This past weekend I took a trip out to California for the Disney Social Media Moms conference. And although it was a family-centered conference, I went alone. Once I got there I didn’t realize how alone I would really feel. And I found myself consumed with calling my husband to nitpick and over-parent through the phone. What are the kids wearing? I asked. How is Kaitlin wearing her hair? Tell Kaitlin to find the pink headband and put it on. Is Milan’s bun on her head messed up? Then go next door and ask the neighbor Trisha to fix it. Make sure Jo-Jo has the right socks on. And Mikaela needs to wear a scarf every night so her hair doesn’t get messed up too. What was messed up was my tactic to parenting when I didn’t have to parent because a parent was already there handling things. I found that I may over-parent a bit, also known as helicopter parenting, and there are actually many ways that we all over-parent and don’t even realize that we do it. It’s been found that the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy. I know my kids can manage what they wear and how to fix their hair on their own. They are surely old enough. Do you over-parent? If you’re unsure, here are seven ways that you too may be over-parenting your kids.
You may have seen the stories of parents going up to schools to confront bullies or arguing with their sports coach because their child was benched. Be easy. Take a seat and realize that having a hot head can cause more trouble for your kid than you think. For one, confronting another child, hitting, threatening or harassing them can have you thrown in the clink. Instead console your child and guide her on how to handle her own battle by going up the chain of command at school if a bully is an issue. If the coach sits her on the bench and takes her out of the game, then later evaluate what she did to cause that decision. Your child needs to learn coping skills and how to deal when the going gets rough. There’s a great book called Stand Up For Yourselves and Your Friends that gives wonderful insight to help your children handle themselves.
It’s great for your kids to dream big dreams of one day being able to afford their own maid service. But they need to understand that you are not, and won’t be, their maid. If you’re running behind your kids and cleaning up their every spill and smear, then you’re definitely over-parenting. Even 2-year-olds can learn to place their bowl of cereal in the sink. Big kids definitely need to be accountable for the mess they make. And doing things for your child unnecessarily reduces motivation.
We can get quite judgmental when checking out our kids' friends. It’s a parenting thing where we compare our kids to others. And sometimes if we see that another kid lacks some essential skills or basic common sense, then we tend to get protective and not want any of that to rub off on our kid. Take a step back and allow your children to craft their own rating system for their friends based upon what they’ve learned. You’ll be surprised when they prove they can decipher the “good” seeds from the “bad” seeds.
Yes, we are the managers of our kids' lives, but there are just some things we should not micromanage, like picking out their clothes. Teach your kids to be independent thinkers and how to manage what they wear. So what if their shirt doesn’t match their shoes? Show them magazines of famous designers and how they cultivate their own style. Unnecessary intervention can make your children reject you and feel resentful because they don’t have a say. Guide your child but give her enough room to know that her own sense of style is appreciated, even if there are days you want to cringe.
Think back to when your child was learning to walk. He took a few steps, weebled and wobbled, fell and got up again. You were there if he needed guidance, but you didn’t praise him for every step or misstep or chastise him if he didn’t successfully stand on his own. Hanging back and allowing your children to make mistakes is hard. Be there to pat them on the back when they’ve really proven themselves, but you don’t have to pet them and cheer them on for every single thing they do. Help them to be able to deal with failures they can live and grow with. That will make their losses easier to digest.
If you’re packing your kids' afternoon like sardines with sports, various lessons and play dates, there’s a good chance you're over-parenting. Having your kids involved is great, but too much involvement can inhibit their creativity and ability to foster problem-solving skills. Make sure to include lots of free time where your children can insert their own ideas and have creative freedom to express themselves without you hand-holding.
Just like when you offer too much praise, your child won’t learn to appreciate gifts if he’s always getting them, even for the menial things he does. Getting gifts around the holidays won’t hold much weight if he’s constantly consumed with being rewarded with material things regularly. You don’t want to raise a kid that’s ungrateful. You want them to learn to appreciate things they are given. So ease up on the material rewards and let them learn that being honored with rewards only come to those who work hard and truly deserve it.
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