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When does helping become enabling?

By From page A8 | July 12, 2014

Parents who have allowed their children to live with them until those children have children in high school.

A mother who still makes her grown son’s bed and does his laundry.

Putting up your home as collateral to bail a drug-addicted relative out of jail multiple times.

Are these actions aiding or enabling? How do you know when we are doing so much for someone you care about that it actually does them more damage than good?

As a parent and youth service worker, I have raised or served at least two generations of youth. In doing so, I have also seen a shift in the way youth are raised. There is the tough-love generation and the nurturing generation. Some also refer to the differences as old school and new school.

The 1970s consisted of a generation who experienced tough love. Once you hit 18, your parents started expecting you to be out of the house or on your way. If not, you were helping to pay the rent or mortgage if you still lived at home. It was mandatory that you took care of the household responsibilities, such as washing dishes or cutting the grass. It was expected of you to contribute to your household and earn your keep until you could obtain enough financial stability to move into your own place.

By the time you were 21, you were on your own and independent. This meant you could provide your own housing, food and transportation.

I am definitely an advocate of the tough-love generation. Forget about age, if any of my children even grows taller than me, it’s time for them to move. Being that I’m only 5 feet 8 inches tall, the clock starts ticking for them in middle school.

The current generation has an alarming increase of permanent dependents and boomerang kids. We have children who never leave the nest, or those who leave for a while and come back.

I have encountered individuals with grown children still living at home, who are working but not paying bills. In speaking to the parents, they maintain that they are allowing their son or daughter to save money and build a nice nest egg to get them started. The issue is that there is usually no accountability and the temporary situation becomes a long-term burden for the parents.

Many youth who are in this situation fail to gain the personal growth and independent living skills to grow into a responsible person. So you now have an individual who is delayed in their personal development and adulthood. Some youth who I have recently spoken to are simply taking advantage of the generosity of their parents.

I mentor a 23-year-old who lives with his mother and has a job, but pays no rent or bills. She bought him a car and even pays his car insurance. I’m not sure what he is doing with his money, but he wears the latest overpriced footware and just paid $449 for the new PlayStation 4 video console. When I heard this, my mouth was open with shock. I paid $400 for my first car, a 1972 Volkswagen.

To add some perspective, I understand that conditions are much more difficult for today’s young adults. Housing and the cost of living has tripled in the past 25 years. The cost of education is insultingly high. It’s unrealistic to expect a 24-year-old new college grad to obtain gainful employment that pays enough for him to afford decent housing, when he more than likely will also have more than $100,000 in student loan debt.

Everyone needs a little help, but remember, there is a fine line between helping and hindering.

Deon D. Price is an author and youth life-skills coach who lives in Fairfield. Reach him at [email protected] or www.twitter.com/youthgeneration.

Deon Price


Discussion | 4 comments

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  • Tax PayerJuly 12, 2014 - 5:30 am

    Deon, you are so right. Parents today coddle there kids and don't understand that it doesn't benefit them in the long run. Tough love is the way to go, unfortunately not in most cases today.

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  • DeonJuly 12, 2014 - 8:57 am

    Absolutely, the proof is in the results of the products of old school parenting; a more responsible generation of adults. Thanks for reading

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  • JagJuly 12, 2014 - 7:59 am

    I think we are not teaching kids today how to cope with issues, when a child has a problem in school or is a little bit slower learner then other kids the first thing they want to do it put the child on a drug, when my son was 18 he came home and said his girlfriend was moving in with us, (my son no longer live in my house) I now have a 19 year old daughter who is going to be a dentist guess what? Those student loans will be in her name, I will help her as much as I can but I am not putting my retirement on the line. Good job Deon

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  • DeonJuly 12, 2014 - 9:04 am

    Jag, I know it was probably a challenge to turn away your son. We are emotionally attached to our children which sometimes clouds our judgment. Thanks for mentioning the issue of youth on subscribed drugs. It's actually going to be my next column topic. It's really having a negative effect on their adult lives. I appreciate your response. Thanks for reading.

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