Child Development 101: What’s Wrong with Over-parenting?

By now, most of us have heard the references to “tiger mom” and “helicopter parents” – terms that have become popular in recent years as more and more overzealous parents take over their children’s lives.

What’s wrong with parents hovering around their children to make sure they’re free of germs? Getting involved in negotiating their children’s disputes? Calling teachers to find out why their children only received an A- on a test?

Plenty, according to psychologists and child experts. While over-anxious parents may feel better being intimately involved in their children’s lives in the short term, there are long-term consequences. For example, experts say such parents raise emotionally fragile kids – kids who don’t know how to make sound decisions and aren’t equipped to deal with failure and frustration.

These children may also grow up believing they are incapable of success or decision-making without their parents. In addition, many professionals say over-parented kids are at a higher risk for anxiety disorders and depression and tend to have trouble charting their course later in life. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a report that said hovering parents impede children’s physical activity – keeping them from playtime that benefits their imaginations, bodies and motor skills.

There are theories as to why over-parenting has become a recent phenomenon. One theory, reported in The Atlantic, is that more Americans are waiting longer to become parents and are having fewer children, thus focusing more attention on their offspring. Another is that parenting has become more complicated and, with growing uncertainty, there is more anxiety and fear, which leads to more over-parenting.

It’s good for parents to be involved in their children’s lives, experts say, but the key is one of balance. They say parents need to:

  • Love their children for who they are, not for who they want them to be.
  • Understand that most children don’t excel in every subject so demanding straight A’s may be more about what parents want rather than a true reflection of a child’s abilities.
  • Allow children to fail, experience frustration and forge their own path in school and life.

The takeaway is for parents to find a happy medium – parent enough but not too much by allowing children to learn on their own as often as possible.

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