Willing to do whatever it takes?
I was watching an episode of Dr. Phil the other day, and is often the case, the show was about an out of control teen and the resulting chaos within the family.
I have to be honest, I am sucked in to these particular stories, because of my own experience with an out of control teen. I have such empathy for the families and the teens. I must admit, I have a tendency to compare the situation I was in, with the stories I am watching. I see myself in so many of the parents…I truly wanted to do what was best for my daughter, but I often made the mistake of not knowing what that was and ended up enabling her.
Dr. Phil says that we enable in order to make ourselves feel better. It gives us a sense of control in a situation. Maybe, it gives us the peace of mind that our child is safe, or maybe even not uncomfortable. Sometimes, we as parents, think that if we buy our child that one thing they really want, they will realize how much we love them and they will suddenly change their behavior. We think that maybe if we love our child enough, we can love the bad behavior out of them.
One of the most important things I have learned through my journey with my daughter, is that I had to be willing to do whatever it took to keep my home safe. I literally mean, to keep my daughter, and my family safe!
Making the decision to be willing to do whatever necessary to keep your home safe is not as easy as it sounds! It seems ridiculous as I write those words, but it is so true. For a long time, I did what I thought was “what it takes”–individual therapy, therapy together, DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), IOP (Intensive Outpatient Therapy), Bible studies, etc. Unfortunately, those things were not having the impact that our family desperately needed.
I spent hours researching residential treatment, therapeutic boarding schools, and anything else that I could find that offered help. I would read, process, and then decide that there was no way I could send my precious child away. She would miss so much…school dances, prom, football games, and all the other things that, for some reason, seemed so important. Worst of all, she could hate me forever!
When I say you have to be willing to do what it takes to protect your home and your family, I mean, you have to be willing to do the hardest things thinkable. You have to really allow your child the natural consequences of their choices. If that means your child has to not live in your home, you have to be willing to let that happen. If it means your child has to lose a job, then you have to be willing to let that happen. If it means your child doesn’t have a car to drive, has to miss school dances, football games, and even graduating with the class they went to school with their entire life, you have to let that happen! It took me a long time to fully accept and practice allowing consequences. My natural instinct was always to rescue.
As a parent, I never thought I would have to be in the position to make such challenging decisions concerning my child. I never thought I would have to watch my child suffer consequences that were painful, but I had to do it. I had to, because I love my child more than I love life! My husband and I had to realize that this problem was not going to be solved in the same old manner that we had tried, or even in the same community, with the resources we had available. It was going to take an investment of our savings, as well as facing our greatest fears that our child might end up hating us due to our decision to giver her a forced time-out from all of the decisions she was not capable of handling on her own, or with the support available to us in our local community. After all, what future were we saving our money for, if it meant potentially losing our child?
Ultimately, I spent whatever I had to spend–time, money, sweat and tears, to keep my family safe. My husband and I worked hard to learn all the things our daughter learned during her time at therapeutic boarding school. We read all the books that we were told to read and completed all the “assignments” we were asked to complete. It was exhausting and it was rewarding.
I learned to listen differently, to look at things through a different lens, and to set firm boundaries–which is easier said than done!
I will never pretend that these things are easy–they are not! Dealing with teenagers, even the very best behaved, is not for the faint of heart. It is a really crappy job sometimes, with very little appreciation most of the time. However, once these teenagers grow up, mature, and learn that you are willing to do what it takes, it is a totally different story! At some point, a light bulb goes off, and that our of control teen realizes that you did what you had to do because you LOVE them more than they ever understood!