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Do parents who coddle their kids actually love them?

Tagged as: Big Questions, Family<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (14 June 2013) 11 Answers - (Newest, 18 June 2013)
A female United States age 30-35, anonymous writes:

I was dating this guy and everything was going good and it seemed we were becoming serious until I started finding out more about him and his family dynamics. A few months in I found out he lived with his mother (he was 36 at the time). I was shocked but he convinced me it was temporary. A few more months passed and I noticed he was making no effort to save money or move out and later found out he'd been living with his mom for years. He worked a menial job and spent all his free time out partying and drinking with his buddies.

I started having a serious issue with this and confronted him about it on several occasions which led to arguing. Apparently he went back and told his parents that I was "giving him a hard time and stressing him out." Naturally I assumed his parents would agree that he needed to get his act together and understand where I am coming from. Boy was I wrong. They started to hate me for being such a meany to their son. And started trying to find flaws in me and put me down. They went so far as to turn it around on me. I'm just "using" him (for what? I don't know) and I am not his responsibility, and all I want is for him to take care of me. (I'm a hard worker, have my own place, responsible, take care of myself). They completely missed the point...or at least pretended to miss the point to cover up the dysfunction.

We kept dating for a little while longer but it became too much and we eventually parted ways because he could not handle my "crazy" and "unrealistic" expectations of him, which his parents back him on 100%.

I still keep in touch with him. He is still doing nothing with his life and partying all the time. I still think about it. His parents cater to his every whim even if it is detrimental to his life. If not being responsible and partying all the time is what makes him happy (which in the short run it does) then they support it. If being responsible or having sense knocked into him puts too much stress on him, then they reject it and take a serious issue with it. In the meantime the kid is a big loser because his parents enable him to do nothing for the sake of him being "happy." Which deep down he's not. He's completely lost and is depressed, he's told me. But this behavior/mentality has been a lifelong pattern and is so ingrained in him that he does nothing about it. He thinks it is normal. So he has problems in relationships because he expects to be treated the way he grew up being treated. And no adult is going to do that nor finds it appropriate. That's why he remains so close to his parents. They are the ones who missocialized him and therefore the only one's who support his ways. And it affected the foundation of our relationship because he thinks it is okay to do anything, even if it is wrong, for gratification, even in the short run, without considering the consequences.

My question is what is the purpose of coddling? It doesn't seem like love to me. Is coddling love? What in actuality is it?

View related questions: depressed, money

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A male reader, Serpico United States +, writes (18 June 2013):

I dont know about loving them, but as I have written here before, IMO coddling children is one of the most damaging things a parent can do to them. Unfortunately, I see the incidence of this only increasing as time goes on.

I am one of five boys in my family. Believe me when I tell you NONE of us were coddled in the least. You learned at a young age you did what you were told, you didnt back talk, and failure to adhere to the set of rules put forth and the rod was most definitely not spared. I will admit, I resented it when I was young. It seems my friends/cousins could do whatever they wanted yet I had all of these rules to follow and work to do. Fast forward 25 years, I am not sitting on top of a multi-million dollar company, and many of these friends are still living in their parents house. It is not just me either, but ALL of my brothers. Despite neither one of my parents graduating high-school, all of us sibling either went to college or learned a trade. All of us are now financially successful. All of us are in stable healthy relationships, save the youngest who is still in is "sowing oats" phase.

Now in my 40s, not a single day goes by without me giving thanks for how tough my parents were on me. In this country, IMO emphasizing a childs "creativity" and the like are over-emphasized, and success-building traits such as discipline, self-reliance, and perseverance are minimized if not ignored completely. IMO we dont have a "creativity" problem in this country, we have a discipline problem, and I think the result of which you can see in almost every corner of our society.

I am planning to have children soon. I can promise you they will NOT be coddled. Thanks mom and dad!

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (16 June 2013):

Ooo, a follow up- and a lovely one at that!

Thinking about your reasons for asking, and following on from my answer (below your follow up); it seems that actually there are several questions on coddling parents here;

Do they love their kids? -Yes

Are they being responsible parents? This might depend if there is a reason to 'coddle'... has the kid been through particularly hard times/ are they especially vulnerable/ shy… Would a push in the right direction help them achieve their goal or actually break them? Obviously every situation is different, and it’s a judgement call- but I think the starting point has to be to encourage independence unless something prevents it.

