Is over-parenting too much for kids
Is over-parenting too much for kids – One of my clients, Katherine, came in yesterday and told me that she was feeling frustrated with her son’s behavior. “Today I asked Evan repeatedly to take out the garbage and he just kept saying, ‘Later, Mom.’ I finally did it myself, but I was so angry and resentful,” she explained. “And it’s not only the trash – it’s more important things, like finishing schoolwork. I do virtually everything for Evan – to the point where sometimes I’m exhausted – and he never seems to take any responsibility himself.”
When I asked Katherine why she continued in this way, she said, “I suppose it’s because I felt my parents never did anything for me…and I don’t want Evan to ever feel that way.”
I replied, “I can see this is hurting you – but do you realize you may be hurting Evan, too?”
Katherine’s overprotective parenting style stems from her own sense of neglect, but there are other reasons parents may overcompensate and feel they must do everything for their child.
Fear of Consequences
Fear of dire consequences can cause a parent to step in, e.g., “If I don’t finish the science project for her, she’ll fail the class and never get into college,” or “If I don’t remind him to get to soccer practice on time every day, he’ll get cut from the team.”
Feelings of anxiety about the world in general can drive parents to take control or indulge their children excessively, in the belief that they can keep their child from ever being hurt or disappointed. For instance, “If I let him walk to his friend’s house alone, he may be kidnapped,” or “If I don’t buy her those expensive jeans, she says she just has to have, the other girls will make fun of her and ostracize her from their crowd.”
Although “do-everything” parents have good intentions, they can actually instill their own anxiety in their child. Parents who hover over and micro-manage their children at school functions or during play dates, because they themselves are uncomfortable in social situations, may create children who will mirror that same unease and apprehension.
Studies have shown that an overprotective parent can harm a child by engendering a lack of self-agency, the feeling that they are the agents that can produce a desired outcome, not the parent. Similarly, overprotective parents impede the development of self-efficacy, the sense that one has the capacity to take effective actions. Individuals with diminished self-efficacy are less resilient to stress and underestimate their own resources.
Children who have everything done for them lose the chance to develop valuable coping skills, to gain self-confidence and to learn to bounce back from failure when necessary.
So, if you catch yourself doing too much for your child, step back and give him or her a chance to learn to be more independent –– perhaps at first with a struggle, but later with ease. Chances are you’ll both feel better about yourselves.
Carolyn Daitch, Ph.D has been a psychologist in private practice for 30 years. She is the director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Farmington Hills, near Detroit. www.anxiety-treatment.com