Sunday, April 27, 2008

Book spotlight

Okay, it's time for another in our totally random series of author interviews, which means you could win a FREE BOOK!

Today, we welcome author Allison Bottke, whose newest book, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children, is really getting a lot of attention these days! Some of you recognize Allison as the founder of the Boomer Babes Rock website and blog, where I am privileged to be a part of her blog team. My kids are not yet adults, but I found this book very helpful--it reminded me that setting boundaries is a life-long process, and I need to be helping my kids to become self-sufficient and responsible at every age.

Allison's story is a compelling one. Read the interview, and if you post a comment or question, you'll be entered in our drawing to win a free copy of the book.

KWK: Welcome to Deep Breathing for the Soul, Allison!

ALLISON: Thanks, it's great to be here.

KWK: This was a powerful book. What made it even more compelling was the fact that it comes out of your own personal experience with your son. Please tell us about that.

ALLISON: For years I really thought I was helping my son. I wanted him to have the things I never had growing up. I love my son, and I didn’t want him to hurt—but sometimes pain is a natural result of the choices we make. For a long time I didn’t understand the part I was playing in the ongoing drama that had become my son’s life—I didn’t understand that I didn’t have to live in constant chaos and crisis because of his choices. When I chose to stop the insanity and start living a life of hope and healing my life changed. It’s a feeling I want other struggling parents and grandparents to experience. I want other parents to know that change is possible when we choose to stop the destructive cycle of enabling. And we can stop it. I know, because I’ve done it.

KWK: How can we determine whether we are helping versus enabling our children?

ALLISON: Helping is doing something for someone that he is not capable of doing himself.

Enabling is doing for someone things that he could and should be doing himself.

An enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis and yet continues to enable the person with the problem to persist with his detrimental behaviors. Simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which our adult children can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior.

KWK: What are some of the most common ways that parents enable their children?

ALLISON: Being the Bank of Mom and Dad, or the Bank of Grandma and Grandpa. Loaning money that is never repaid, buying things they can’t afford and don’t really need. Continually coming to their rescue so they don’t feel the pain—the consequences—of their actions and choices. Accepting excuses that we know are excuses—and in some instances are downright lies. Blaming ourselves for their problems. We have given too much and expected too little.

KWK: So, what can parents do to break the cycle of enabling?

ALLISON: Follow the six steps to S.A.N.I.T.Y.: Stop blaming yourself and stop the flow of money. Stop continually rescuing your adult children from one mess after another. Assemble a support group of other parents in the same situation. Nip excuses in the bud. Implement rules and boundaries. Trust your instincts. Yield everything to God, because you’re not in control. These six things can start a parent on the road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. in an insane situation that is spinning out of control. However, a key issue in breaking the cycle of enabling is to understand whose problem it really is.

KWK: You've not only walked this road, you're still walking it, and you have a passion to help others along the pathway. Am I correct? And what one thing would you like to say today to those along the path?

ALLISON: I do have a heart for parents and grandparents who are in pain—who are struggling with out-of-control adult children. I know in the depths of my heart and soul what this devastation feels like. The main thing I ask parents and grandparents to cling to is this: Do not underestimate the power of God to restore your heart, your adult child and your relationship.

KWK: You say that enabling our children is “a nationwide epidemic with catastrophic consequences.” What has led you to believe this?

ALLISON: There is clearly an epidemic of major proportion plaguing our nation today. This has become obvious to me as I travel the country sharing my God Allows U-Turns testimony and outreach. Seldom does a week go by when I am not approached by someone in deep pain concerning their adult child. It’s not just audience members in conflict with this troubling issue, but fellow authors, speakers and entertainers, some quite well known, who are living in the throes of familial discord concerning out-of-control adult children. It’s happening all over the country to people from all walks of life.

KWK: Where can my readers go for more information on your book and on the S.A.N.I.T.Y. ministry?