Which leads me to my next thought;

Are they being a friend or a parent? Parents can't always be 'the nice guy' -especially as kids are growing up and need to learn good manners and how to behave. I suspect that your ex's parents may be being too 'nice' to say no without realising that it might help him more to have to learn to fend for himself. But its very subjective- and we don't know his full circumstances.

You'd expect by his mid-late 30s that his parents shouldn't even have to tell him to move out- and that he'd have already chosen to years ago. If you'd asked him when he was 18 where he thought he be when he was 36, I'd be very surprised if he said still living at home with his folks. Something must have happened/ changed, and I'd be interested to know what happened for him to end up back at home and not even eager to leave anytime soon. 'Life happens' and it’s for parents to guide their kids through the harder times- but that isn't always about just saying 'yes' all the time. Sometimes it takes hard truths and tough love to push their children to become (and stay!) independent adults.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (16 June 2013):

I'm the op. Thank you for the responses.

You guys are all right. Really loved all the insightful answers. I guess we just weren't compatible.

I did go into it with certain expectations. Me and all my friends and ex boyfriends come from a very different train of thought. Our parents all love us but they push us toward independence. I guess I wasn't too tolerant toward someone of a different mentality.

I saw behaviors that were very detrimental to his well being. Drinking, partying, driving drunk. It was all going on under his mom's nose. As long as he's "happy," they turn a blind eye to irresponsible behaviors that could land him in jail or in a hospital. That's why I asked, is that actually love? Most parents don't want their kids doing stuff like that. Especially not if they're living under their roof, and they can witness firsthand the detriment of their kids' actions.

I didn't care that he had a menial job. I cared that he was irresponsible. And I also became suspicious of his parents for enabling and encouraging it. I saw a lot of contradictions. In loving and protecting someone so much that you are actually putting them in harm's way. But like Haribo said, it's just not an intelligent kind of love.

And you guys are right it is not my problem anymore and I shouldn't criticize or judge when all I have to do is accept our values are different and simply walk away.

THANK YOU! Loved each and every post.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (16 June 2013):

There are a lot of assumptions here, but assuming that your assumptions are correct and that he would indeed be happier and/ or more fulfilled if he moved out and moved one from the roost...

Then I'd liken it to if anyone's ever asked you to force them out of bed at a specific time- even if they rollover and refuse when they're super-sleepy when it come to morning.

Its actually very hard- you wake them, ask em one or twice to get up... but do you have the heart to actually force them to get up? It probably depend what they need to be up for, and can they have another 20 mins or whatever... either way tho- its not hard because you don't love them- its hard because you hate to be the person making them suffer in the immediate/ short term, even if its for their greater good in the long term.

so yes- they do love their kid/s very much, even if they're not necessaily setting them up as well as they could for getting on in life/ successufully facing the future as adults.

I sincerely hope that you meet someone that you can be happy with as they are, without trying to fundamentally change them. Because it doesn't often work!

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A female reader, Got Issues United Kingdom +, writes (15 June 2013):

Got Issues agony auntI see where you're coming from. It sounds like he lacks ambition and is quite happy living like a teenager/young adult. The good news is that it's his problem, not yours, and he doesn't even see it as a problem, so it's actually nobody's problem at all.

Living at home in your 30s is neither right nor wrong. Look at the first answerer. She says that in India, it is considered shocking if a man in his 30s doesn't live with his parents. It's all to do with culture and society. Western society dictates that people should all move out and live independently by the time they're 25 and if they don't, they are losers. It would make a lot more sense to just not worry about what other people are or aren't doing.

You surely know by now that you can't change people. If you like a person, you accept them as they are. One of my friends is going out with a guy who constantly criticises her drinking (it's not excessive, but he would prefer for her to be teetotal) and puts her down and tries to make her stop. She was drunk when they met, so that should have given him some indication that they were not so compatible if not drinking was something that was so important to him in a woman. It's his problem. If something bothers you that much about a person, you shouldn't even go out with them in the first place.

