foster their resilience and their sense of autonomy. We do this when we teach them to tie their shoes, pour a bowl of cereal, make plans with a friend, or get started on their homework.

But for kids with ADHD, these basic skills don’t come easily. The teaching process is going to take longer. So how do we know when to let go? When our kids are not doing what we ask, bouncing off the walls, or failing to respond appropriately or respectfully to what’s expected of them, are there guidelines that can help us?

The answer is yes and no. On the one hand, there are four phases that define the transition of ownership in parenting (see “Learning the Phases,” below) that make a useful framework. On the other hand, we have to determine where we are in each of the phases — this will be different for each child, depending on his strengths and challenges, and even on the time of day or year.

Kids with ADHD develop somewhat erratically; they are advanced in some areas, immature in others. They may be in Phase 3 when getting ready for soccer, but in Phase 1 at starting their homework.

Are you enabling? Are you supporting? It doesn’t matter what Aunt Ida thinks, or the neighbor down the street, or, possibly, even your spouse. What matters is what you think.

If you are slowly and consistently transferring ownership to your child, one moment of independence at a time, then you are probably providing a healthy environment and teaching your child to ask for and accept appropriate help. That is the secret to success — for everyone.

Learning the Phases

1. Reward charts with positive reinforcement

2. Homework folders to help parents decide when to do homework and/or direct what to do

1. Choose language that reinforces ownership (“your homework” instead of “our homework”)

2. Re-teach organizational skills your child may have missed at an earlier age

1. “Scribing” for your child’s homework planning

2. Agreeing to “check in” at certain times and being a body double on request

1. Ask helpful, constructive questions

2. Be a sounding board for problem-solving and think through strategies when your child asks