Saturday, April 12, 2008

Children Out of Control

Our suspense contest is still in progress, but I want to share a special interview with you and encourage us all to start a dialogue about this issue, so very dear to my heart.


The conversation centers around a book I received the week prior to Easter. The week started out extremely difficult because of an ongoing argument with my 19 year-old son, who had come back home to live with us last summer. The blow-up was tremendous, and I asked him to leave. He refused.

By that Thursday, I was on page 66 of Allison Bottke's new book Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children. Then Good Friday came. My son went to work, and I paid a visit to the guest house on our property where he lived. What I found there broke rules I had set down upon his arrival, and went against my core beliefs. Only then was I able to face reality and with the help of my precious husband, packed up my son's belongings, and put them outside our property, and locked our gate, so he could not come in again. I left him a note, explaining our actions, and letting him know this was HIS fault for breaking our rules (and the law) and that until he got his life straightened out, he was not welcome in our home, on our property, or in our lives.

Pixels, it was one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

(update: Last night, he called for the second time. He's living in his car, checking into a cheap motel once a week to bathe, and eating sporadically. He managed to hang onto his job, but he has dropped out of college. Yet he continues to deny he's done anything wrong.)


Late that night - on Good Friday - I picked up Allison's book where I left off - page 66 - and these were the first words I read:

When we make the decision to release our adult children to fend for themselves, it can be both freeing and frightening. For many of us, this sudden freedom to live our own lives will seem like a breath of fresh air.

This book continues to speak to me, to minister to me, to encourage me, to strengthen me. This book is necessary for any parent of any age child - it will inform, educate, and enlighten you.


Now I want to share an interview with Allison, so you can learn even more about her book and her ministry, and how YOU can get help, too.

The book comes out of your own personal experience with your son. Please tell us about that.

ALLISON: For years I really thought I was helping my son. I wanted him to have the things I never had growing up. I love my son, and I didn’t want him to hurt—but sometimes pain is a natural result of the choices we make. For a long time I didn’t understand the part I was playing in the ongoing drama that had become my son’s life—I didn’t understand that I didn’t have to live in constant chaos and crisis because of his choices. When I chose to stop the insanity and start living a life of hope and healing my life changed. It’s a feeling I want other struggling parents and grandparents to experience. I want other parents to know that change is possible when we choose to stop the destructive cycle of enabling. And we can stop it. I know, because I’ve done it.

Why do you think so many parents struggle with enabling their adult children?

ALLISON: We don’t understand the difference between helping and enabling, that one heals and the other hurts. We don’t realize that we handicap our adult children when we don’t allow them to experience the consequences of their actions.

How can we determine whether we are helping versus enabling our children?

ALLISON: Helping is doing something for someone that he is not capable of doing himself.

Enabling is doing for someone things that he could and should be doing himself.

An enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis and yet continues to enable the person with the problem to persist with his detrimental behaviors. Simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which our adult children can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior.

Tell us about the S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group Network you founded. How can people get involved?

ALLISON: The “A” step in S.A.N.I.T.Y. is to ASSEMBLE a support group. This is a vital component in being able to look at our situations more objectively. We have developed a powerful Companion Study Guide that can be read individually or in a group setting. This Companion Study Guide contains all the information you need to conduct a S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support group in your neighborhood or community. Visit our web site here to find out more.

The S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group Network is a powerful resource to help parents and grandparents who have challenging adult children gain S.A.N.I.T.Y. in a world spinning out of control. During the years I spent as an enabling parent there were no support groups available for me as a parent in pain. Although it’s a tremendously successful program, AA wasn’t quite right for me, and I attended a few Alanon meetings, but the kind of empowering strength I needed for my situation wasn’t available. I needed to hear from others who had walked in my shoes—I needed to hear what they were doing that worked. I needed people around me who would lovingly hold me accountable to my own choices as I experienced the journey of parenting and enabling a dysfunctional adult child. I needed an action plan to help me make changes in my life.

I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt as I was writing Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child that a vital part of the outreach would be the development of an international support group network based on the six S.A.N.I.T.Y. steps I had developed.

We need a resource that can help us to set appropriate boundaries and get some S.A.N.I.TY. in our households, as well as assuring us that we are walking in God’s will. Following the steps outlined in Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child is a start in addressing this issue. Attending, and/or facilitating a S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group in your community is the next vital step in gaining hope as you walk the often painful path to healing.

You say that enabling our children is “a nationwide epidemic with catastrophic consequences.” What has led you to believe this?

ALLISON: There is clearly an epidemic of major proportion plaguing our nation today. This has become obvious to me as I travel the country sharing my God Allows U-Turns testimony and outreach. Seldom does a week go by when I am not approached by someone in deep pain concerning their adult child. It’s not just audience members in conflict with this troubling issue, but fellow authors, speakers and entertainers, some quite well known, who are living in the throes of familial discord concerning out-of-control adult children. It’s happening all over the country to people from all walks of life.

