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Doing Too Much For Kids

7 Signs You're Overparenting

Can you be "too good" of a parent?

Reader Katherine W. says she's worried she has been overparenting or pampering her kids. "I tried to do the very best I could," she relays, "taking them to parks and interesting places every weekend, reading to them, working in their classrooms and every school event, supervising homework every night, helping with Girl Scouts, driving them to after-school activities, arranging play dates, making family dinners a priority, and on and on." However, Katherine recently noticed that her child's friend, whose parent was not as involved, has grown into a more confident and self-sufficient person. "Did all that effort even make any difference?"

How do you know if you're turning into an overbearing parent? If, like Katherine, you're wondering if you should be less involved, here we've rounded up readers' advice on signs that you may be overparenting.

1. You Praise Profusely

One of the tell-tale signs that you're being overbearing, instead of balanced, is when you notice yourself giving your child a profuse amount of praise. While children need encouragement, parents can go overboard, for instance, when they have an "unconscious, incessant need to praise and reward their kids," says a reader who calls herself "Chatty." She explains: "I think the only time extra praise is warranted is when children are very young; babies and young toddlers have to learn what is appropriate and what isn't, and praising them in an excitable manner when they master a new skill or act in an appropriate or desirable manner helps them to learn. But, if you're over the top and praise them every single time they do something, especially when it's repeatedly for the same thing they've already mastered and done 1,000 times, it's doing them a huge disservice."

As an example, Chatty says when first potty training her daughter, she and her husband gave her lots of "high-fives" and "good jobs." But once her daughter mastered the toilet, she "opened a dialogue with her about how it made her feel to be able to go to the washroom on her own."


2. You Offer Too Many Material Rewards

Similar to offering an abundance of praise, some parents spoil their children with too many material things. Stephanie Y. came to this realization when one year her 9-year-old son "clearly expressed his utter disappointment in his Christmas gifts. He explained that he didn't get what he really wanted and poo-pooed what he did get," she remembers.

After unsuccessfully trying to impart a lesson about the spirit of Christmas, Stephanie realized she had been giving her children way too much. "I am the mom that would carry my kids' backpack for them, or buy the toy to bribe them to be good in the store! I needed to change, be more of a parent." Vowing that her children would never be ungrateful at Christmas again, she reduced the gifts her children were receiving all year round, and also reduced her children's candy consumption, so that they would learn to appreciate Halloween, too.

Charlotte R. is another mom who believes "kids these days have way too many things. When I was growing up we had one phone for the whole house and we had to limit our time to share with everyone. We never got to just sit on the phone and call our friends all the time, because we had household chores to do and our homework and getting ready for school," she says.

3. You Have Low Expectations

With the rigors of school and extracurricular activities, sometimes parents are hesitant to give their children too many responsibilities. But an ill-fated result of not expecting a lot from your children is that parents might do too much for their kids. Setting low expectations while assuming there will be big rewards is especially a common occurrence in school.

4. You Dole Out Few Responsibilities

Setting expectations for your children includes holding them accountable for age-appropriate responsibilities, members add. From a very young age, Ellen B. says, "many kitchen tasks are fair game," and that kids are capable and often willing to bring their dishes to the sink when done, set the table, take the garbage out, and help cook. "And, yes," she adds, "teach them to clean up their messes." Once parents "get over the perception the only you can get things done on time, you will find training them is a time-saver."

Increasing responsibilities and "doing less for them can give them the best possible chance" at becoming self-sufficient, independent adults, mom 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," she says.

When you educate your children about their responsibilities, just be sure they understand that they're not being asked to do things because "'mommy is task master,' but rather [because] 'we live together, and share both the work and the pleasure of having our own home,'" Lisa R. notes.

