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 on finishing their ice cream? Yep, you may be in danger of this particular one. The idea is that if you keep telling your child how good they are, they lose a bit of motivation to keep on doing things to the best of their ability.
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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.
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. 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.
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! Some kids need to learn from their mistakes, to really learn from them.
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. But more often than not, it’s well worth standing by and seeing what they come up with themselves.
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.
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!)