I'm sure coddling is done out of deep love, but perhaps an inability or lack of desire to set boundaries and push a person to become independent. I'm no authority on this, as I have never been coddled in my life, but I've seen people who are coddled by their parents and their parents clearly love them but want to fight their battles for them and can't let go when it's time. Cerberus is right in that they are never going to see eye to eye with you on this. They have allowed him to stay living with them, meaning they like having him around. You criticising them and him and trying to change him is just going to come across as rude and controlling.

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A female reader, CindyCares Italy + , writes (15 June 2013):

CindyCares agony auntAlthough I am Americanized enough that a 36 y.o. guy still living at home sounds like bad news to me too also sounds to me that you chose the wrong guy for you, it did not work, and now you are unloading your disappointment and frustration over his parents and their real or presumed bad parenting skills.

It seems to me this is a case of " I love you- you are perfect - now change ". I am not even sure that coddling has got anything to do with it. There's nurture and there's also nature. This guy came out not up to your standards , and rather than blaming yourself for having picked and put up for quite a while with someone who's not up to your standards, you blame it on his parents.

You knew that the guy had a menial job. You are free to prefer more successful, affluent, ambitious professionals , nothing wrong with that - but , guess what, not all people who have menial jobs feel sad and deprived for having menial jobs and like they MUST do something about it . Some do, some don't. First you assume that if the guy tried harder he could make for himself a better position. But maybe not. Maybe he is a regular guy that has not got any particular talent, drive, ability , is not born to be a leader, and got a job that's fitting his skills . Or also, he does not put the same value you place on social and monetary accomplishments . He likes his life as it is and thinks that the better income he could get is not worth the efforts he should make to get it.

As for not saving up for moving out - with you, or to please you - you are upset because he did not, and I think you are ( understandably ) upset because he thought you were not important enough to make the effort. It's obvious that he's got it easy and comfy at home, and he saves a bunch. So it's natural that he is not raring to change things- unless he has a strong motivation. You were not strong motivation enough, and , while this may be galling, it is what it is. How do you know that he would NEVER move out - for the right person or the right motivation ?

Ok, you think he SHOULD want it for himself, for a matter of pride, of independence, etc. I think that too. But HE does not. Often people are not how we want them to be, and do not want the things that we think they SHOULD want.

Either we can take them as they are- or we leave them be. Shaping people to your image and resemblance it's too hard a task for a common mortal.

Ditto for his drinking. You had a problem with his constant partying and drinking, I can understand that , I am not much of a drinker and I'd find it boring too. I'd much prefer someone who can share MY interests and pastimes, which do not include drinking binges.

But, how long does it take to find out that the guy is a lush and won't be dragged dead to a good movie, or a concert or whatever is it that you like ? One month, two ? All the rest is wasted time, no point in STAYING and tryng to turn a pubcrawler into a concert goer, or a bridge player. It's unfair too, you can introduce people to new ideas , new hobbies, new environments, but you can't just shove them down their throat if they don't like them.

It sounds like , basically, you were not very compatible and you've got very different ideas about how life should be lived. That's what sunk your love boat, not the real or imaginary coddling by his parents.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (15 June 2013):

OP forgive me but you come across as terribly judgemental and bitter.

You cast down his parents based on ignorant assumptions. First off you assume you know him better than the two people who have known him 36 years, raised him, live with him and who he actually communicates with. They know he's depressed and unhappy, I'm not even a parent but I can tell you exactly how my sisters are feeling, without them even telling me. I know when they're happy, sad, putting on a show of happiness, even my youngest sister who is 18. 18 years in my life is enough for me to able to read her very well, nevermind 36 years of life.

You think I'd ever kick a family member in a vulnerable mental state out of my house?

Maybe in your family you'd kick out a depressed, lonely family member who needs support or constantly dig at them by telling them how immature they are, how shit their parents are etc., but in my family and obviously his we support that kind of family member until they've gotten their act together. You can't coddle a 36 year old.

You think it's somehow unusual then that they'd dislike a woman who openly criticises him and them, actively lowers his self worth, gives him shit, thinks making him feel like shit is "help" and argues with him about how he lives his life? A 36 year old man? Shit OP, I'd tell a person like that to fuck right off, one of my sisters had a boyfriend like that, didn't last long. If you don't like how someone lives their life then piss off and live your own, what do you do?

