We all want to be great parents and help our kids thrive. That’s exactly why we get so involved in the lives of our children. But the line between “being there” for your kids and tuning into an overbearing parent gets blurry sometimes. That’s when we all ask, “How involved is too involved?”
Have you ever wondered if you are a parent who is overbearing, one who hovers and orbits around your child too much? To help answer that question, let’s take a look some of the things you do each day:
- Arrange lots of play dates
- Play with kids at home
- Take their kids to parks and other interesting places
- Volunteer in their classrooms and other school events
- Shuttle ‘em off to after-school events like sports and music lessons
- Supervise homework each night
- Make family dinners each night
- Read to kids at bedtime
- Snuggle with kids just before they fall asleep
The list is endless. If you’ve ever wondered if you should be less involved in your child’s life, here are some clues to help you determine if you are too involved or not.
Over parenting occurs when happiness is the only goal
In this crazy and stressful world we live in, it’s tempting to focus solely on keeping kids happy. However, doing so can rob children of the ability to handle big emotions when things like homework get difficult. When the focus is on happiness it’s tempting to let kids skip out on obligations to teams and groups because it no longer makes them happy. Even more, it can help children become self-absorbed and ignore or even exploit the plight of other people. When the goal is happiness, kids may start to treat the adults in their lives like hired staff, neglecting to work with them or worse yet, thank them for helping out.
Over parenting occurs when you praise everything
It’s one thing to offer a verbal at-a-boy every now and then. However, one of the big signs that you are over-involved, overbearing, and out of balance is when you praise your child for everything he or she does. Yes, kids need encouragement, but parents can go overboard. For example, giving a “high-five” and a few “good jobs” while potty-training your little one is fine. However, once children master a new task it’s time to back off so they learn to persevere on their own, without external praise and adoration.
Over parenting occurs when you do too much for your children
It’s one thing to carry a child’s back-pack when it’s super heavy. It’s another thing when you find yourself carrying it for your child, even when it’s empty. If you are not careful, your child may start to believe that he lives in a hotel instead of a home. He may believe that you are his personal bellman or concierge instead of his parent.
Over parenting occurs when you reward everything
Yes, rewarding desirable behaviors makes them likely to occur again and again. Yes, it’s tempting to buy or bribe kids with toys to get them to behave in the grocery store. However, doing so helps kids become externally motivated rather than internally motivated. If your child is always looking for what he or she is going to get each time he does something, you are probably on the road to over parenting.
Over parenting creates low expectations for children
If you want to help kids thrive, doling out age-appropriate chores are key. Asking a 4-year old to carry his empty plate to the sink is not too much. Asking a 5-year old to help you make his bed is a good thing. Constantly tying your 6-year old son’s shoes may rob him of the ability to figure it out on his own. The key is to work with but hesitate in helping children accomplish those tasks so they can figure them out independently. That said, when your expectations are below what your child can deliver, you are doing him a disservice. You are robbing him of the ability to understand responsibility, solve age-appropriate problems, and discover how to make key decisions in life.
Over parenting involves loads of warnings and reminders
Once you assign a task clearly, the key is back away and let kids fumble, stumble, and figure it out on their own. If you want to help, avoid telling them what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. If they seem to be struggling, don’t just jump in and help. Instead, ask a good question like, “What do you need to do next, sweetie?” or, “What’s missing?”
Over parenting occurs when you help without being asked
It’s very tempting to love on your children and do everything for them. Keep in mind, if they are going to thrive socially, then it’s a good idea to let them figure out who their friends are without your guidance. Meanwhile, it very common for today’s busy parents tend to schedule play-dates for their kids. Keep in mind that doing so may help undermine your child’s ability to figure out who he likes to play with because he’s too busy making you happy.
It’s equally tempting to do things for your children because they get done faster when you do them yourself. However, doing so can undermine his ability to figure out what goes in his school backpack and how best to fit it all in there, especially when you are not around. In contrast, when parents hand these responsibilities over to their children, they are sending a very powerful unspoken message: I believe you can do this on your own! I trust you! Doing so, helps children become far more creative, resourceful, and confident as they mature.
Adults who over parent avoid mistakes like the plague
It’s been said that the road to wisdom is filled with lots of potholes and mistakes. Contrary to popular belief these days, research shows that the key to all types of learning is experience. For example, children don’t learn to make their bed, brush their teeth, or put their shoes on correctly in a classroom. Instead, they have to learn through trial and error how to perfect those skills. The same is true with riding a bicycle. Children don’t learn how to do it in a classroom; they have to fall off and make key adjustments along the way. Doing so moves them from being a novice to an old pro in just a few months. The key is to let kids learn from their honest mistakes when the price-tag is small. Of course, you don’t put kids in harm’s way, but your healthy involvement may let them struggle a bit and figure life out on their own.
Let’s face it. It’s healthy and enjoyable to get involved in your child’s life. However, if you are too involved and over parent, children can develop an inflated self-image and feel entitled. Or, children end up learning that they are weak, frail, and need to be waited on in life. Both extremes are equally corrosive. Sadly, adults who over parent will likely raise children who struggle with independence, taking responsibility, or expects to be served when others are present.
One of the best ways I know how to avoid over parenting is by asking a simple question: “How do I help my child grow in this situation?” Doing so will help you hesitate before you rush in to help. This simple little question will ensure that your expectations are in line with what you little one can deliver for his age and stage of development. Even more, asking “How do I help my child grow in this situation?” will help you be creative in your options and prevent you from over parenting.
A Point To Ponder
In the end, balance is the key. When you are too involved, offering too much praise, doing too much for your kids, you are over parenting. On the other hand, when you are uninvolved, you are offering no affection, attention, or encouragement and children typically suffer. Again, balance is the key to healthy parenting!
Author: Steve Cuffari For many, Steve Cuffari is the mentor that parents call on to make their parenting style warmer, easier and more affective. He is the founder of inTouch Parenting, a company devoted to helping today's parents calm the chaos, raise emotionally intelligent kids, and nurture families that thrive. read more about Steve Cuffari here...