In their book Boundaries, psychologists Henry Cloud and John Townsend tell an interesting story about some parents who were having trouble with their 25 year old son.
The son didn’t come to the counseling because, his parents said, “he doesn’t think he has a problem.” The counselor said, “Maybe he’s right. Tell me about it.”
They said their son was exhibiting a problem staying in school, and finding a job. He was using drugs, and keeping questionable company. He was avoiding responsibility in general.
The parents obviously loved their son very much, and were heartbroken about how he was living. They said they’d tried everything:
- Always made sure he had everything he needed
- Plenty of money at college so, they said, “he wouldn’t have to work and he would have plenty of time for study and a social life”
- When he flunked out of one school, they helped him get in another “where it might be better for him.”
Finally, the counselor said, “I think your son is right. He doesn’t have a problem.”
The parents just looked at him in shock, until the father said, “Did I hear you right? You don’t think he has a problem?”
“That’s correct,” the counselor said. “He doesn’t have a problem. You do.”
The counselor went on to explain, “He can do whatever he wants. No problem. You pay, you fret, you worry, you plan, you exert energy to keep him going. He doesn’t have a problem because you have taken it from him. Those things should be his problem, but as it now stands, they are yours.”
Lights began to go on in the parents’ heads.
The counselor said to them, “Would you like for me to help you help him to have some problems?”
Reference: Boundaries, Henry Cloud and John Townsend, p. 27-28
Sound travels slowly
Sometimes it takes time for a parent’s advice to sink in, as one person put it: “Sound travels slowly. Sometimes the things you say when your kids are teenagers don’t reach them till they’re in their forties.”