When it comes to parenting, how much is too much?

Where do you draw the line?
Where do you draw the line?

Parenting has come a long way over the last 30 years.

In fact, 30 years ago, there was no such thing as 'parenting'. You were a parent, full stop. It wasn’t a verb.

You simply had to be present and that was enough.  Today, showing up is not enough.

You have to be a doing word. Constantly.  

This pressure to achieve on all fronts has resulted in a much higher level of involvement in our children’s lives.

Do you ever wonder though, how much is too much parenting? Where do you draw the line?

How do you, as a parent, distinguish between encouragement and pressure; guidance and force; and supporting versus rescuing?  

Parenting experts say that the best way to navigate the never-ceasing see-saw of parental angst is to always retain this at the front of your mind: consider yourself more your child’s coach rather than teacher, supporting them in the choices they make rather than choosing for them.

We’re not talking about the little choices, like whether they want the blue top or the red top; we’re talking about the big things, like letting them be lonely, broke, or disappointed.

Those are especially hard to witness. 

This is much easier said than done, especially when the trend is to step in and sort out.

Who is this really for?

Our natural instinct is to try and take our offspring’s troubles away or to want them to get better marks at school, be the best in their chosen sport, or be the most popular in class, but how much of this pushing is about them and their fulfilment and how much is about our own desire to succeed in the eyes of the world?

I often have to check myself and ask: Who is this really for?

My own daughter, who is 8, intrinsically understands the concept of learning via natural consequences, even when I struggle to implement it.

The other day her younger sister, who is 6, was insisting on using all her holiday money (on day one) to buy an el cheapo plastic mermaid that I knew she was never going to play with and that I also knew she was going to regret. 

A battle ensued until my older child called me aside and said: “Mom, just let her buy it, and then she’ll learn.” I was floored by her wisdom, as obvious as it was. 

And I knew she was right.

I was trying to protect my child from disappointment when that very disappointment itself would be the teacher in this lesson. 

Our own childhood wounds

Registered psychologist and play therapist, Tania Johnson, from the Institute of Child Psychology based in Edmonton, Canada, says "Overparenting, otherwise known as helicopter parenting, stems from a deep fear that our child may fail, be rejected, or experience disappointment."

"Very often these fears are a reflection of our own childhood wounds."

"We misguidedly try to heal ourselves by being overly-involved in our child’s life. Children need to experience the ‘psychological’ scrapes and bruises of life to develop a well-rounded persona. Only once we let go, and commit to doing our own personal work, will we see our children flourish into their own unique, beautiful selves."

"Very often these fears are a reflection of our own childhood wounds. We misguidedly try to heal ourselves by being overly-involved in our child’s life."

A constant internal battle

Business analyst and mom of two, Charmaine (36), admits to being guilty of overparenting, too. She says that she knows her children, aged 8 and 5, rely on her for too much even when they are capable of doing something themselves.

"They get lazy and ask me to help. In some ways, I feel I do too much," she says, "but at the same time, I want to do things for them while they are still small as they will have their whole lives to do it themselves."

She says it’s a constant internal battle."I don’t believe that overparenting is the right way, but I think there needs to be a balance between being there to help and letting them do things themselves."

Developmental problems ahead?

Apparently, children who lack opportunities to do things for themselves and make mistakes may experience developmental problems later in life, such as depression, low self-esteem and a lack of satisfaction with their lives.

Armed with this information, it makes sense to take a step back and allow our kids the space to prove themselves.

It’s hard because our over-involvement comes from a place of love; I know I’m definitely guilty of overparenting but somewhere, in some long-forgotten part of my consciousness, I know this: we are not here to shape our children into who we desire them to be; we are here to support our children as they shape themselves.

Signs of an overparented child:

• Your child doesn’t have any responsibilities/chores around the house. For example, you pack their bags for the next day, lay out their clothes, remind them of what they need to bring to school, clean up after them. Even small children can take responsibility, for example, they can put their clothes in the wash, tidy their toys, etc.

• You solve their problems for them. If a child is having an issue with a friend, or a teacher, discuss it with him/her and ask what suggestions he has to solve the problem. Then let him do it, don’t go to the teacher on his behalf unless it’s something serious.

• Your child can’t deal with disappointment – a dropped ice cream, not making a team, failing a test – these are all part of life and children need to accept the situation and move on. It builds resilience.

• Your child doesn’t expect much from him/herself – she knows you’ll save the day.

• You help your child with everything, even if you haven’t been asked to.  Don’t help them with tasks they are capable of doing.

• You make decisions for your child that are rooted in ego.

Are you overparenting your children, or do you think you have the right balance? Let us know!

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