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, 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. One reader whose own parents coddled her, 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 since she likes "things done in a certain way." 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."