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Nancy, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 746
Experience:  ABD for a PhD in Psychology, Psychotherapist for over 20 years
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When do I stop bailing my son out? I love my son with all my

Customer Question

When do I stop bailing my son out? I love my son with all my heart, I can't imagine loving someone more. I would happily die for him if it came down to a choice. However, I was a very young, very nieve mother, I didn't know what I do now (i am 42), my son is 23! Even though I have always loved my son, I have not been a great role model and therfore now he is a man he is having difficult times getting a steady job and just actually believing in himself. It's MY FAULT, no doubt about it. How do i reconcile my feelings of guilt with my feelings of pushing him to strive for better! I wish WITH ALL MY HEART that I could have my time again with him.....but it's impossible I know. How do I do the best I can for him now?
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Nancy replied 8 years ago.

Hi Kitty,

I see that you also have another question pending... this is not a scam... I am not sure what was sent to you, but I do know that most Experts live in the US, and it's only now 5 pm, and many of our experts come on after work.

But I am here to help you now... my name is ***** ***** I am a therapist, and have been for over 20 years. The answer to your question is an easy one -- but it will take some effort on your part to follow through. First of all, you are not nearly the first Mom to continually bail out their child... and do it because of a mixture of both guilt and love. Secondly: and this is really important: STOP blaming yourself. Tons of kids grow up with rotten role models and turn out jus fine -- your son has some responsibility too, here -- but continuing to bail him out just allows him to not take that responsibility.

Does that make sense?

Everytime you bail him out it saves him from the natural consequences. When we, as humans, don't get to experience negative consequences, we think it's okay to keep doing what we are doing, even if we know better intellectually.

We rationalize and justify our bad behavior more and more -- and the consquences get worse and worse.

So now comes the hard part: you have to let him suffer with whatever cconsequences that come his way. I know that is HARD, but the longer you save him, the worse it will be for HIM.

Be there for him, emotionally, talk to him about how he must now behave (get a job; keep it, be responsible, etc...), help him to do better, but DO NOT SAVE HIM.

Make a pact with yourself right now-- that you will not rescue, save or otherwise intervene with consequences of his behavior. It's the only way he can learn.


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Nancy, I only have just read your response.... it made me cry! God you are so right, i just hope I can put it into practice! The thing is, I find it hard to get to him emotionally because he is just like me, he won't talk! He, to me is just a replica of me growing up so how do I rise above 'me' and be the parent I should be? I actually realise as i am writing this that I am being self indulgent and feeling sorry for myself, I know this. However, I NEED to save my son and be strong. When do I 'take the moral high road'? When do I say 'yes Tom i f**ked up but I don't want you to? And then say to him 'your on your own Tom for your own good'? Heeeeeeellllllpppppp me understand how to help my son without being a hypocrite. x
Expert:  Nancy replied 8 years ago.

Hi kitty 904,

I am glad you wrote back!

The thing is, you don't have to DO anything. That's just the point -- DON'T do. You can have conversations with him when he is in trouble and asks for or presumes you will help him -- but you need to just say no.

Remember that "helping" him out of predicaments is hurting him and simply delaying his growing up.

When he calls and says, I wrecked the car, come bail me out of jail, (or something) you simply say, NO, I am sorry, I know now, that kind of helping prevents you from learning from your mistakes and I can't do that to you anymore. It's not fair to you and bad for both of us. I can't make up for where I lacked before, I can only teach you now. And for now, I cannot help at all. I love you and cannot help you.

I GUARANTEE he won't make THAT mistake again...

So, again... it's not WHAT YOU DO, it's what you DON'T do. DON'T DO ANYTHING.

Does that help?