5. You Repeat Yourself Frequently

Once they assign responsibilities, overbearing parents often make the mistake of repeatedly telling children what to do. But parents are not raising robots that should follow every order, mom Angelique A. says. She admits she is sometimes guilty of this with her 14- and 15-year-olds and finds herself constantly telling her own children "to do this and that." She adds: "I mean when will it register that if you see something that needs to be done, just do it?" Still, Angelique knows she needs to lay off if she wants to raise responsible adults. "I was taught independence at a very young age. When I had to, I knew what to do when my parents were away."

6. You Help Without Being Asked

Most parents would help their children at the drop of a hat, but several readers advise that parents would be wise to step back and wait to offer help until children ask for it. As a teacher, Pamela W. says she sees today's parents doing too much for their children when it's not necessary. "I see parents carrying their children's backpacks for them, etc., around the school campuses. I also see far more moms and dads who accompany their children into the classroom at the kindergarten level and spend time before the bell rings," she says.

"It's hard not to helicopter," Shawnn L. admits. But as someone who works at a university, she doesn't support it: "It is extremely frustrating to watch [parents] be overbearing and [make choices] for adult freshman student[s]. It is extremely frustrating to speak to the student and have the parent answer. It is even more frustrating to watch a student make excellent choices with regards to his/her studies, only to see the parent undermine every choice because they either weren't involved enough, or didn't agree."

Lucy L. summarizes: "Don't do something for your child that he or she is capable of doing for themselves."

On the other hand, when parents let children make more decisions and help themselves, they often find that their children are more resourceful than they initially thought. Ann F., for instance, recently encouraged her children to sell their unwanted toys to make some money. "When I checked on them in the playroom, they had a whole pile of toys they wanted to sell and were in the process of lugging them out front." Ann's gut reaction was to stop them, but she had a second thought and asked what they wanted to do with the money they earned. "They said they wanted to donate it to an animal shelter or children's hospital. The whole situation reminded me that sometimes it really is best just to get out of their way, not be overbearing, and when they are making their own fun without any parental involvement, to just let them be," she says.

As a reader who calls herself "Vegemite Cheese" says of parenting, "It's not always what you do for your kids but what you teach your kids to do for themselves."

7. You Try to Prevent All Mistakes

Of course, when making their own decisions, children will make some mistakes, but Lisa B. says it's healthy to let mistakes happen in a safe environment. "Both my kids are extremely careful about touching hot objects and getting their little fingers caught in doors/drawers. That's because I've let them try it when they were 6 months old. As soon as they were able to open and close a drawer, I've allowed them to close it (not too strongly, though), on their own fingers," she says. "Rather than preventing them from doing something dangerous, I let them experience the consequences (provided it isn't health/life-threatening). They know what it's like to touch a hot drink. When they fall, they know they have to get up and dust themselves off, all on their own."

As another example, Lisa adds that her son once had a bad habit of putting his fingers and toys in his mouth. "After reminding him several times that it was dirty, I waited to see what would happen. He caught a very painful mouth sore. But now he knows the consequences of putting dirty objects in his mouth," she says. Of course, she offers the caveat that she always tries to reinforce good behavior.

Ultimately, moms and dads can avoid overparenting by being supportive of their children, but not being overinvolved, Circle of Moms members say. "There is such a thing as being too involved, too loving, too praising, too in-tune with what your kids are doing . . . just as the other extreme suggests an unhealthy relationship with kids (no affection, attention, encouragement, etc.). Balance really is the key component of all facets of humanity," Jamie B. says.

"Being over-protective is an easy and common mistake that parents make," admits mom Riana F., noting she sometimes closes her eyes and says, "World please be gentle with this child of mine." But, she realizes, "The world will never be gentle, it will only ever be real, and if I try to protect my children from its challenges I will also be protecting them from its rewards."

