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Dear Dr. Matt,
My name is Janette. I am a 45 year old widow who lives in Jacksonville, Florida. I live with my 19 year old bi-polar daughter, but my issue is with my 21 year old son, Larry.
Larry does not live at home but has been facing some issues that are of his own doing, and could have been avoided if he had taken the time to plan things, to include find a paying job and affording his own transportation. Job-wise, he was until recently apprenticing for a tattoo shop. For the last few weeks he has been showing up at my house unannounced and eating all of my food (literally) and trashing my apt.
Then on Sunday he shows up unannounced with his friends and girlfriend. After a few hours of him and his friends staying here, I asked for all of the company to leave and that included my daughter’s boyfriend, because I had a dinner planned and I was tired. Larry got angry because he expected me to take him and his girlfriend home without even asking in advanced.
I told him very nicely that I was not able to take him home because I did not have enough gas, so I gave him bus money. Now he knows how to take the bus home! Then around midnight Sunday he calls me asking if I could take him to his appt on Monday. I told him I couldn't, because I had other commitments. Larry gets angry at me and tells me how I'm not a good Mom! He says he does not feel like he is my son, because I do more for his sister than him.
I explained to him that he is 21 years old, and he should plan this out in advance and not assume that I do things for him whenever he asks. I explained to him that it was something that he was bringing on himself and if he felt that he was less of a son to me, . . . that is not how I felt.
I'm just torn up about how I should handle this situation, I don’t want my son to feel like I love his sister more than him, but I also want for him to learn how to take care of himself and to be responsible for himself.
Being a good mother to your son is NOT measured by how much you accommodate his un-planned and self-centered requests; instead, it is measured by how much you LOVE him. The answer you seek centers on the meaning of the highest kind of Love!
Once you understand what the highest expression of LOVE looks like, you will understand that serving your son's selfishness is the opposite of love. Why so? Because as you reinforce self-centered tendencies, you encourage your son to become MORE selfish — influencing him to become something LESS in terms of character . . . is NOT LOVE. Instead, the highest kind of Love will always influence your son to become MORE than he presently IS — Love always impacts others to their long-term benefit and growth. The Highest kind of Love looks like this:
LOVE is influencing others
Again, this is WHY enabling your son's selfishness, is NOT Love at all. Loving your son means teaching and influencing him, so he will become UN-selfish, . . . so he will become something MORE than what he is currently, in terms of character. Character is the only thing you take with you, when your mortal body dies, and your eternal spirit returns to God.
This is how the Creator Loves us: He ALWAYS influences our lives to our long-term betterment. We will do well to approach our children, in the very same way the Creator approaches us:
1) The Creator does not hold us accountable for laws for which we are unaware.
"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4: 17)
We learn from the Bible that we can only commit sinful acts, when we "know" what doing "good" looks like. This means, sin is consciously choosing to go against what we know is good — and knowing "good," as applied in your particular case, means that you must teach your children what "good" looks like.
You've use the term "in advance" a few times. As a parent, you need to take time to set "expectations" IN ADVANCE -- this way, your son and daughter will already KNOW what to "expect" BEFORE a situation happens. Setting "expectations" is essentially the same as "laying down the Law." However, I would not use the term "law" with your children, I'd use the word "expectations."
Your children should not be held accountable for laws, rules, and expectations that you have not clearly communicated "in advance" — again, this is the way the Creator does it.
Therefore, you must make time to talk with both your son and daughter. During this time — I call Family Council — you tell them what the law of your home will be. You should NOT simply lay down the law as if you were a Dictator; instead, get your children involved in identifying ways in which everyone can work together to create harmony in the home; I guarantee that your children will be able to identify many thing, as you pose the constructive question to them.
Here's another way to pattern your parenting after your Creator:
2) The Creator's expression of LOVE looks different depending upon the behavior of His Creations.
This means, when we do things that go against "expectations" (laws/rules), LOVE is that impact that helps lawbreakers understand that they have done the wrong thing — in other words, LOVE looks like administering consequences that teaches conformity to True Principle. For it is conformity to True Principles that brings Harmony and Happiness.
When there is NO consequence for lawbreaking, then lawbreakers do not learn the proper lesson. This is precisely WHY the Creator has put in place: The Law of the Harvest.
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth,
Teach children how life works by connecting consequences to actions: when they do well, "bountiful" consequences return to them, and when they do less-than-well, the harvest will be "sparing."
"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly;
Learn how to set consequences in advance! Children respond best to the expectations when they take part in setting those expectations — as well as take part in determining the connected consequences expectations are fulfilled, and another set of consequences when they are not honored. Such a system mirrors the Creator's Law of the Harvest.
Without forcing your children's behavior, consquences that children help put in place, will teach which behaviors bring happiness and harmony, and which behaviors do not. Further, as expectations (laws/rules) are set correctly, . . . your son and daughter will NEVER be surprised by your decisions; because your decisions will ALWAYS be in alignment with the expectations that have been clearly set, in advance — with every family member's agreement and participation.
My Changing Your Stripes Manual is filled with many more ideas on HOW to Love your children: How to influence your son and daughter to their long-term benefit, and NOT enable self-centered behavior.
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