ALLISON: Everything you could possibly need is contained on our web site at:

ALLISON: I encourage your readers to tell me what they think about Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. I really do want to hear reader feedback. They can reach me at: Please be sure to visit our web site at where they will find additional resources for helping them on their road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. Remember to tell a friend in need and help save a life!

Okay, readers, now it's your turn. What questions or comments do you have for Allison, or about the book? Remember, each time you post a comment, you are entered to win a free copy of this book. If you know a mom of an adult child who is really struggling, this book might be a meaningful Mother's Day gift!


Allison Bottke said...

Thank you, Keri, for hosting me on your blog today! I'm a huge fan of your work and it's an honor to be here. I look forward to chatting with your readers and I'll check back often to see if our interview sparks any comments. And, btw, I LOVE your new photos! Tre chic!

Lori SMith said...

The site looks WONDERFUL! I love the CALMING blue....makes you want to breathe a little deeper and slower. (smile)
I thoroughly enjoyed your breakout at the Conspire conference last week. I plan to take that wisdom into my HOME and WORKPLACE. What a gift you are giving to so many women & MEN! (Not to mention our kids....)
Lori Smith

Keri Wyatt Kent said...

Welcome and thanks for stopping by! I hope you'll visit often.
And I'm glad you could be a part of CONSPIRE. What a great conference. I got to sit in on the main sessions on Wed. and it was terrific.

Llama Momma said...

Okay, here's my question: would this book be helpful in setting boundaries with a parent as well? I'm in that position and it's very, very difficult.

Jamie said...

Being the single mom of 3 teenage boys and an 8 year old girl it's often difficult to set boundaries. I'm trying each day to sent constructive, supportive boudaries and will be delighted by information gathered by others as to how to make it work. Thanks for your support/encouragement and everything you offer with your web site!

Your words are blessings to those who recieve them! Thanks for sharing!!! Jamie M.

Anonymous said...

i am leaving a note for a book!
Linda E.

Keri Wyatt Kent said...

Llama mama
you raise an interesting question that others have asked me as well--what about setting boundaries with your parents, once you are an adult? How do you honor your parents but not let them control you? Cloud and Townsend's original "Boundaries" book is helpful in this. But I'd love to hear from other readers. And if you feel comfortable sharing, Llama Mama, tell us a bit more about your situation--what's going on that makes you feel like you need to set better boundaries?

Llama Momma said...

Keri -- Let me begin by saying that I love my parents dearly. Having to set boundaries with them as an adult, especially as a parent myself, has been the most difficult thing I have had to do in my life.

My Mom struggles with mental illness. She has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and is in and out of the hospital several times a year. She is a wonderful woman, but her illness makes her unpredictable--especially with the kids. She lives in another state. Right now, I evaluate where she's at mentally before allowing any kind of visit. The children are never alone with her.

My parents are divorced and a few years ago, my Dad remarried. I was so happy for him that he found such a lovely woman to share his life with! Until she freaked out with me and my husband, in front of our three-year old twin boys. (I was pregnant with our third.) The short story? Her expectations of us are way out of line and unrealistic. (She was upset because we suggested getting out and going to a nearby farm or walk on the beach...on a beautiful California day...with our toddlers who had been cooped up on a plane the day before. She wanted them to sit in the house and color. She had it all planned out. This was just the trigger! The day ended with me crying, her screaming at me that I didn't love my Dad, my Dad apologizing, and my husband grabbing the children to get them out fast...It was unreal.) Incidentally, my brother and his family had a similar experience.

So. Now we're trying to navigate that relationship as well.

Right now, I operate on a "how can I best protect my kids"mentality. I don't want them to grow up with the same instability I grew up with.

Probably more than you were looking for, but there you go! (And to think that's the super short version! Ay, ay, ay!)

Keri Wyatt Kent said...