Image Source: Shutterstock
DebbiePreece DebbiePreece 3 years

Teaching children to be self-reliant is a critical characteristic that needs to be encouraged and developed before leaving home. Helicopter parenting often suppresses this as all the signs would indicate. Problem is generally, the parent thinks all the doing is showing that the child is loved, when in reality, it takes the child's initiative out of the picture. Learning how to lose, or be left out of circles of friends or how to work and being expected to finish a job are what is often lost. I found this to be the case as a young mother. I always thought of it as: Do unto others and they would give back. I fully expected my children to notice when I made their beds etc., and was disappointed every time because they never came and thanked me or offered to help me in any way. In fact, I noticed they got more demanding, selfish and disrespectful. I didn't get it. I began to lose the joy of motherhood and felt like I was a prisoner of war! How could this happen? After much frustration and desperation, I finally found something that gave me the ability to teach these critical social and self-management skills. It was a unique simple token system that allowed me to praise the children, and encourage them to develop necessary skills and attitudes happily and cheerfully. The Happy Face Token System seemed to come with a built-in consistency factor that gave me the ability to let the children earn tokens for quickly responding with: I'll do it. Then they cashed in the tokens to earn help with a task, but if they didn't have the tokens they had to do the task. They began thanking me for what I did for them because they had learned that task was hard. Soon the sibling rivalry and anti-mom protests quieted down to a manageable issue and I began to find Joy in my JOurneY. Soon the children stared asking me for jobs to do and telling me they had completed tasks without being asked. What a blessing for all. There's a couple of web sites that describe this system, and the book is called From Combat Zone to Love at Home: The Happy Face Token System by Debbie Preece

