Loving My Son without Enabling Him

How does one DO love without enabling them or ignoring them? I’ve not been able to get to a middle road with knowing how and when and what it looks like.
Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
July 8, 2014
Minute Read

Question: How does one DO love without enabling them or ignoring them? I’ve not been able to get to a middle road with knowing how and when and what it looks like.

I tell our son I love him. I’ve explained to him why I do the things I do for him (wash laundry, buy certain food, share a movie) but unless I’m doing and accepting what he wants (horrific movies or music, language, smoking) I am not “loving” him he thinks.

When he gets out of jail how do I go about this love thing and how does it work? I’ve always been lost here. I pray for him and I tell him I do. I quote scriptures. I tell him stories about myself or my dad or when he was little. I’m trying but don’t think it’s enough. Also being 20 years old how do boundries really work? Books don’t seem to go far enough for me to quite nail it down.

Thanks, I realize you probably are very busy, but if you could point me to something that has some “bottomline” info.

Dear Sheila-

When it comes to loving your son well, there are a few things that you need to remember. First, don’t measure how well you are doing by what your son tells you. He says that you don’t “love him” because you don’t approve of his watching violent movies, using bad language, etc. Let me ask you a question, would a loving mother approve of her son doing things that are bad for him? Of course not. So, my question to you is, why are you listening to your son?

Second, loving your son well means doing what’s best thing for him, regardless what he thinks. You are allowing him to manipulate you and your feelings and you must stop this. He is confused and struggling (he’s in jail) so you need to separate your feelings from his and do what’s best for him, not what he wants you to do.

The bottom line for you is this. Decide what behaviors you will or will not accept in your home and then tell your son what you have decided. Tell him that you love him enough to insist that he abide by and respect you and your rules. If he doesn’t want to do this, then he is not welcome to live in your home.  He will tell you that you don’t love him, but he is wrong- you must be tough enough to show him that you fully expect and believe that he can behave like a respectful adult man. That’s what real love looks like.

Quit trying to talk him into the fact that you love him. You know that you do and he won’t understand. Parenting grown men isn’t for wimps and you need to get a tougher backbone. That’s how you really love him.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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