Llama mama,
Wow, what a heavy burden you bear. I just want to encourage you that asking "how can I best protect my kids" is the right way to go. That is what setting healthy boundaries is all about. You can't control what your mom or stepmom does, but you can control your response to it, which is to not allow them time alone with your kids, and limiting visits. while it sounds really difficult, you seem to be doing the right thing. While I'm sure you wish things would change, if you tolerate their behavior, it will not change. You may find that talking though these issues with a counselor would be really helpful, and I recommend it. Especially when dealing with mental illness, you need to be as equipped as possible, and counseling can help.
Keep praying, not only that your family would change, but that you will have discernment about how to handle these difficult situations.
Blessings on you!

Lori said...

My oldest son is 13 and I can really see how diligent and intentional we need to be in the next few years to equip him to succeed and thrive in life beyond the nest. I sympathize with Allison's story because I can see how easy it is to want to help our children too much, give them too much, and to confuse support with rescue. It is a tricky balance.

I guess my question is this, how do you strike the balance between teaching them the reality of life's consequences, while still modeling the values of grace and compassion? I have always struggled a bit with the Love and Logic approach to parenting because in my mind it leans too far to a semi-detached, "sink or swim" view of child-rearing. I realize that children need to feel the effects of their own choices and mistakes, but I also feel it is important that we provide examples of grace, and that as a family we are here to help each other.

Is it possible to do both? I sure hope so, because that's what I am striving for. I would love to hear Allison's or your perspective on that, Keri.

Keri Wyatt Kent said...

A couple of resources I would recommend on this topic:
Boundaries with Kids
Generation Me
Positive Discipline

I haven't read all of the Love and Logic stuff, but it seems to be good.
as far as sink or swim, is it really that? or is it logical consequences? If we protect our children from the consequences of their actions are we really helping them?
there's such a thing as grace, and then there is "cheap grace"--which is forgiveness without repentence.
We don't want to teach our kids to expect "cheap grace."
Here's an example. If a child leaves his Game Boy out in the yard overnight, and it gets wet and wrecked, the logical consequence is to say that he has lost that toy. to show grace to that child, you might say, "Wow, that is so sad. I'm so sorry that happened. That's got to be disappointing." To buy him a new Game Boy is not grace. It's saying--you can just do whatever you want, you can be irresponsible, and we'll cover for you. That's not grace. it's enabling. You might offer to let the child do some extra chores to earn some money so that he can buy a new game boy. (and you would be surprised how well children care for things they have bought with their own hard-earned money)
a mentor of mine tells me--keep the end in mind. Do you want your child, when he is say, 25, to expect others to "fix" things when he is irresponsible? Do you want your child to become an adult with a sense of entitlement? You want to shape your child into an adult who takes responsibility for their actions. so every mistake they make is not a chance to shame them, but to let them experience the consequences of their actions.

Lori said...

Thanks, Keri. I understand your point and do agree. I wasn't really referring to instances where you would be directly bailing your child out, or compensating for specific acts of irresponsibility. I have read all of the books you suggested (I am the mother of three and have a Masters in Ed.- so my home library is quite extensive! :)), and I do agree for the most part with the concept of logical consequences.

My point would simply be that as adults, even as responsible adults, we do not always suffer the "logical consequences" of our actions. If you are, for the most part, a conscientious individual then friends and family wouldn't think twice to come to your aid on occasion. Can you imagine if you locked your keys in your car and when you called your husband he just said sympathetically, "Gee honey, that's a bummer, but I'm sure you will figure out a way to get home."? Yet, that is exactly the kind of response we are encouraged to give to our children.

I guess I just believe that if a child is otherwise behaving in a responsible manner, and does not have a chronic problem with lack of judgment, irresponsibility etc... then I don't see why as parents we can't occasionally come to our child's aid as an example of compassion, helpfulness and humility.

Perhaps the key is in Allison's words, "An enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis..." I think I tend to look more for behaviors that seem to be reoccurring and chronic rather than the one time misstep. Maybe that is the distinction I am looking for...

Thanks again for your thoughtful response.

Keri Wyatt Kent said...

