I was once working with a mother who had a twenty-something year-old son living in her basement. She complained to me that he never did anything except play video games. I asked her to describe what approaches she had tried so far, and what a typical day looked like. What she said next genuinely surprised me.
It turned out that her son had no regard for cleanliness and self-care. So, bless her heart, mom would go down to the basement every day to clean and organize his room. She also said he wouldn’t eat very often, so she would bring him down a warm, tasty meal three times a day. Other than that, she left him alone to do his thing.
Gosh, is it any wonder that he has zero motivation to do anything? He has a private maid, a personal chef, and he gets to play video games all day! Why on earth would he ever leave? Mom’s intentions were good and noble, but she was inadvertently crippling her son by doing everything for him.
Parents, letting your child be uncomfortable is not the same as abuse. Growth can only come outside of one’s comfort zone.
When you address capability issues, it’s important to recognize where the “broken legs” exist and provide the needed “crutch.” Please remember, however, not to get carried away and give your child an “electric wheelchair.”
What’s the difference? When you give your son or daughter a crutch you’re providing the boundaries, guidance, and resources they really need in order to accomplish XYZ, but you’re still stepping back and allowing them do what they can. You are empowering them, removing roadblocks, and, most importantly, not doing it for them. One of their legs may be broken, but they still have one good working leg, so by all means, let them use it! Let them do what they can with what they have. If you take over and do too much of the work for them, then they may develop a mindset of learned helplessness.