3. “The Game Changer”
Uber parenting could be harming our kids
Here is the game changer – a wake-up call for all of us. There is a danger in super parenting. By trying to keep up with the demands and expectations of the modern parenting, we might actually be harming our children.
As with most things, moderation is key. It is undeniably positive when parents provide their child with opportunities and supports to help the child get to know himself, gain experience, and build confidence and independence.
But when these efforts become excessive, we can find ourselves over parenting.
[…]we spend a lot of time being very concerned about parents who aren’t involved enough in the lives of their kids and their education or their upbringing, and rightly so. But at the other end of the spectrum, there’s a lot of harm going on there as well, where parents feel a kid can’t be successful unless the parent is protecting and preventing at every turn and hovering over every happening, and micromanaging every moment, and steering their kid towards some small subset of colleges and careers.
[…] keep them safe and sound and fed and watered, and then we want to be sure they go to the right schools, that they’re in the right classes at the right schools, and that they get the right grades in the right classes in the right schools. But not just the grades, the scores, and not just the grades and scores, but the accolades and the awards and the sports, the activities, the leadership. We tell our kids, don’t just join a club, start a club, because colleges want to see that. And check the box for community service. I mean, show the colleges you care about others.
It’s now generally accepted that type A “uber parenting” or over parenting, and the dizzying schedules we build in the process, aren’t good for kids, parents, or family units.
[…] 21st-century parenting and by striving for the very best for our children, to make their upbringings perfect, ironically we might be doing as much harm as the intended good.
[…] when we treat grades and scores and accolades and awards as the purpose of childhood, all in furtherance of some hoped-for admission to a tiny number of colleges or entrance to a small number of careers, that that’s too narrow a definition of success for our kids. […] even though we might help them achieve some short-term wins by overhelping … all of this comes at a long-term cost to their sense of self.
[…] we should be less concerned with the specific set of colleges they might be able to … get into and far more concerned that they have the habits, the mindset, the skill set, the wellness, to be successful wherever they go.
Where is the line when we cross into over parenting and what are the consequences?
By trying desperately to check all of the boxes of what the “perfect parent” should give their child we’re actually:
- stressing our kids out
- modelling lack of work life balance and
- not giving our kids the space in their lives to develop some really important skills.
[…] we are actually harming our children more by not allowing them to learn about their own environments and how to navigate and problem solve without a parent making every decision for them.
Researchers found that people who reported their parents had … encouraged dependence were more likely to have low scores in surveys of happiness and general wellbeing carried out in their teens, their 30s, their 40s and even their 60s.
Helicopter parenting is defined as over-involvement in children’s lives including making important decisions for them, solving their problems and intervening in their conflicts, say the researchers.
And the consequences of helicopter parenting on offspring can include low self-esteem and high-risk behavior like binge drinking, according to the researchers, whose first study indicated that children of helicopter parents are less engaged in school.
In the study, 438 undergraduate students from four U.S. universities self-reported on their parents’ controlling behavior, their sense of self-worth and their risk behaviors and study habits.
Responses from the student participants, whose average age was 19, indicate an association between helicopter parenting with decreasing self-esteem and increasingly risky behavior, according to the study.
Children whose parents frequently intervene are more likely to experience anxiety. Although the link is not necessarily causal, being constantly rescued is likely to reduce your confidence. Meanwhile, when children play alone they meet challenges – and learn to solve problems, honing their creativity skills in the process.
These early interactions may also have long-term consequences. Research with college students has found that the higher the degree of parental “helicoptering”, the greater the risk of student depression and anxiety. On the flip side, those students who are used to their parents enabling everything, are more likely to display traits of narcissism and entitlement. Anxiety is not good, but neither is overconfidence and an expectation that life should be easy.
By over parenting we send our children the message: “Hey kid, I don’t think you can actually achieve any of this without me””.
And here’s what it feels like to be a kid in this checklisted childhood. First of all, there’s no time for free play. There’s no room in the afternoons, because everything has to be enriching, we think. It’s as if every piece of homework, every quiz, every activity is a make-or-break moment for this future we have in mind for them, and we absolve them of helping out around the house, and we even absolve them of getting enough sleep as long as they’re checking off the items on their checklist. And in the checklisted childhood, we say we just want them to be happy, but when they come home from school, what we ask about all too often first is their homework and their grades. And they see in our facesthat our approval, that our love, that their very worth, comes from A’s. […]
And our kids, regardless of where they end up at the end of high school, they’re breathless. They’re brittle. They’re a little burned out. […] And they’re withering now under high rates of anxiety and depression.
It’s easy to fall into the helicopter parenting trap because no parent wants their kid to be behind the bell curve for things like learning how to walk, talk or go to the bathroom by themselves. Andrea recalls getting an email from an anxious mother whose child was not catching on to potty training. She replied: “Show me one adult who is not potty trained. Relax, it’s going to happen”.
How can we avoid this?
Let’s explore giving our children freedom to be kids and take risks
Allowing children freedom to take appropriate risks through unstructured free play is essential for their development. This includes the old-fashioned notion to allow kids to be kids. Let then climb trees, get dirty, make messes, and push themselves to try new things. All of this teaches kids to be confident to test their limits, to problem solve and gain valuable judgment.
By treating children as vulnerable, passive people who are unable to make decisions or do things by themselves, parents end up doing more work and the child is robbed of important and valuable learning opportunities.
The culture of fear is influencing the way we parent, despite the world being a lot less dangerous than it was 30 years ago. Overprotecting children has postponed adulthood some five to 10 years, putting a huge burden on parents because they are still parenting when their kids are in university or college.
“With intensive parenting, we’ve taken away a lot of kids’ autonomy,” says Andrea. “We’re micromanaging them and coddling them and pampering them. We’ve not let children go through the natural progression of growing up. I think it’s a huge loss to children. They’ve lost their childhood in some ways because they’re so micromanaged but then they also never become adults.”
Of further concern is that uber parenting is hurting parents’ health too. This should encourage us to pay attention to the very real physical and emotional tolls of parenting with caring for ourselves, too.
We need to spend less time paying attention to the anxiety provoking noise of parenting expectations and consider what’s really best for our children in the long term, even if it’s temporarily more difficult, and possibly makes them annoyed with us.
Raising a family can be a lot of pressure in our Instagram-happy, Pinterest-perfect culture. With so many friends and followers posting and, yes, bragging about their kids and lives, how does “oversharenting” affect us as parents? And more important: What is it doing to our kids?
It’s also important to consider how many of the world’s most successful adults weren’t over parented, didn’t follow a predictable path and many didn’t even get post-secondary education. Here’s only a few: Steve Jobs, Sir Richard Branson, Ted turner, JK Rowling, Michael Dell, James Cameron, Wolfgang Puck, Ellen, Frank Lloyd White and Walt Disney.
All of these success stories share a common thread of confidence, innovation and creativity. I think we really need to pay attention to this.
Maybe the road to success isn’t about grades, awards, and top universities. Maybe we should be focusing on ensuring our kids have a strong foundation in a much broader range of experiences and skills.
What is the alternative to over parenting? What’s important to give our kids?