Excellent point! I think your point about recurring behavior is a key insight. That and warning people about what your response will be.
My husband tends to be disorganized. He's self-employed, but I don't work for him. He used to run into the house on a regular basis, literally yelling, "I need you to go (insert task related to his business)...because I have to be (insert name of town 30 minutes drive away) in two minutes."
I would yell, moan, fuss, criticize him, but then do what he asked anyway. And feel huge resentment. Finally, I sat him down (at a time both of us were calm) and told him I was no longer going to enable him. That I saw a pattern, but I was going to respond differently to his behavior. I didn't tell him to change, I just warned him I was going to change MY behavior. Instead of moaning, but then giving in and doing it, I was going to say, "Wow, too bad you double-booked yourself. But an lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part." This was hard to do but necessary. And after I did it several times, he quit demanding that I drop whatever I was doing to rescue him.
We get along so much better now that he has grown up a bit in this area. :)

Allison Bottke said...

Great conversations, ladies! I love what Keri said about grace and "cheap grace." She hit the nail on the head with her example. It's a difficult balance to maintain, extending mercy, grace, and logical consequences to specific actions. I've often said that it's one thing to bail a child out of jail one time after they've made a poor choice and have learned their lesson, versus bailing a child out of jail on a consistent basis. Is the negative habit habitual? Do the consequences of their ongoing negative behaviors get worse? I've locked my keys in the car numerous times and while my sweet hubby would do what he could to come help me out, I finally had to realize that he didn't love me less if he was unable to get away and help me out. And in fact, I was being pretty irresponsible in consistently locking myself out of my car and expecting him to rescue me. Therefore, I placed a key in one of those magnet things and hid it under the car. My keys, my car, my responsibility. I guess the bottom line of the message I truly wish to impart with my book is that we cripple our adult children when we place grace and mercy above personal responsibility. Especially when the individual has not demonstrated a conscientious ability to do the right thing most of the time.

There are really no easy answers to all of the issues that parental enabling brings. In my experience, however, I have learned that to gain SANITY when the situation is insanely out of control, we must implement clear and defined boundaries on a consistent basis. It does look hard and cruel at times. No doubt about it. Tough love is tough. Yet Jesus exercised discipline in very specific ways.

I could go on and on, sorry to get on my soap box. Every story is different. Every family dynamic has components that make the situation unique. Yet no matter what the situation, we need to establish boundaries that allow us to live as healthy, happy, and whole human beings. Sometimes that may look a bit selfish and harsh, especially to people who have boundary issues they are unwilling, or unable to address.

And as an FYI, my follow-up book is going to address the issue of setting boundaries with parents and grandparents. I'll have a questionare available on my web site soon. Please stop by and share your opinions.

Llama Momma said...

Thanks for your response, Keri.

At times it is a heavy burden for sure, but I have also been blessed with a great husband and three beautiful kids. And his family is wonderful and supportive -- in many ways, the family I never had.

So that's the good news. I find incredible joy in raising my children differently than I was raised. God's grace in this area amazes me.

And, yes, counseling over the years has been very helpful, especially in dealing with my mom. I should probably find someone to work through the stepmom stuff, though we live on the other side of the country now...

Thanks, again. Blessings...

Keri Wyatt Kent said...

Llama mama,
distance is probably a good thing.
I would love to recommend an excellent book to you and anyone who wants to raise their kids differently than they were raised. It's called The Mom I Want to Be, you can link to amazon to find it at
You'll find this book so helpful and encouraging. Author Mary DeMuth also writes about this topic.

Karin said...

Hi Keri & Allison,

Love the BBR blog - it makes me think. Keri - love the look of the new web site!
My daughter is 16 (son is 14) but it is the daughter that has me most concerned. I feel like she expects more and more, whatever we are doing isn't good enough. An example is for her 16th birthday earlier this year we told her that we were going to get her an iPhone. Then apple came out with the 16g and she told us not to get the 8g because if we couldn't get the 16g, don't bother. I feel like we are being held hostage and that she is expecting more and more. Really struggling with this right now. Will this book help me?