AurelasRainsong1382721705 AurelasRainsong1382721705 3 years
I have a 2.5 year old and I am already falling into some of these mistakes. I am definitely keeping her too safe even in our home and it is high time I let her find out what happens when she breaks some of the milder safety rules. Everything in me screams out to not ever let her feel pain but that is not going to be good for her in the long run. In fact, it is probably the reason that she keeps putting herself in insanely precarious positions all the time. I think in my case some of my overprotectiveness is because her birth was very traumatic and at first it looked as if she was dead. Then having to take her to the hospital for bad jaundice and having the ER people screaming at me that it might be my fault--where were my immunization records? When we called the midwife she screamed at me for not giving my baby sugarwater. Of course it wasn't my fault and I had just been doing what all of the breastfeeding books said, but I guess I haven't quite recovered from all that. It is easy to let guilt get in the way of common sense and good judgment. I'm sure I'm not the only one with that problem.
LaurieColton1380195013 LaurieColton1380195013 3 years
Over parenting is never good, not only for kids growth but also for his thought process development. The more the child is left on to himself with little monitoring would help him learn more through the gradual experiences.
CarmelaCardwell1374774425 CarmelaCardwell1374774425 3 years
I agree with mistimccaauley that every child is different and so requires different parenting. I had my first and only child when I was 41 years old. She is in Middle School now and she is an excellent student ( A+ in all academic areas). She is also in gifted and I am very lucky mom. However, I want to you to know that I have been involving with her since she started going to school. I am from Europe and I was taught that school is a place where you mainly go to learn.
anonymousanonymous anonymousanonymous 3 years
To the person who commented on teachers reading this article too - I read this because I am a parent as well. I understand autism and my comments were not about the parents of autistic children but rather neurotypical children. I understand a great deal about autism as I have taught quite a few kids and let me tell you, these autistic kids aren't spoiled rotten or ambivalent like many of the neurotypical kids I have also taught. Also, I send my daughters to a catholic school because my older daughter was diagnosed with asperger's syndrome. The kids at the catholic school are far kinder and more accepting, (with the exception of a few), than at the public school she attended. The only thing that drives me crazy is that I constantly need to tell my kids that it's okay not to receive 3 $100+ American Girl Dolls and accessories, a new iPad, laptop, the new gaming system, and other expensive items for Christmas and their birthdays - we simpy cannot afford them and even if we could, we wouldn't go to those extremes. While we absolutely love their school and the families are mostly very nice, we feel that many of the kids are given way too much. My one daughter complained that she is given chores such as doing the dishes once a week, putting away her own laundary, dusting, and recycling. She said her friends were amazed that she had to do these things because their stay at home moms did everything for them. I wonder how they will cope when they go away to college - will their moms visit to make their beds and do their laundary?
mistimccauley mistimccauley 3 years
The problem I have with these guidelines is that every child is different, and requires different parenting. What may be overparenting to one child may not be enough for others. Even siblings need different amounts of guidance and different approaches based on the individual personalities and ability levels. I don't think letting your children be babies while they're babies is the problem. I think that you should treat your children exactly how you want others to treat you. With kindness and understanding. I'm not saying that parents should do their kids homework, be prisoner to there child's demands, or ignore their child's faults. What I am saying is you shouldn't have these kind of generalized parenting guidelines. And one quote in particular bothered me, "Being over-protective is an easy and common mistake that parents make,". I am the very definition of an overprotective parent. I had already lost 3 pregnancies when my son was born three and a half years ago. He was diagnosed with cancer at 22 months. He lost 2/3 of his liver but survived. He is a miracle and I have seen far too many parents realize that life can change in an instant to be the least little bit careless with the gift that my son is. Don't worry though. Along with spoiling him rotten with affection and material goods, I am also teaching him responsibility and that he can do anything he works hard to achieve. I think that is just the right amount of parenting for my child.
ElishaDeMaria ElishaDeMaria 3 years
UNLESS you are a special needs mom. Then there's no such thing as "Praising Profusely". Repetition is key to success.
ShannonChavez64116 ShannonChavez64116 3 years
