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Myers Counseling Group

Counseling the whole person

When, How, and Should of Intervening with A Loved One

There are behaviors and characteristics from loved ones that we usually except as part of their personality.  It does not mean that we may particularly enjoy that trait or behavior, but feel it is something we decide we can live with. A wife may except her husband’s socks may never quite make it into the laundry hamper. A husband can tolerate a wife who leaves her used cups around the house. A parent may not enjoy their child’s taste in music, but resign themselves to it playing when they are doing homework. To some degree we all make tradeoffs in having someone a part of our lives.  If we did not make compromises, the human species would probably not be around today. There are some behaviors/traits that are not something we can walk away from. It is too uncomfortable, unhealthy, or unsafe to walk away from. Whether it be from a child’s poor grades or a spouses drinking habits, deciding how, if, or when to intervene are not always clear. When, how, and even if we should intervene are not decisions that are black and white.

Often times, the response to concerning behaviors/traits, are tough decisions to make. Even when someone could decide to intervene they may not always be consistent in how to approach it. For example, a parent who wants their child’s grades to improve may be after them all the time. Making threats, sometimes punishing them for poor grades. Yet, may not say anything when they have friends over on a school night. The child is receiving mixes messages that you are concerned with their grades yet allowing behavior to continue (having friends over) that interfere with the goal. A similar example is a wife who is concerned about her husband’s drinking yet buys him beer when shopping.

Once someone decides that a behavior is worth intervening on, it is important to let the other individual know you are concerned and what you plan to do about it. If a child has poor grades a parent could decide that until grades improve, there are going to be limits to their social life. The wife whose husband is drinking may let him know that you are no longer buying alcohol for him or going to social events with him because he drinks.

Deciding not to intervene is also an option. A parent could choose to let their child do their own thing with grades. If that direction is chosen, the parent has to accept potential consequences that come along with their approach (poor or failing grades).  Some helpful guidelines are:

  • Let the other person know you are concerned about their behavior
  • Present to them what you plan to do (or not do).
  • Be specific
  • Remain consistent and aware of behavior on your part that may present mixed messages
  • Accept consequences that come along with your decision or environment that can result of limit setting (angry teen or unhappy husband in examples above)
  • Explain why you are doing what you are doing, however, over explaining can be counter productive
  • Resign yourself in that they may not agree with what you are doing or how you see things but make sure they are clear on how you are going to address it
  • Access your ability to carry out consequences. Do not make threats that you cannot or won’t follow through with
  • Solicit support if available and productive. This could also mean family, friends, and/or professional support

 

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