Where can my readers go for more information on your book and on the S.A.N.I.T.Y. ministry?

ALLISON: Everything you could possibly need is contained on our web site.

ALLISON: I encourage your readers to tell me what they think about Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. I really do want to hear reader feedback. They can reach me at: SettingBoundaries@SanitySupport.com.


Please be sure to visit our web site at where they will find additional resources for helping them on their road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. Remember to tell a friend in need and help save a life!




On Enabling…

As long as we continue to keep enabling our adult children, they will continue to deny they have any problems, since most of their problems are being “solved” by those around him. Only when our adult children are forced to face the consequences of their own actions—their own choices—will it finally begin to sink in how deep their patterns of dependence and avoidance have become. And only then will we as parents be able to take the next step to real healing, forever ending our enabling habits and behaviors. (pg. 33)

Many of our adult children have retreated from the trials and tribulations that not only test their faith but would also stretch them in ways that would develop their character, prove their mettle, and give them a sense of achievement. Consequently, many adult children have no idea what they’re truly capable of accomplishing. They’ve never really tried to move ahead with confidence and be all they can be. (pg. 35)

On Letting Go…

It’s a natural instinct to protect those we love, to help someone when he’s down, to offer assistance during times of tribulation. Yet for some adult children, “tribulation” is their middle name. When is enough enough? Our adult children are no longer babies, toddlers, or adolescents. We must stop treating them as such. Gone are the years of trying to mold their character. Unless they decide to change as a result of changes we make (if we truly want this to stop), what we see is what we get, as the saying goes. (pg. 43)

Setting our adult children free to live the lives God intended them to live is not abandonment—even if it means setting them free during a time of severe trial and tribulation in their lives. (pg. 57)

Our money must cease being the life preservers that buoy up our adult children, keeping them afloat through yet another storm. We might be amazed at just how well our adult children can swim when giving the opportunity to do so. More important, they just might be surprised at their own ability to survive without life support, a powerful lesson that no amount of money can purchase. (pg. 107)

On Healing and Restoration…

We do not parent as those who have no hope. We have a God who watches over our children—if we’ll just get out of His way and let Him do the restoring. Restoration is such a promising word to parents in pain. But to get to restoration, we must start with the truth of where we are. We must be honest. The truth is that those once-innocent children grew into the jaded and unmotivated adults they are today under our parental watch. And now we find that one huge step in the restoration process is to honestly see our adult children for who they really are now, not as we remember them in their Kodak moments. (pg. 72)

Real healing begins when a parent stops believing the excuses and lies and insists on the truth. As we develop our action plan, there must be no room for excuses. Our boundaries must be firm. There is a right and there is a wrong, and we are going to choose to do what’s right. Period. (pg. 118)

Healing often comes through pain first. Physical therapy is painful, but it’s always conducted for our own good. So too are God’s plans always meant for our good—even when we can’t understand them. (pg. 172)

We should never give up hope that our adult children will find a way out of the dark abyss of addiction. We should never stop encouraging them, emotionally supporting them, and loving them. And we should never stop praying for them. Miracles happen every day, and God will make a way where there seems to be no way. (pg. 189)

On Listening…

As parents in pain, we’ve been living in places of weakness for a very long time, but we haven’t done the kind of listening that has brought us closer to God—or to any firm results in the challenges of our lives. We have become emotional repositories for everyone else’s problems, and the time has come for that to stop. (pg. 132)

Rarely in our prayers do we think about listening to God or about implementing the biblical principles that will bring stability to our lives. Instead, we fall back on bargaining. But I’ve discovered that listening to what God teaches us in His Word about all things—parenting included—should be the number-one goal in the life of every Christian. Too often we listen instead to worldly advice, to secular self-help gurus, and to the never-ending stream of trendy cultural messages designed to fix whatever ails us. Ironically, those were often the very sources of “wisdom” that either caused us to make parenting mistakes or caused our children to succumb to temptations that led them into their destructive lifestyles. (pg. 144)






3 comments:

Jessica said...

Wow, that's such a scary thing. My children are so little and I really hope that they make good choices someday. What an awesome book. And Tracy, I'm sorry about the circumstances with your son, but it sounds like you did the right thing. I have a three year old, LOL, I know about the importance of boundaries!

Grateful Gramma said...

Tracy, I can only imagine how difficult that decision must have been for you. I will pray that God gives you the strength to stand by it and that he will open your son's eyes to what he has done and where he needs to be in his life.

Best wishes!

Tracy Ruckman said...

Thank you both. I'm sorry your comments weren't added right away - Blogger isn't being very cooperative at the moment notifying me.

Tough love is exactly that - TOUGH. But our children can't be in better hands than God's.

Thank you for caring. If you hear of anyone else going through times like these, be sure to tell them about Allison's book - a tremendous help.