How to Avoid the Overparenting Trap (over-involvement in the child/adolescent’s life at the expense of their self-efficacy & independence)

How to Avoid the Overparenting Trap (over-involvement)

– discussion with Stanford University professor, Julie Lythcott-Haims
– shows up in form of more control of a student’s academic work, extra-curricular activity, & career choices
– end result? Kids who are accomplished, but who cannot think, advocate or fend for themselves
– she wrote a best-seller book: How to Raise an Adult
– the book includes research on helicopter parenting
– she wrote book because she saw students beholden to parents to tell them what to do, when to do it, how to do it, remind them what to do
– parents are always “being there” for their kids (this sounds supportive, but is it? If parenting is done in the extreme.)
– parenting is difficult: we have hopes & fears for our kids
– she believes the psychological research shows that:
A) when the parents are there for their kids too much
B) when parents are planning things for kids (too much)
C) when parents are hovering over their kids to make sure things go well
D) when parents are reminding them & interfering when something does not go well
– parents achieve a short-term win for the child/adolescent because they are safer,mother are attended to, they may obtain a higher grade, they may obtain more playi g time because the parent has argued wi the coach, they might get that opportunity they may not have otherwise got, they might meet a deadline they may have missed, they might get an application submitted they may not have submitted
– over-helping has a long-term cost by depriving kids of the opportunity to develop self-efficacy (seeing that our own actions have results) & are instead learning to be helpless [note: Martin Seligman, Positive Psychology guru & former APA president coined the term, “learned helplessness”]
– over-helping disrupts this natural developmental process of learning to handle things (because they have not learned to handle much for themselves)
– it also impacts upon the sense of self (because there has not been enough development of the thinking, doing & coping – in other words, the handling of things for themselves)
– the book talks about the explosion of depression & anxiety among college students
– She notes that parenting and the link with depression anxiety in young people is just beginning to be studied and researched
– Nonetheless there does appear to be a connection between over-parenting and the spike in depression & anxiety in young people
– the question – are we parents living our kids’ lives? Are we living vicariously though our children when we over-parent?
– with no parental nod, prod or encouragement, over-parented children can feel bewildered when suddenly in the real world on their own (& having to solve problems, & make choices & decisions on their own)
– she believes they have been raised to expect perfection (again leading to disappointment, frustration & bewilderment when confronted with reality) & are unable to deal with the struggles of daily life such as disappointing grades, room mate conflicts, not bring chosen for a particular activity

– Having a sense of purpose – What is it that you want your life to be about?
– It is not for parents to give their kids a sense of purpose (There is no more chance of doing this as there is of changing their Personality)
– Instead look for a “spark” of interest/their abilities in our kids & “fan the flames”/encourage

The author’s “a-ha” moment was:
– when she was cutting her 10 year old’s meat
[She asked herself: What am I worried about?]
– She began paying attention to what the child could and could not do
– While also asking herself what she could do at the same age
– She began noticing how her over-parenting was like a “cage” to her children
– She also began paying attention to the language she used when speaking – it was not “we” were on the school soccer team – it was “he” was on the school soccer team
– using “we” is under-cutting the child’s sense of accomplishment… Their sense of self
– She noticed she was arguing with all the adults in the child’s life – the school teachers could not be trusted, the sports coach, the person at the local store, with other parents – she stopped being their advocate all the time
– Instead it is better for a parent to model how to speak up for one’s self (while recognising there may be times for escalation, but that this needs to be done with judgment)
– She also realised that not everything is “an emergency”, that not everything is “make or break” for their future
– she is desiring more independence, more skills, more confidence in the child & is allowing space for this to develop

Source: the Savvy Psychologist podcast date – 5 August 2016


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