- Created on Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Enabling is a term that is most often heard in reference to addiction, but it applies to performing as well, because sometimes even the best of intentions can do more harm than good.
What is enabling? When we enable someone we make it possible for them to engage or continue to engage in a specific behavior. This is fine if the behavior in question is a healthy and productive behavior; however, it becomes problematic when the behavior itself is maladaptive.
Some examples of harmful enabling are:
Making excuses for someone else’s poor behavior. She was late to the competition because the traffic was bad. Johnny didn’t go to practice today because he seemed tired so I let him stay home. In this example I am taking the responsibility of missing practice away from Johnny by saying, “I let him”. In both of these examples we are saving them from the negative consequences of their behavior but we are also robbing them of the chance to learn and improve.
When a loved one gives us money to support an unhealthy habit. This includes when someone enables us to maintain a lifestyle or hobby that is beyond our financial means. They think they are helping us by giving us money but we neither learn how to budget nor how to say no.
Taking the blame for someone else’s failures. I’m sorry you didn’t do well Johnny. Maybe your horse was too fresh, I should have loped him more. When we take the blame for someone else’s disappointments we are taking the control away from them and leave them in the position of unable to learn from failures or celebrate successes. Where’s the fun in that?
Joining them in blaming others. The judging was terrible. The cows were bad, the ground was bad, the horse was fresh, it wasn't your fault!
Giving them 'one more chance' again and again and again... Next time you miss practice, your off the team.
Enabling causes low self esteem in the person being helped because they do not have the opportunity to face challenges and overcome obstacles. It also causes resentment, bitterness, and conflict between individuals who otherwise care about each other.
How do you stop enabling behavior?
Tough love! Sometimes we have to stand back and let them take a fall. Sometimes we have to leave our kids in jail to face the consequences of their actions rather than bail them out time and time again, no matter how much it breaks our heart to walk away.
· Do not lie for someone else. Refuse to call the coach, trainer, employer, or other to provide excuses for another's behavior.
· Do not clean up someone else's mess. If someone gets them self in debt time and time again try offering advice rather than money.
· Follow through with threats. It's ok to give a warning the first time but follow through the next. With this in mind, don't make threats you can't keep.
· Set healthy boundaries. Learn how to be supportive without taking over.
· Learn to say "NO." Remember that no can be a complete sentence.
Changing enabling behavior can be difficult and it may feel like you are abandoning someone that you care about but sometimes the best gift you can give someone is the strength to stand on their own two feet.