Five Signs You’re Overparenting Your Kids
It's a serious problem that's crippling a generation
Overparenting has been a hot topic lately. Overparenting is not good parenting — but it is often disguised as such.
Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, wrote a wonderful book on this subject that I highly recommend: “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” As she observed entering freshmen, she realized there was an epidemic of overparenting today.
If your older teen is unable to problem-solve on his own, this means he never had to do so when he was growing up.
As a result, young adults enter college unable to cope with problems or stress, unable to interact with adults and overall are unprepared for adult life ahead.
If you want to have strong, successful, emotionally healthy kids, the worst thing you can do for them is be over-involved in their lives, protecting them from every obstacle they may face. Are you overparenting your child? Here are five signs that you might be:
1.) Your child calls you with every problem he encounters.
It is normal for your five-year-old to need your help with his problems. It is not normal, nor is it OK, for your 19-year-old to be calling you from college every day whenever an issue arises. If he is unable to problem-solve on his own, this means he never had to do so when he was growing up.
Don’t jump in and tackle every problem or issue your child faces. Allow him to figure out how to solve problems on his own, have difficult conversations, and stand up for himself. These skills will be invaluable to him later in life.
2.) Your child can’t handle disappointment.
No one enjoys disappointment. Not making the team or the school play is difficult for any child, but these things should not cause a complete meltdown. Resiliency is one of the strongest signs of good parenting. If your child has never practiced resiliency because you have done everything you can to protect her from disappointment, she will not be able to handle the inevitable adversity she will face in life.
Allow her to face pain and disappointment, at least every once in a while, so she can practice getting back up when she falls down.
I recently discussed this concept with Tim Elmore on my Parenting Great Kids podcast. Allowing our children to fail and experience disappointment is one of the best ways to prepare them for adulthood.
3.) Your child avoids hard work and typically looks for shortcuts.
If you’ve problem solved for your child and protected him from anything that could disappointment him, chances are he will expect life to be easy. Overparenting produces unrealistic expectations in a child and doesn’t prepare them for the real world. When faced with the reality that he must work hard in life, he will look for a shortcut or a way out. If you catch your child trying to get out of a homework assignment or not wanting to practice his instrument for his next lesson, perhaps this is because he has been handed too many things in life and is in need of learning how to work hard.
4.) You consistently do homework for your child, call the teacher for her, or advocate on her behalf.
If you often find yourself up late at night reading your child’s book for her book report due that week, you are most certainly overparenting. Doing your child’s work for her will not do her any favors! What will she do when she’s away at college and doesn’t have you to help her anymore? What will she do in her first job when she has to give a presentation?
If your child has procrastinated on her book report, allow her to learn this hard lesson: She will have to stay up all night to get the work done if she procrastinates.
5.) You spend hours each week scouring the internet for the right preschool, the best vitamins, the best organic food, etc.
Parents, I know it is tempting to get caught up in the minor details of parenting. There are countless “experts” out there telling you how to parent your child — and many of them claim it has more to do with feeding them organic food than it does loving them and spending time with them. Don’t fall prey to this. This is over-involvement in the details and not only is it a sign you are overparenting, it will also make you crazy.
Don’t fuss over every little detail of your child’s life. Focus on the big things, like loving him and spending time with him. The rest will fall into place.
All parents are doing the best they can. I understand this. I have four children of my own and I’ve been a pediatrician for over 30 years. It is tempting to overparent, but remember, the goal is to raise great kids, who will someday be able to live successfully without you. Don’t parent in a way that protects them today; parent in a way that will prepare them for tomorrow.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project. If you’d like more information about the book by Julie Lythcott-Haims, check it out here.