Like anything else in life, it turns out you can do a little bit too much parenting for your own (and your kids’) good.
According to psychologist Dr Lisa Firestone, when we give our kids too much power, we stop being the teacher or caregiver and act like victims (or even slaves) instead.
She writes: “Overindulging, over-rewarding, or babying our children actually serves as a sort of pressure for greatness and a set up for disappointment. The empty acts we mistake for nurturance are, at best, substitutes for real love and, at worst, forms of actual abuse.”
It means that you are doing absolutely everything for your kids, with the result being that you end up with children who are far less independent than parents who leave them to do their own thing.
Yes, that’s right – despite your best intentions, overparenting can do more harm than good.
So what does overparenting look like?
1. You dole out WAY too much praise
Find yourself congratulating your child every time they put their toys away, finish their dinner or brush their teeth? Yep, you may be in danger of this particular one. The idea is that if you keep telling your child how wonderful they are for doing the bare minimum of what’s expected, they lose a bit of motivation to keep on doing things to the best of their ability.
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A simple “Good job, buddy” is usually all that’s required to acknowledge your child’s efforts, rather than lashings of praise. Save the praise for the real milestones.
2. You’re always buying rewards for your kid’s good behaviour
The material things you offer as a reward, possibly for good behaviours that you’re already praising in point one, create a level of expectation that becomes pretty unattractive after a while. It sets a dangerous precedent and potential for a bratty kid who expects stuff for doing what they should.
As with the praise, save the rewards for when your child has really achieved a significant step forward that you’d like to acknowledge.
3. You set the bar too low
Of course, this comes with good intentions because you’re worried they’re already doing too much at school, or you assume they’re ‘too young’ to take part in certain household tasks. So you don’t give them any responsibilities at home. Combine that with point one and two, and you’re on dangerous ground.
Everyone needs to do a job or two around the house; it helps them feel part of the team and sets them up to be ready for the big move out of home. It also teaches kids that keeping the household flowing well is not just Mum’s job – everyone should take part.
Even toddlers can help with a few little chores around the home – here’s some great ideas to start with.
4. You’re always trying to prevent mistakes
Hot objects, fingers in doors, falling off the bike. When it comes to your kids, there are loads of potential disaster areas, but that doesn’t mean you have to prevent them all on your own! Kids need to learn from their mistakes, to really learn from them.
Of course you need to teach your children about the dangers of life, and even warn them when necessary, but an element of risk is necessary for all kids’ development. If we jump in and ‘save’ them every time, they can’t learn about important stuff like cause and effect, building resilience and keeping themselves safe.
5. You offer help before the kids ask for it
It can be tough to hold back from helping when your kids are trying to do something independently, especially when we’re already in a rush to get out the door on time. But more often than not, it’s well worth standing by and seeing what they come up with themselves. Kids need to repeat fine and gross motor skills again and again to really gain competency in them. This means letting them try and try again. This builds their critical thinking and problem solving skills better than anything we can teach them.
6. You keep telling your kids what to do and when to do it
We’ve all been there, standing by the front door shouting for everyone to “put your shoes on” or “brush your teeth.” But get the balance wrong, and your kids end up never understanding when things need to happen, independently.
Helping our kids learn their own time management skills involves lots of patience, but there are some great ways to build these skills, such as using a morning checklist (with pictures for younger kids) to remind them of the steps to get through each day, and visual timers (like an egg timer) to help them keep track of the time for each task.
Scholastic have a great age-by-age guide to teaching kids time management, check it out!
For tips on building your children’s independence and resilience, check out any of the below resources:
- “I can do it, Mum!” Raising an independent child 101
- Maggie Dent shares her 6 secrets to raising resilient kids
- 8 ways to encourage your big school kid to be more independent
- Why all parents need to teach their kids resilience – and how to do it
- Why raising resilient kids is NOT about ‘tough love’
- Teaching your toddler to play independently (so you get a break!)
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