How Parents Sabotage a Child's Efforts
For a parent standing on the sidelines, the most excruciating part of watching a child do battle with OCD is coming to terms with the many times you cannot and must not help him. This is a tough thing for many parents to see and not do. Many parents say they need to learn this lesson over and over again. Helping can actually hinder your child's progress in treatment for OCD. The more you do for him, the less he'll do for himself. It's that simple, but not simple to put into action. Here are several things not to do:
Don't get involved in his rituals (for example, opening doors for him).
Don't make excuses for your child.
Don't assist (even if it's hard).
Don't reassure or comfort him when he's confronting something.
Don't change the rules without consulting him.
Don't take over his treatment.
Don't criticize his efforts.
Don't overpraise, or praise him for doing nothing.
Don't encourage him to avoid the hard things.
When parents step in to help when self-effort by a child is called for they are engaging in what can be called a “fix-it attack.” If you're having a fix-it attack, you should stop what you're doing. Another word for this kind of unproductive intervention is enabling. Borrowed from the twelve-step program for dealing with addictions, enabling means doing for someone something they should do themselves, cleaning up after someone's messes, or not challenging someone who is hurting himself and others by his actions or lack of action.