We all want to protect our teens from failure and disappointment. That’s why we often find ourselves calling their teachers, arranging for tutors and helping them one-up their classmates. But, says expert George S. Glass, by overparenting—and overprotecting—we’re actually sending our children the wrong message.
By George S. Glass
WE ALL WANT OUR TEENS to have a good jumpstart on their future. This is why so many of us make it our missions to lead them on the right path to success. Unfortunately, in doing this, a lot of us end up taking control and thus driving the epidemic of overparenting in today’s society.
The result? Teens who don’t learn valuable lessons about life, success and failure.
WHY WE OVERPARENT
The media is full o f stories about how jobs are disappearing overseas, that a college, or even a post-college degree, is not enough to guarantee future success, leaving a parent feeling they have to do “whatever it takes” to ensure their child will “one-up” their classmates—be it going to college prep summer camps or hiring tutors to facilitate admission to schools deemed elite by magazine surveys.
All of these efforts can be considered overparenting; in which parents intervene to set up advantageous situations for their children, such as pushing them into activities that interest the parents more than the child, calling up teachers when their teen has a bad grade on a test, or hassling coaches when their teen does not get enough playing time. Some of these activities are not bad when there is a crisis, but on a continual basis, they can be destructive for your teen.
SENDING THE WRONG MESSAGE
Constantly intervening, overscheduling and pushing your child into activities they have no interest or talent in gives the teen several messages
you, as a parent, do not want them to get. The first message that overparenting gives is that your child feels they are not good enough on their own.
The second message is that failure is so terrible that it should be avoided at any cost rather than the acknowledgment that we all make mistakes and something useful can be learned from all of them. In addition, by intrusively intervening and overscheduling, you as a parent miss out on being able to help your child understand what happened when they make a mistake, and teach them how to use their own resources to change the situation. Situations in which they are encouraged to talk to their teacher about a problem builds their self-confidence, which is lost when you have picked up
your cellphone to jump in.
A third point that intrusive parenting conveys is that being bored or depressed, even occasionally, must be avoided. Although, in reality, those downtimes are often when most of our creative ideas arise, particularly when they occur without someone else’s input. So how do you keep from overparenting? Here are five tips.
- Listen to what your child tells you, and try to understand the situation before you jump in. There are times to jump in, but try other alternatives first.
- Let them make mistakes, and then help them understand what happened so that they do not do the same thing again.
- Do not overschedule and overplan their activities. We all need downtime to think, reflect, feel sorry for ourselves, and then find our own solution.
- Listen to the people who are most involved with your children—their teachers, their coaches and their tutors—before you decide that you totally know better than all of them. After all, that is supposed to be their areas of training; you are paying them for that expertise, and you might learn something.
- If things don’t get better, it never hurts to talk to other parents, or even a therapist to get additional answers. Even though we all “know our own children best,” additional input never hurts. ■
George S. Glass, MD, is the author of The Overparenting Epidemic (Skyhorse Publishing).