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Are We Coddling Our Kids

Do You Coddle Your Children Too Much?

Do parents today do too much for their children? Elementary school teacher Pamela W., who reared her own kids to be self-sufficient, certainly thinks so. She is perplexed by the tendency of her students' parents to take on tasks that kids are perfectly capable of doing for themselves. "I see parents carrying their children's backpacks for them around the school campuses."

As it turns out, her concern is shared by many moms in our communities, including Megan R., who worries aloud that she's making her kids too dependent by doing their chores for them.

Teaching Dependence

From not knowing how to do their own laundry to haplessness around money, there's a price kids eventually pay for being coddled, as Johnny's story illustrates. She's a reader whose own parents coddled her, and she says it left her at a definite disadvantage when she left the nest. "I was totally taken care of in every aspect of life, until I moved out on my own at 17. You see, I desired to be independent and self-sufficient, but I really did not have the skills to succeed at all. I was lucky that my friends took pity on me, and that I was smart enough to join the first year student orientations that taught us about doing our own finances, taxes, and insurance stuff. But if I hadn't, I probably could [still have gotten] away with living with my parents, having them cook for me, [with] the cleaning lady doing my bedroom and my dad handling my finances."

Moms can also live to regret coddling their kids. Stephanie Y. is a mom of five who learned the hard way that babying your kids can inhibit their growth and independence. As she explains, "I absolutely believe you can do too much for your children. I can say I have honestly done my best in raising them to be independent. However. . . I am probably guilty of giving them too much at times. I am the mom that would carry my kid's backpacks for them, or buy the toy to bribe them to be good in the store. I needed to change. Be more of a parent. I had to stop that kind of 'help' and stop it fast. And when I did, there was a lot of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth! And for the first time I saw how disrespectful my own children were being to me. It was tough. I cried a lot. I felt like I was failing as a parent and as a person."

Kelly R. agrees: "We (parents today) are doing too much for our children. . . .we are teaching them to rely on other people for everything. What will happen to these children when they are adults? They won't know how to do anything without mom being there with them."

Teaching Self-Sufficiency

Moms who coddle have a whole host of reasons. Marty B. doesn't want her kids "to struggle or worry like I did back in the day." Sara feels her 10-year-old son isn't yet old enough to fold the laundry well. "I like things done a certain way," she explains. But Marty knows that by helping her kids, she may actually be hurting them. As she puts it, "when I'm unable to help or am dead, my kids won't be able to do for themselves."

So what's the antidote? As Ellen B. shares, we need to retrain our own thinking: "Once you get over the perception that only you can get things done on time, you will find training [your kids to help you] is a time saver." She believes that kids are capable of and willing to do a lot at very young ages, especially kitchen tasks like taking out the garbage, measuring and stirring ingredients, bringing their dishes to the sink, cracking eggs ("messy fun"), and setting the table ("imperfectly is fine - it is their work of art").

Stephanie U., a mother of two, is not only in Ellen's camp, but proves that kids will get on board. "When our 11-year-old daughter had to start vacuuming this year she was in shock! I reminded her [that] at ten I did ALL of the laundry for our entire family of five. She decided vacuuming was not too bad! Our son, 8, takes out the trash, wipes down a table, knows how to dust, and can clean up a room faster than he can trash it. They both strip their beds and I am teaching them to load and unload the dishwasher. They do NOT get an allowance and they help around the house as the price they pay to live here and be a productive part of our family."

Backing off the coddling and instead teaching your kids to do more for themselves may not be a change that comes easily, but many moms believe it's of critical importance. As Ellen explains, "The more children learn to do tasks and make good decisions on their own the better odds they have of living a productive life. . . . Doing less for them can give them the best possible chance."

Do you do too much for your kids?

Image Source: Corbis Images
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RebeccaBowden54686 RebeccaBowden54686 4 years
I loved being my mom's right hand. I begged to Iron clothes around age 8. She taught me to sew. She always let me do the most tedious tasks like unpicking. I was very detail oriented and eventually she would let me do the zippers and most of the sewing, she would just be there to answer questions when I'd get confused. I always helped her cook and she was more than happy to let me make the birthday cakes. I also did my own laundry all through HS and often my younger sister's (to fill a load) and we often shared clothes. Kids always did dishes. They were not strict about clean bedrooms so that was our own domain. We also cleaned and vacuumed the living areas and always did the weekly yard work. My 4yo daughter cleans her bedroom, picks up the family rooms, sets the table, clears her own dishes, and takes out diapers. She loves it. She wants to do more. I'm trying to let her help more with cooking. Lunchtime is less rushed and stressful so I let her help more then. My parents taught us good work ethic and pride in a job well done. I hope to instill these same values on my kids.
FrancinePrevost FrancinePrevost 4 years
No good comes out of coddling your children, they never learn how to fend for themselves, they rely on adults to get everything done for them. It doesn't matter if the laundry is not folded the way you want it done, at least it's done and they come to you with a smile saying look I did it to me that's reward enough. One of my youngest son's chores are taking care of the 2 cats we have and let me tell you at first the food was always all over the floor and what not, but after being his chore for a few years now he's such a pro and lets me know when their eating spot at home is not clean enough for them, now that's what I call a child who will be more than prepared when he leaves the nest. If you teach them how to do the things they need to learn to become a valuable member of society, the rewards you get are unbelievable and you can acutally say proudly my child is self-sufficient in all aspects of life. There's this really good tv program here in Canada called "Bubble Wrap Kids" and I think a lot of parents should watch this show and realize our kids are capable of doing much more for themselves than we give them credit for.
JennaKing26603 JennaKing26603 4 years
I don't understand what is wrong with struggling or even worrying. If our kids never struggle, they will never feel the excitement of when they have conquered something they struggled with. I completely agree with this article. Parents today do coddle their kids way too much. I love the website FreeRangeKids.wordpress.com. It's a movement all about teaching kids to be independent and responsible. I've been doing this since my kids were little without even realizing it, just raising them the same way I was raised, and I get complimented all the time on how independent and mature my children are. When I was a new first-year teacher, a veteran teacher gave me a piece of advice. She said, "Never do anything for your students that they can do for themselves." That was the best advice ever. It really eased my burden on how much I had to do--I was not one of those teachers who spent hours and hours of outside time doing prep work for certain activities because I left the "prep" work to the kids themselves. When I had my first child, I decided to apply that logic to parenting and so far, it has really paid off.
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