Being Supportive Isn’t Always Supportive

I watch as much crap TV as I read crap magazines.  Given that piece of information, it means I have a TV diet comprised almost exclusively of Bravo and VH1. That said, even watching “questionable” reality shows can give you some insight into life.

I was watching Dr. Drew and Celebrity Rehab.  It’s a pretty heart-breaking show because these people are fairly broken, and yet exceedingly narcissistic and entitled at the same time. While that seems weird, trust me, it’s often the case for addicts.  There’s always a reason for what they do, and it’s NEVER their fault.

During the course of meeting with addicts and their families, Dr. Drew expresses how families can be supportive, their need to recognize being codependent, and also times when the addict should be allowed to hit bottom. The thing that struck me the most was Dr. Drew’s insistence that families are NEVER to bail an addict out of jail or to help get the addict out of legal trouble.  Leif Garrett was openly pissed at this, and Leif’s mom was shocked.  However, Dr. Drew pointed out that the addict needed to learn to deal with the issues that got him/her arrested. By taking on that task for the addict, people were doing more harm than good.  Then Dr. Drew twisted the knife a little more pointing out that Leif had had legal troubles for a long time and obviously hadn’t learned how to deal with his addiction.  Damn.  Poignant, to the point (pun intended) and true.

This was funny to me because, it wasn’t until my nephew was arrested for OWI that I learned you COULD bail someone out of jail when they were drunk.  I just assumed they HAD to stay in all night. SERIOUSLY, I had no clue.  Why?  Because my mom never bailed my dad out of jail when he got arrested.  When I asked her about this later, she asked me, “Why do you think I wanted a drunk at home in the middle of the night?”  Uh, good point, Mom!

Truth be told, no parent should bail their child out of a legal situation. Dr. Drew is right.  You’re depriving your child of the opportunity to take responsibility for his or her actions, and have to deal with the punishment and the negative feelings that go along with the misdeed.

I’m going to go a little further, though, and suggest that parents shouldn’t bail their child out of ANY trouble.  It’s interesting that in being supportive most parents merely manage to find a way to excuse or  justify their child’s actions, or blame others.  I, too, will either catch myself doing this or be caught doing it.  Thankfully I tend to surround myself with good people who call me on my own stuff.  I recognize how EASY it is to rationalize a child’s behavior and to find a way to excuse it.

However, if we’re really serious, as a society, about being responsible and respectful people, we have to model it.  The mama bear protecting her young no matter what is just absurd.  Everyone does something stupid.  Everyone needs to learn to take responsibility for that stupid action.  Atonement — it’s not just for other people.  By taking away this very powerful learning tool (shame), we deprive children of growing up and becoming mature adults. Instead, we teach them to be entitled and use the same excuses we hauled out to keep themselves from accepting responsibility.  Let’s be honest, it’s HARD to admit to screwing up.  It’s easy to blame others.  It’s not good parenting to absorb this shock and baby our children. It doesn’t prepare the next generation to take over.

It’s relatively easy, however, to discover if you’re not being supportive.  Just ask yourself when the problem occurs if doing the right thing will be hard.  Then find yourself wanting to do what’s quick and easy.  When you catch yourself drifting towards “making things better” and “I’m sure he’s learned his lesson” and “we can’t make her do all that”, then you know you’re wanting to entitle your child.  Being supportive doesn’t mean accepting every mistake and smoothing things over.  It means helping our young people bridge the gap into adulthood by showing them the right way to behave.

Sometimes, that also means getting out-of-the-way and letting our children have their just desserts.  However, if this alone isn’t convincing enough, watch You’re Cut Off! to see what really happens when we mistake support for entitlement.

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