I would hate to think that teachers are reading this and assuming these signs apply to all parents. I'm guilty of these things, with the exception of a few. Yet several of staff at my sons school are down my neck about it. And guess what my being overbearing accomplished? I finally got my son's autism diagnosis and he is getting transferred to a school that will realize that my son isn't spoiled. You know why I repeat myself? Because He can only remember two instructions at a time and is easily distracted. You know why I help him dress? Because he has trouble with buttons and forgets what he's doing. You know why I'm constantly prompting him? Because that's what has taught him to greet you like a normal child. Don't assume these parents don't know what they are doing. It took my son being expelled in kindergarten for me to realize that I'm not over parenting and not to feel guilty. The school just assumed that because he is smart, he can just do things like other kids. It took three meltdowns before they came around... And expelled him. A six year old. For two weeks. In this instance the school was doing a disservice to me and my son by assuming. Autism is hard for parents and children. We might seem like helicopter parents, but once you deal with those meltdowns and marathon sessions of getting them to just eat or sleep, you wish you could just step back and relax. And when you see parents hovering over their awkward child, so much like yours, you smile and wish you could bring up the big A, and tell them you understand.
anonymousanonymous anonymousanonymous 3 years
As a teacher, I see parents from all walks of life. Many parents whose children are in honors classes, hover constantly. They get upset when their sons or daughters earn a C instead fo an A or a B. Even when it is pointed out to them that their children are earning F's and C's on tests and quizzes, not doing all of their homework and never come after school, they still feel that their children deserve a better grade - unbelievable!! On the other hand, I have taught children who have parents who are too busy or just don't care. I try calling home many times never receiving a reply. These students don't know how to study, they rarely do their homework, and they are difficult to motivate when they aren't cutting class or school and they are in the classroom. These kids don't act like the spoiled brats I see in the honors classes but there is little parental guidance. Then finally, I see the middle of the road students and there are so few. These kids have some parental involvement - they come to open houses and parent-teacher conferences but they leave it up to their children to advocate for themselves and only step in when it's necessary. Unfortunately, many of the average/college-prep level parents are either like the honors parents or the uninvolved parents so I see average/college-prep students getting A's or C-/F and so few C+ and B's. It's difficult to know the right formula for raising a child but being there when your child needs you without hovering is probably the best way to go.
AngelaBarnhardtCole AngelaBarnhardtCole 3 years
Doing everything for your child is a great disservice and leaves them ill prepared to succeed.
davnetmcloughlin davnetmcloughlin 3 years
Agree with your points. Most important as a parent to enable our kids to have the skills they need to be be capable dependant adults. People need to be less over protective/involved. It's okay to let your kid do things on their own , like let a 14 year old get his hair cut after school without you, it builds self reliant & confidence. And teaches them basic community & personal living skills Even if our parenting role seems a little more redundant, it's more important that ones child is learning important life and in dependant living skills to tackle what life throws at them.
LalaBoom1384480733 LalaBoom1384480733 3 years
I wish most people would read this and monitor their behavior. They're doing a disservice to their kids; think entitlement issues, lack of responsibility, dependency issues, insecurities out the gazoo, etc.... Being "involved" is one thing, over-parenting is another.
April14377653 April14377653 4 years
Mayhaps this is a digression, but my 13yo recently got a mobile phone and voila! Her interest in spelling has increased a hundred fold. As a math not english oriented student, she doesn't want to appear 'stupid' when messaging. Maybe I should have gotten her one in kindergarten, too! Joke... These things are carcinogenic! (She has been taught to hold it away from herself when sending or calling). Hasn't every parent been/ being guilty of one or the other, in the article? Whilst hover mamas aren't my thing, I wish I had their energy!!
TeresaBettenhauser TeresaBettenhauser 4 years
Seriously? So now being involved in your kid's life is overparenting? That first paragraph describes me and my daughter is very independent. I just like being involved, partly for her and partly for myself.
CoMMember13641777989211364178298 CoMMember13641777989211364178298 4 years
I've been an involved parent, helicoptering sometimes and sometimes retreating and letting her take the lead. I've seen the died-in-the-wool helicoptering parent and they never miss a field trip, are always hovering, buying the latest gadget or goody. At my daughter's elementary school there were several kinder kids with cell phones! We couldn't always afford the latest electronic gadget, have a single home computer for the 'family' to use, not individual ones or tablets for each person, because it simply wasn't in the budget. My daughters friend had the iPhone4 at $400.00 and when it was stolen because she walked away from it in the mall, her family went out and bought her a new one! What does this teach the child about responsibility? When my daughter lost her iPod (a junior high graduation gift) she was told she would have to 'earn' a replacement. Consistent grades, extra chores at home, etc to encourage her to invest in the item she wanted. While she was plenty unhappy with this arrangement, I stick by it. Maturity doesn't come automatically at age 18, it's nurtured by parents who have reasonable limits and expectations with their kids. The teen years are tough enough for both kids and parents, raising 'I deserve this' kids who haven't earned it makes it just that much tougher. This is not to say I approve of denying kids everything, but I do embrace the power of earning a little while young to realize that life and their future depends on how willing they are to invest in themselves.
LeePeacock1367588784 LeePeacock1367588784 4 years
