What is Enabling?
Enabling behaviors and resources
The concept of enabling sounds straight forward—doing for others what they can and need to do for themselves—and yet it’s often incredibly hard to distinguish between helping, supporting, and enabling. As parents we are hardwired to want to help our children. As siblings we often want to help our brothers or sisters get out of a jam. As spouses we want to keep the peace.
Enabling behavior, simply put, shields people from experiencing the full impact and consequences of their behavior. Enabling is different from helping and supporting in that it allows the enabled person to be irresponsible.
- Protects the individual from the natural consequences of his behavior
- Keeps secrets about the person’s behavior from others in order to keep peace
- Makes excuses for the individuals behavior (with teachers, friends, legal authorities, employers, and other family members)
- Bails the person out of trouble (pays debts, fixes tickets, hires lawyers, and provides jobs)
- Blames others for the person’s behaviors (friends, teachers, employers, family, and self)
- Sees “the problem” as the result of something else (shyness, adolescence, loneliness, broken home, ADHD, or another illness)
- Avoids the person in order to keep peace (out of sight, out of mind)
- Gives money that is undeserved or unearned
- Attempts to control that which is not within the enabler’s ability to control (plans activities, chooses friends, and gets jobs)
- Makes threats that have no follow-through or consistency
- “Care takes” the person by doing what she is expected to do for herself