Singling Out The Enabler

Think about this verse as it relates to parenting:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Lately I’ve worked with a lot of teenage boys who single out their mothers. They don’t want to talk to dad on the phone, they just want to talk to their mothers. They don’t even want dad listening in. I’ve also had boys who do not want me around when they talk to their parents because their parents never do what they want when I’m around (enable their addiction, validate their developmental vacation, etc). Beware when a troubled teen makes you feel like you’re “the special” parent who knows how to reach them, because it often means you’re the enabler and he’s playing you like a fiddle. Don’t forget he’s spent his whole life studying you and learning how to manipulate you.

When you develop a special relationship with your teen aside from the other parent, you are treading on dangerous ground. Your first priority is to the marriage and the unity of you and your spouse as parents. Then the unit parents as one. If your son or daughter is trying to isolate you or your spouse, don’t let them. If he says “take me off speaker phone”, for example because he knows dad is there, there is no reason to oblige that request aside from planning a surprise birthday party for dad. Set a boundary at this request: “No, your father is part of this conversation whether you like it or not.” The troubled teen is likely to hang up at this point but that’s ok. He did not get his way, he did not manipulate the situation, he did not separate and isolate you. You won that battle and his tactic didn’t work. Good job.

Obviously the teen will target the most enabling parent. Sometimes it may be dad, especially if the troubled teen is a girl. Either way we need each other. If you are a single parent this is all the more reason you should be building a parental support team and accountability partners in parenting. There is strength and wisdom in numbers. Remember, no isolating!

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