Well-intentioned and loving parents, beware! Over parenting is a 'thing' and even intelligent and devoted parents are doing it, says Dr Wendy Mogel, clinical psychologist and author of The New York Times best-selling parenting book, The Blessing of a B-Minus. According to Mogel, over parenting is a new normal for today's mums and dads who, as dedicated as they may be, still succumb to overindulging, overprotecting and overscheduling their children.
So what is fuelling these parental behaviours?
It's fear, says Mogel. "Parents today are either afraid for their children or afraid of their children." And in an effort to control a world that is seemingly spinning faster than ever before, parents try to control the one thing they believe they can—their children. It's no surprise then, that behaviours that help parents alleviate their fears are common in the signs of over parenting. Here are some signs of over parenting and tips to work through them, from Dr Mogel's program, Overparenting Anonymous (for good parents gone bad):
1.You forbid activities that scare you
Parents are mistaking their child's vulnerability for fragility, explains Mogel. But in order for children to learn increasing independence and gain self-confidence, parents should let their child try age-appropriate (legal!) activities. Adolescence is tricky ground for parents. Taking calculated risks is necessary preparation for post-childhood life. Mogel suggests freedom should be granted based on a child's demonstrated responsibility and accountability.
2. You panic when your child gets a bad grade
Parents panic because they react to one snapshot as if it's the epic movie of their child's life, states Mogel. And to some parents, one bad grade conjures images of their child being forever behind the pack. Instead of critiquing everyday marks, appreciate your child's persistence and hard work, says Mogel. It reinforces the skills and habits that lead to success.
3. You find it hard to say no
Rather than let a child feel disappointment or even hunger, parents are indulging their child, and are afraid to say no to them. Mogel points to the generation of fussy eaters who have learned to be fussy because their parents confuse wants with needs. Work up the courage to say no, is Mogel's advice. You don't always need to reach a consensus.
4. You do everything for your child
You carry their school bag, you shuttle them here and there, you are their personal stylist, cook and cleaner. As children get older, let them do things for themselves, recommends Mogel. Abstain from doing everything for them and let them gain competence in ordinary work.
5. You try and 'fix' your child
You examine your child as if they are your work of art, then unsurprisingly, you find flaws that need to be 'fixed'. Your child is not your masterpiece, states Mogel. Their grades, popularity, or personality traits are not the only measure of them (or you). 'Don't fret over or try and fix what's not broken.'
6. You talk more than you listen
You offer solutions, admonishments and explanations before your child has finished talking. You chime in before they get a chance to finish their sentence. Dr Mogel suggests using this technique before jumping in: Ask, why am I talking (W.A.I.T)? And listen four times more than you talk.
7. You leap quickly into alarm mode
Another fear response in action, explains Mogel. Be alert, yes, but not automatically alarmed. If your child comes to you bleeding, it's not necessarily an emergency situation, explains Mogel. Same for the 'bad' report card or not making the hockey team. Ask: is this alarming, or simply a challenge?
8. You let your child quit quickly
Sometimes children don't like the feeling of being mediocre at something and the learning process before accomplishment can be uncomfortable. Your child can determinedly press their case to quit and you can feel drained by trying to sway their opinion. But quitting is not always the answer, advises Mogel. Listen to your child's concerns and consider them. Also, let your child know that first impressions can change, commitment is honourable, and your investment of time and money is not to be disregarded.
9. You constantly compare your kids with others
Social media is a perfect platform for the brag alert from parents who publish their child's accomplishments and it's easy for parents to react to others' highlights reel. Avoid thinking your child is in some sort of race or competition with other kids, advises Mogel. Don't react as if your child has no prospects for their future— it simply isn't the case. And other parents lie, adds Mogel.
10. Your child has no time to play
Extracurricular activities fill your child's schedule (and yours). In an effort to give your child every opportunity, you deplete your finances and your energy. And everybody else's children are equally busy, so it feels like you are swimming against the tide if you don't provide your child with lots of scheduled activities. Don't undervalue nature and playing outside, utilising all five senses, advises Mogel. Get outside with the kids, or let them have time outside without you hovering by their side.
Mogel's model emphasises guidance and empathy over control and micromanagement. Parents who try and smooth the road for their children are missing the point, asserts Mogel. It's the self-reliant and resilient children and teenagers who will be better prepared for the road ahead of them.