You patronize him, treat him like a child, say that his parents are coddling a 36 year old man, seriously?

You psychoanalyse his entire 36 years of life and recognize his life patterns?

OP I get it, you're pissed it didn't work out, you're looking for reasons it didn't but where you came up with blaming how he raised, criticising that, judging them all and even coming this insane question of whether parents who coddle love their children, that's the most patronizing, sanctimonious, holier than thou bullshit I've ever heard.

Perhaps the reason it didn't work out between you too is that you're a know-it-all who thinks other people and the way they live are beneath you OP because that's exactly how you sound. instead of realizing you can't work with a man like him and walking away you stick around and make it your life's mission to put them down and criticise them.

You wonder whether coddling is love? Well is baseless criticism love? Is patronizing people, giving them constant shit for not living the way you want them to love?

OP from what I see you're just a woman who came into his life and then tried your best to tear him down so you could build him back up into something you want him to be.

You just weren't compatible, it really isn't a big deal yet here you are questioning whether his own parents love him? No offence OP, but you're the one who needs to take a long hard look at how you view others and how you treat them.

From my point of view I can see why his parents didn't like you because you just turn up, tell him he, they and his life are shit and are convinced you know better than all of them and that they don't love him.

While we're on the theme of psychoanalysis, you exhibit some very controlling behaviour and some very narcissistic traits. Might want to do some introspection and ask yourself why you think people are so far beneath you and look into the possibility that just because people do things differently doesn't make your way better or the right way for everyone.

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A female reader, haribo158 United Kingdom +, writes (15 June 2013):

In my opinion, some parents think that merely love is enough when raising children, they raise them not too different to the way people raise pets-they keep them healthy, housed, fed, happy. And they think that's all that's necessary. Unfortunately parents with a bit more sense understand that as well as these duties, you also need to project expectations on to your children, make them have goals, achievements, independence etc.

Also, the kind of parents that just coddle seem to not be able to distinguish between unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness/acceptance - ie. a good parent that truly understands unconditional love will show their anger/disappointment etc. when a child does something wrong in their life (while still loving them), whereas the coddling parents will always give their kid a big hug and say no worries baby it's not your fault! everytime they screw up (thinking that anything else would constitute not loving a child), hence the child/adult loses any ambition, willingness to try and anything, because no matter what their parents will always praise them.

Back to your question do these parents actually love their kids? I believe yes, it's just not an intelligent kind of love.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (15 June 2013):

Of course the love him. Most parents love their children, there is nothing here to doubt. Unfortunately protecting your children this way never was beneficial for children. I know several families when this occurred, and kids ussualy turn out the way your ex boyfriend is. Parents end up paying for everything, and kids turn out to be if not low lives but quite helpless and alone.

These children ussualy never marry, how can they, if they are incapable to take care of themselves. Then they become "old" children, who still assume behavour of youth. Your ex at 36 still was going to drinking parties acting like 20something guy. At 36 most people calm down a little as far as partying goes, as their life style ussualy changes. They have to get up early to go to work, by that time ussualy people are married and have a child or two.

Even if he finds someone it will be a woman so WILL treat him as his mommy did his whole life. She is going to have a child for a husband, and if this is what she wants then he ll be all set. But it's not your problem anymore.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (15 June 2013):

"My question is what is the purpose of coddling? Is coddling love? What in actuality is it?"

Coddling enables weak-willed, self-absorbed breeders to avoid the unpleasant but necessary responsibilities of parenting to which children would be expected to respond negatively in the short term while ultimately benefiting positively in the long term.

I assume it is a misguided response to such breeders' own dysfunctional childhoods, trying to give their kids what they perceived they lacked growing up but grievously overcompensating in the process by falsely equating affection and indulgence with love.

If his parents are not in a position to ensure he is so well off financially that he can't possibly spend all that they leave him, then he is in for a very rude introduction to the real world when they are no longer around to coddle him.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (15 June 2013):

being from "India" , I am shocked at your shock on him living with her mother.

I am unable to understand what is the problem here? In india we would have been shocked and it would have been a discussion point , IF he would NOT have lived with his parents.

But may be cultures differ.

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