Letting Go of Enabling...especially in Parenting

Helping or enabling? Enabling or helping? It can be difficult to know the difference. And knowing the difference can make or break a relationship ... and I might add, it may be the difference between being God's instrument in the life of another or blocking God's work in that same individual. 


Welcome again to my dear friend Tresca who clarifies the difference for us. Tresca deals with the issue as it relates to our children. But if you are like me, you will also learn about healthy helping in other relationships in your life.


So here again is Tresca in her own words: 

LETTING GO OF OUR (HIS) CHILDREN Part 2* ‘Enabling versus Helping’

Letting Go means to entrust into the hands of the Lord, to surrender control of, to relinquish power over, and to trust the Lord with.

Only in Letting Go will our minds, emotions, wills, find rest and cease to struggle.

In our last three blogs, we have discussed the importance of “Letting Go” of others in order to experience peace, rest, and grace for our souls. We understand it isn’t easy because we were trying to get our needs met through these relationships, but our Lord desires to fill ALL of our NEEDS and LONGINGS within our souls, which others can’t and won’t. ... This brings us to another challenge we struggle with, that is to know when we are enabling our children or when we are really helping them.

Firstly, let’s look at what it means to enable. This definition came from a parent who learned this lesson the hard way. She enabled her son over and over again until he couldn’t make his own decisions without her. So he drank and drugged his life away, eventually ending up in prison without her.

Enable means to do for another person what they are capable of doing for themselves … but I won’t teach them. To enable a person says in essence…

“You are not capable or smart enough to make this decision, figure out the right answer, do this task correctly without my input, so you need me to do it for you or tell you what to do. In other words, I am rejecting you and your abilities because you aren’t as capable as I am." 

Parents always think if I do it for them, or tell them what to do instead of teaching them research skills to find their own answers, it will make life easy for them. True, but how many children are paralyzed when their parents aren’t around to do it for them or think for them? I have spoken to countless children and adults who state, “My mother or my father won’t let me or they did it for me, so I never learned how to do it for myself.” Or, “I’m not sure what to do, my parents always made the best decisions for me.” Grown men and women are crippled because of being enabled. Enabling really is not about the child; it is really about the parent because:

  • I don’t want them to suffer.
  • I don’t want them to go through what I went through.
  • I don’t want them to lack in anything.
  • I want them to grow up to be what I feel they are capable of.
  • What will people think about me if my child doesn’t succeed or be what I think they should be?
  • *** I NEED TO FEEL NEEDED! (Co-Dependency)

"Well Tresca," you say, "if I have been enabling my child and not helping them, then what does it mean to help my child?"

To help means to do something for a person who doesn’t have the ability, capacity, or has severe limitations and so they can’t do something for themselves, even if you taught them. 

Secondly, there is a word that comes to mind that our Father asks us to do with His children and that is the word, train. Train means, ‘to instruct, discipline, guide, teach a person.’ One of my favorite models of parenting I taught parents to use was Love and Logic (online resources). It helps children learn from their choices. Using Love and Logic skills, parents are empathetic and lovingly guiding their children and teenagers through the challenges of life.


Our Father uses this technique on us all the time. He lays out choices before us: life or death, flesh or spirit, Christ or the Evil One, sin or peace, fear or faith. We get to choose. He also explains the consequences so we know ahead of time what will happen if we make wrong choices. When or if we do, He talks to us about the choice we made, and we talk about whether another choice should have been considered. Then we face the consequences of our actions, without condemnation, only repentance. What an Amazing Father He is!

... The gift every parent must give to their children is the freedom to choose. A parent’s job is to teach, instruct, and tenderly chasten them, but never manipulate, speak harshly, make them feel worthless, or bribe them… [That is] to control them.

Please remember, EVERY SOUL BELONGS TO THE LORD. ALL OF US WERE CREATED FOR OUR LORD’S PURPOSE. Many of our children are hindered from fulfilling the purposes of our Father’s heart because of our Good Intentions and Enabling them. HE CAME TO BEAR WITH THEM, HOLD THEM, AND CARRY THEM THROUGH LIFE THROUGH US… THAT’S HIS JOB, NOT OURS… if we would LET HIM…  please LET GO AND LET HIM.


*For Tresca's (Part 1) Letting Go of Our Children -- "Good Intentions," go to her website:
His Precious Gift