Most of us are familiar with the concept of a “lawnmower parent” – someone who clears the path in front of their child, shielding them from disappointments or adversity. While you may feel this parenting style is the best way to show how much you care about your son and want him to succeed in life, it’s a form of enabling that impairs children’s problem-solving and decision-making skills. Kids raised by parents who never allow them to experience failure or disappointment may end up too insecure to navigate life’s obstacles independently.
Supporting vs. Enabling
One way to bring up a healthy, confident and self-reliant child is to honestly assess their abilities and let them try new things. However, if your teenager struggles with a learning disability or mental health issue, the line between supporting and enabling may become blurred. How can you tell if you are helping your son or stunting his development?
Supportive parents of teens empower their children to be more self-assured. They model healthy coping mechanisms and are patient with young adults as they take risks and learn to overcome challenges. In contrast, enabling a teenager prevents them from experiencing reality. Types of enabling include letting your son avoid uncomfortable situations or failing to establish rules and boundaries.
How to Set Realistic Expectations
Sometimes, it’s hard to honestly assess what a teen can handle. While the rapid changes of adolescence may make your child look and sound more adult, it’s critical to remember that his brain is still developing, and he is not emotionally mature yet.
One way to evaluate if your expectations are reasonable is to ask yourself if your teenager might be struggling in any areas. Is he getting enough sleep? How are things at school? Do you have any reason to suspect drug or alcohol abuse? Talk to him about how he feels. Think back to any struggles you faced when you were the same age and validate how hard the teenage years can be.
Protecting a Teen’s Mental Health
Mental health challenges like depression and anxiety can be a problem during the teen years, with symptoms that vary from one day to another. Adolescents with depression can go through periods where they feel well enough to do their schoolwork and other times when they are too overwhelmed to get out of bed and get dressed. An anxious child might make it through the school day, only to experience a panic attack when they get home.
While this instability can make it harder for you to judge when to step in and help your teenager get through a rough patch, you can always offer to find a therapist who can work with your family and equip you with skills to manage mental illnesses and other problem areas.
How to Stop Enabling Teen Substance Use
Some parents try to overlook harmful behaviors like teen substance abuse, but by not speaking up, you are enabling these issues to worsen. If your teenager is drinking or taking drugs, don’t lose hope. ARCH Academy is an alternative school for boys aged 14 to 17. When you contact us, our caring staff will help your child break the cycle of substance abuse through evidence-based best practices and an accredited approach.