There is a growing number of parents who hover over their children, coddling them, and assisting them with almost everything they do. Parents do this out of love for their child but what they do not realize, is the detriment that this may be causing their child. Have you heard the phrase "helicopter parenting"? This is a "growing-and perhaps detrimental-trend." Findings are showing that children of this parenting style show less autonomy, competence, and ability to relate to others as teens. This results in depression and decreased overall life satisfaction and could perhaps be contributing to a rising teen suicide rate. Below are a few examples of "over-parenting". Read through them and see if you recognize yourself.
Are you still dressing your child? Children, by the age of three, should be choosing their own clothes and for the most part, dressing themselves. Of course, help may still be needed with fine motor issues such as buttons or zippers, but parents can facilitate this process by picking a few outfits first, then have your child choose which one they prefer to wear. Their fashion sense may not match yours but as long as they are clean and neat, does it really matter that they are wearing a blue shirt, purple skirt, and orange leggings? The point is that they chose it, had some control, and are learning about making choices.
Do you find yourself constantly replacing lost or broken items? First, children need to be taught to respect their property, to take care of it, and to put it away when finished with it. If things are constantly being broken, this may not be happening. If your older children are constantly losing a cell phone or breaking a video game system, rushing to replace it is not teaching them anything. Being without and having to earn back the privilege of having those items goes a long way towards teaching respect of property. And better yet, have them replace the broken or lost item out of their own allowance or with chores done to earn what they need.
Children should be cleaning up their own messes, age appropriately of course, but even a two year old can clean up his own toys with assistance. And as your children grow, they should be given household chores to do and learn that everyone who lives in the home contributes to the care of the home. Start small and by the time they are teens, they can be doing their own laundry and sharing in the cooking responsibilities. How many adult children have no clue how to do laundry or cook a simple meal? Too many.
Allow your child to make some of his own food choices. Monitoring every bite that goes in his mouth could lead to power struggles and unhealthy eating habits. This is not to say that junk food reigns but if there are healthy choices available, those will be what he chooses from. Keep the prepared, boxed foods to a minimum and your control of his diet can be kept in the background, while he makes his choices from the delicious vegetable casserole or perhaps a salad loaded with dark greens and almonds.
Children should be allowed to settle their own squabbles as much as possible. Parents who find themselves intervening in sharing arguments or other minor disagreements are robbing their children of lessons in conflict resolution that will be invaluable later in life. As long as no one is in danger of getting hurt, let the children try to work it out and if you must intervene, guide the discussion and allow them to reach the necessary conclusions for resolve their differences.
Parents should avoid giving excessive praise. Many times, we find that every child receives a trophy or prize, no matter how great or small their efforts, a tactic that may lead children to think that they don't have to always do their best. Not everyone can win, nor should they. How else can our children learn to handle the downfalls that life may give them? A child who can handle winning as well as losing is a strong child who stands a greater chance of succeeding in life. Instead of praise, talk to your child about her efforts and how she could have made them better. If she truly wants to win, she needs the tools to accomplish this and your conversation may open her eyes to things she had not thought of.
Let your child pick her own friends and manage those friendships herself. Important life skills are learned in this process and if you are making sure she is being exposed to other children her age, she will find her way towards making friendships. This is not to say that parents shouldn't be teaching their child to be a social, polite, and respectful person, but once they have the skills, allow them to use them without too much management from you.
Children seem to be on a tight schedule these days. There are activities every day of the week and even the weekends are planned. Is there time to just be a kid built into that schedule? Or time for a child to choose to just sit quietly and read a book? Sports and other activities are great but just be careful that your child is not overscheduled and that they are the one choosing the activities. It should not be based on your likes but rather on things your child likes to do.
And lastly, bedtime is another issue that can be an area of too much hovering. When your child is young, they need the routine of the story, the last glass of water and visit to the bathroom, and the winding down from the day, but by the time they are 12 or so, they should be able to make some of those decisions themselves, with your guidance of course, and be learning to plan their time so that homework is done, friends have been called, video games have been played, and they are ready for bed by the hour of your choosing. Constantly reminding your child of what he needs to do does not teach him time management, a skill that again is so important later in life.
Parents lovingly make all of these choices for their children. However, they must learn to be loving enough to teach their children how to make the choices for themselves.