OK I have seen both extremes. I am an overparenting parent to my 8 year old. I cater to him and do everything including pick out his clothes and if need be help him get dressed. But my step sons mom is the exteme opposite. She does not aprent at all. Her way is to let them be totally independant and make all their own choices and decisions and if they mess up it is their responsibility to fix it, we had a major falling out of a science project, he decided he did not want to do it and I did not know till the grade came home that it was even assigned. I grounded him from all electronics basing this on if you can not do your work in school then you will not play at home. She said it was his choice and I was wrong to punish him for this behavior. She said he needs to learn tht if he decides not to do something and it lowers his grade then it is up to him to find a way to fix it. I believe that if you do not teach him it was wrong and everyone just ignores what he did then how does he know it was wrong. He is above average smart and without effort can make straight A's, she has told him that as long as he does not make an F he is OK and does not need to make all A's to go to college or anything. Once he moved back with her I monitor quietly on the internet his school work and he has choosen not to do many assignments and the test that goes with those he fails. ow she is concerned he will be held back so she is pushing him to take extra classes and attend summe school to graduate a year and a half early with just the bare basic requirements. So there are both ends of the spectrum, My 8 year old makes straight A's my step son is barely getting by to pass. And yes I have taken all electronics from the younger for failed efforts in school and give him activities based on the subject they were learning when he decided not to do his work. You either do it at school and have fun at home or you mess around at school and do the work at home. I do let my kids know what I expect and what will happen if they do not do it. When they get a punishment and tell me I am being mean I point out they punished themselves, I never feel guilty. If I say all homeowrk is to be done before internet or cell phones or you lose the phone for a week and you get on your phone or internet and your homework is not done it is the same as coming to me and saying I do not want my phone for a week.
MissVeeHaven MissVeeHaven 4 years
Good job! @ChristinaKuhn
ChristinaKuhn ChristinaKuhn 4 years
I'm both a teacher and a new mom, so I was very interested in reading this article. I love to see parents who are involved, but when they turn into helicopter parents, I see the results on the kids. The kids become insecure (constantly asking, "Am I right? Am I right?" instead of trusting their instincts) or they become overly-demanding ("Am I going to be Citizen of the Month this month?"). I decided early on that I didn't want to become an over-parenter as I've seen some negative effects in kids, and also, I think my own parents were a little bit that way (my dad, the scientist, insisted upon doing my science fair projects for me, and I hated science as a result, until I was in 8th grade and did it with a friend instead -- and still won a prize and actually enjoyed it). Overparenting seems like a caring thing to do, but in my 12 years of teaching, I've seen it hinder children and turn them in very dependent creatures -- and it would make me wonder how they coped when they grew up. That being said, I think that I over parent a bit myself -- and so I was glad to see this article to know what NOT to do. :)
JodieFraser JodieFraser 4 years
Definately guitly.. I do too much for my kids, and they walk all over me
DawnHeath62912 DawnHeath62912 4 years
KimVasquez KimVasquez 4 years
I am definitely an over parenter. I do too much for my kids sometimes. Buy them things they don't need, and so on. I figure, if I keep them busy, they'll be Angels. If I buy them things, then they'll be good. Oh let me take them to the zoo, 18 times, so they can learn about the animals! Boo! Clearly my little boys are spoiled because of this! They need independence, not mama, hovering over them or yelling at them every two seconds.
CarmenHartGillett CarmenHartGillett 4 years
Wow this is always in the back of my head thinking yep that's me doing EVERYTHING for my kids but what about when u feel like a broken record and at the end of a gruling hang ur coat and backpack do ur homework do ur chores practice ur piano like wowsers I'm still tripping over their stuff and having temper tantrums because I ask them to do these things as an active part of our family. Man I tip my hat to my mother especially when u have an 8 yr old stomp her foot at u and tell u no
LeslieAbuZaghibra LeslieAbuZaghibra 4 years
To JuliaCole86384, The whole point of this article is about well-meaning parents making mistakes. Lots of parents don't give material things to get their kids out of their hair. They give them things thinking that it will fix things, satisfy that child, encourage their child to do better in school, etc. They are well-meaning but misguided. I believe tons of parents 'truly love their children' but that doesn't mean they are perfect parents. And having time and giving time isn't always the right thing - giving all of your self is raising a spoiled child also. They shouldn't have everything. Children need to feel going without here and there in life - it's reality and character building (with common sense on the parent(s) part).
CindyBensonClark CindyBensonClark 4 years
Everything in this article is true! I speak from experience!
ayanabrito ayanabrito 4 years
I am all.for forging a great relationship, who says at 18 they become an adult? That's the issue with this culture you have a bunch of emtionally immature kids calling them seleves adults because parents are forcing that on them. In most cultures around the world are super sucessful its not this way!
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