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14 Ways to Avoid Enabling a Troubled Teen

What Parents Need to Know to Keep From Enabling At-Risk Teens


Quick Links: Troubled Teens | Quiz: Is Your Teen At-Risk?

Lying, ignoring or covering up for a teen not only allows negative behavior to continue but also slows down the process of learning to be responsible for the consequences of their actions. This is the primary problem with enabling - it allows and sometimes even encourages troubled teens to continue on a path of inappropriate or dangerous behavior. Here's what you need to pay attention to in order to avoid enabling your troubled teen.

14 Ways to Not Enable a Troubled Teen

1. Refuse to tell lies for your teen for any reason.

2. Consistently follow through on appropriate consequences for rule infractions.

3. Confront your teen if asked to enable them in any way, no matter how small the request.

4. Be honest with yourself about your reasons for wanting to come to your teens' rescue.

5. Define clear boundaries with your teen and stick to them.

6. Understand the difference between loving your teen and enabling their unhealthy behavior or decisions.

7. Pay attention when you feel sympathetic toward your teen and what they are going through, feeling sorry for them isn't going to help.

8. Let your teen know clearly that you will not make excuses or cover up for them in any way.

9. Take responsibility if you realize in hindsight that you've enabled your teen, acknowledging you made a mistake and intend to learn from it.

10. Before making a decision, carefully consider all the consequences of 'helping' your teen in a particular situation, especially if asked to do so.

11. Participate in a parent support group if you continue to have difficulty avoiding or changing enabling behaviors.

12. Don't keep any secret for your teen, no matter how innocent it may seem.

13. Recognize the emotions that come up when you feel needed by your teen and be careful about their impact on your response.

14. Don't take responsibility for issues or problems that belong to your teen and not to you.

Enabling is usually born out of parental love and concern, as well as not wanting to see your teen suffer. But a teen experiencing emotional or behavioral problems usually needs to experience negative consequences before reaching a point where they can make positive changes.

Enabling is not the same as helping or supporting a teen in their growth and development. In many ways it's the exact opposite as it can prevent a troubled teen from learning the healthy behaviors needed to grow into a healthy, happy adult.

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