When my oldest daughter was ten, her best friend, the most popular in school, started controlling her. I first discovered it by overhearing my daughter on the phone discussing what to wear to school. During the conversation, I saw my daughter visibly shrinking into herself. As I asked further questions, my daughter disclosed that her friend was forcing her to wear certain clothing under the threat of being shunned by the other girls. Incensed, I had an entire conversation in my head with the girl’s mother. Suddenly, I had the realization that if I rescued her from this situation she would never learn how to handle controlling people. Was I overparenting my child?
Our children begin, as babies, completely dependent on us. We have eighteen years to move them from complete dependence to independence. Oftentimes, this happens as we allow them to manage complicated situations without our intervention. Here are a few common ways moms could be doing too much for their children hindering that independence.
Catering too much
My third child is a very picky eater hating bread, sauces, and specific textures. I would go the extent of not adding sauce to the dish for her portion. She was then required to eat the same meal as the rest of us. If I had made special food just for her she might have developed a sense of entitlement. It’s important for kids to learn that life doesn’t cater to our peculiarities.
As loving moms, we want to prevent our kids from experiencing pain. Disappointment and pain are a natural byproduct of life. One of my daughters had a difficult time managing disappointment. It seemed to shatter her world when it happened. It was tempting to divert potential disappointment away from her. Instead, I helped her process her feelings and make suggestions for how to overcome it.
Mediating between them and their dad
As a stay-at-home mom, I felt I knew my kids better than their dad. He didn’t always appreciate my coaching him in his relationship with them. I also realized that theirs would be a life-long relationship. I had to bite my lip on several occasions while they learned how to relate to each other. Each parent has differing skill sets and gifts to share with their children. Resist the temptation to intervene unless you find it absolutely necessary.
Buying them everything they want
As joyful as it is to buy our children wonderful gifts, it’s important that kids learn to save up and buy things. When my kids wanted some new electronic device or expensive jeans, we told them they had to earn the money for themselves and save up for it. It was difficult, for all of us, to have to wait for what we, as parents, could have just purchased right away. The delay allowed our kids to decide if they really wanted it. It also created a greater sense of value for the item. If their sister borrowed it, I would hear them say, “Take care of that! It was expensive.” And I would chuckle to myself in appreciation.
Not letting kids fail
It’s important that kids have the freedom to fail and learn how to recover. It’s hard to watch them face failure. Not stepping in helps them learn to accept that failure happens in life and valuable lessons are gleaned from it. Instead, I used those times of failure to help coach them through those lessons. One personal example of this is my kids’ science projects. Instead of hounding them to complete it, I would give them a couple of reminders and then allow them to experience the consequences of procrastination.
Tell us! What are some challenges you have faced trying to not do too much for your children?