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Overparenting Trap and How to Avoid It

by , 1st Jul 2015

Julie Lythcott-Haims, a Stanford dean, is the author of  How To Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kids for Success.

As the author of a new book on parenting it’s heretical for me to disclose that I’m not particularly interested in the subject. But it’s true.

I’m not interested in parenting. I’m interested in human beings.

A former undergraduate dean at Stanford University, Lythcott-Haims recounts stories of young adults who have been left devoid of the basic life skills that are crucial to surviving in a dangerous unforgiving world because of their overprotective mothers and fathers.

Many parents today are hesitant to give their children the freedom to play alone outdoors or in the playground the way they were allowed when they were children. In the process, they create adults who are afraid to fend for themselves.

On the other hand, some parents go to such extremes that they do school work for their children just so they can ensure that their young children will succeed. Julie says that it is almost considered a common practice for students to hand in assignments that were clearly done by their parents while the teachers look the other way.

“Yes, of course, closeness, affection, love, frequent communication between parent and offspring, that’s all good. Who among us wouldn’t wish for a closer relationship with our own parents?”

But there should be a line when close relationship between parents and children become too close. 

Copyright: oneinchpunch

Copyright: oneinchpunch

If you want your kid to be independent at 18, at some point you have to stop cutting their meat. But when do you stop cutting their meat? When do you stop looking both ways for them as they cross the street? When do you stop helping with homework? When do you let them talk to strangers?

This omnipresent over-involvement means kids grow to be chronologically adult while remaining utterly stunted, dependent on parents to do not only the heavy lifting of life, but the lovely, light, ethereal dreaming as well.

The worst part of this is—besides the arrogance it takes to chart someone else’s path, the ethical slipperiness of overhelping with their schoolwork, the cruelty of being a constant crutch that will not always be there for them, the harm that comes from conditioning love on performance—the worst part, unintended yet insidious, is this hidden message we send to kids: – I don’t think you can do this without me.

Trying to boost them up, we are paradoxically tearing them down. We overhelp so as not to disadvantage them, yet they’re disadvantaged because we do so much.

You’re not good enough for this life as you are, is the message.

You never will be.

You need me.

You will always need me.

Our kids need us to back off but it’s healthy for us parents, too, if we back off.

What do you think about this trend? Do you believe kids should be given more freedom? Please share your views and comments in the section below. 

Excerpts taken from “The Over-parenting Trap“.

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