When your newborn baby makes his entrance into the world, you take him into your arms and whisper a promise that no harm will come to him. You will protect him, care for him, and love him for as long as you can. But what happens when your attention and affection backfire and actually do more harm than good? Is that even possible, you wonder.
Sadly, yes. It’s called overparenting. When this happens, children fail to learn how to take care of themselves because they have parents who are more than willing to do it for them. Check out the list below and see if you have a tendency to overparent:
1. Are you the one who chooses your child’s after-school activities? Sure, it’s fine to give your child options, to steer him in a direction you feel would be appropriate, but if your child wants nothing to do with the piano, do not enforce daily lessons. If you control your child’s activities, you are also controlling his interests, making it harder for him to figure out what it is he really likes--and who he really is as he grows up.
2. Do you put your child’s clothes on for her? It’s tough when you’re in a hurry, and you can’t afford to wait for your child’s little fingers to put the buttons on her shirt. But how will she learn how to do a life skill as simple and as important as dressing herself when you’re there to do it?
3. Do you answer when someone asks your child a question? Allow your child to speak up. And wait for her to come up with an answer on her own, too. You can help her along or prod her a bit if it seems like she didn’t hear the question, but allowing her to answer will help build her confidence and teach her to think on her toes.
4. Do you replace a broken or missing toy? If it was an accident and if it hardly happens, it would make sense to replace the toy. But if it was your child’s fault, replacing the toy will only teach him that he doesn’t need to take care of his things because his parents will always be there to replace it. Today, it may be a toy worth a few hundred pesos. But in a few years, it will become a cell phone worth several thousands. Who knows what else when he's bigger?
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5. When your child forgets to bring his project or homework to school, do you drive over and submit it? Your child will not learn how to be responsible for his assignments and other schoolwork because he knows his mommy will rescue him. “It’s school, she cares about my grades. She will help me. I don’t need to put in the effort.” As you can see, overparenting can cause a child to be complacent.
6. When your child is on the soccer field, do you rush to him with a first-aid kit when he trips? Tripping, falling, getting hurt (not seriously injured though!) are a part of sports. This was part of the deal when your child signed up for a game. He must learn how to pick himself up and tend to his wounds by himself, or ask you if he needs you to help. He won’t learn how to ask for help if you’re already there helping before he even knows he’s in pain.
7. Do you find yourself constantly stepping in to referee when your kids fight? Yes, I know, it’s annoying and it’s frustrating, but when you were growing up, you were always fighting with your siblings too. And you learned how to deal with conflict that way. Don’t take away the chance for your kids to learn this great life lesson by stepping in every time they fight. Allow them to figure it out by themselves. You’ll be amazed at how they can actually do it.
8. Do you stop your daughter from running for a position in the student council because you're afraid she might get disappointed? You can already see it: you know she won’t win. But she wants to try, and she wants to see if she can win. You can’t shield her from life’s disappointments forever. They’re part of life. When she’s older and the disappointments get more painful, she will be made of sterner stuff. It’s okay to let go, just make sure you’re there if she needs a shoulder to cry on.
9. When your child breaks a vase in a classmate’s house, do you apologize on his behalf, pay for it, and leave it at that? Your child has broken the vase. Even if it was an accident, you must hold her accountable. If it’s way too expensive for her to pay for out of her allowance, find another way for her to make up for what she did. If she can get away with something like this at a young age, how do you think she will live the rest of her life? That’s not the kind of child you want to raise.
10. Do you carry your child’s backpack for him? Okay, maybe it’s heavy, full of stuff he packed before you left the house. So why are you the one carrying the bag? You are depriving him of the lesson that if he packs it, he must live with the consequences of a heavy bag. One that he needs to carry on his own. Let him carry it, so that next time, he’ll learn to bring only what he can handle. This applies to other things in life as well.
11. When you see your child struggling as she tries to pour water into a glass, do you rush in to help? Not only will your daughter not learn how to pour water into a glass, she also will not learn to try things on her own. She will no longer attempt things she doesn’t know how to do because Mommy will be there to do them for her.
12. When your child is putting a puzzle together, do you give her a step-by-step guide on what to do? If yes, you are taking the fun out of figuring things out! This doesn’t just go for puzzles; it also applies to games, homework, and anything else in life. You have done it before and you do know how it works, but part of the fun for children is discovering how to do it themselves. The fulfillment they will feel after solving a puzzle on their own is unparalleled. Don’t take it away from them, or else they won’t bother trying anymore.
13. Do you constantly praise her and tell her she’s doing a good job? Sure, praise is great, especially when you see your daughter come out victorious after struggling with a particularly difficult problem. But if she just did a simple task such as opening the door to the bathroom without hitting someone, telling her she did a good job will not just lose its sentiment, but it will make her expect praise for every little thing she does. It will cause her to look for external motivation instead of the internal motivation... and it’s the internal kind that we need to be happy individuals.
14. Do you motivate your child with a prize each time you need him to do something? Besides setting yourself up for a cluttered house, you’re teaching your child that every action deserves a reward -- and an external one at that. Eventually, he may end up not doing anything unless he knows that there's something in it for him. And you’ve come across too many annoying people who won’t do anything unless they get something in return to know that you don’t want your child to be one of them.
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15. Do you let the adults take care of all the chores at home? It’s important to teach your child to be responsible for herself. When she spills something on the floor, she has to mop it up. Even if she doesn’t do a good job and you eventually come back later to finish the job, you want to teach her that she needs to pick up after herself. This is a life lesson that isn’t just applicable with material things but with relationships as well.
If you said yes to any (or all!) of the questions above, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent! All it says is that you may need to rethink your parenting style and be more self-aware. Your actions come from a place of love and concern after all. But it’s important to be aware that these seemingly harmless actions can stunt your child’s growth and not just protect him from harm. Loosen your apron strings a little bit and your reward will be a child who is self-sufficient, independent, and grateful to you for allowing him to blossom on his own and choose his own path.