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Are You an Overly Involved Parent? (page 3)

— NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Jul 9, 2010

Q: Why would a parent become overly involved with their child?
Dr. B: Some parents have a terrible fear that they won't turn out to be good parents so they overcompensate by trying too hard. Some might be filling their own need to be as perfect in parenting as they are in other areas of their lives. These parents often find themselves competing with other parents out of a fear that their children will be less advanced than their peers, or even left behind, socially or academically. Some might see their children as a reflection of themselves, measuring their worthiness by their child's happiness and achievements, while others might be trying to make up for their own deprived childhoods. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the perfect parent, so trying to meet such unrealistic expectations only leads to disappointment, guilt and feelings of failure.

Q: How do children respond to overly involved parents?
Dr. B: Overly involved parents don't give a child enough opportunities to develop a sense of self-confidence. The unspoken message children get from all the controlling and scheduling and scrutiny is that they're not capable of making decisions and solving their own problems. Children who are overparented might feel like they're not trusted by their parents. They can become overly dependent or overly compliant, or conversely, become angry and resentful and reject what the parent is trying to teach them. You want kids to develop certain essential skills and if you're overparenting then you are interrupting these naturally occurring skills. If you are always rescuing your child they will never have to figure things out for themselves. It is natural for parents to want to rescue their kids from negative emotions, but it's important to realize that anger, sadness, and disappointment are very normal feelings. The best thing you can do as a parent is to let your children have these feelings so they can learn to manage them and work through them on their own.

Q: What are the essential skills that parents can teach their children to help them become self-reliant and self-assured?
Dr. B: Successful parents understand that their feelings and behaviors directly impact their children's feelings and behaviors. They emphasize collaboration and cooperation, not control, and they focus their attention on the positive aspects of their children's behavior. Tuned in to their children's capabilities at different ages, they encourage them to think for themselves and to learn how to solve problems, rather than relying on others to solve their problems for them. These strategies build self-esteem and lay the foundation for a self-confident and independent person.

Q: How do you know if you're overdoing parenting? What can you do about it?
Dr. B: The first step is to realize that it's happening. Be honest with yourself. If you suspect that you're overly involved with your children, pushing too hard, and have unrealistic expectations, you can re-think your priorities. A possible first step would be to cut back on scheduled activities. By deemphasizing activities and achievements, more important concerns, such as helping a child build self-esteem and establish good interpersonal relationships, take precedence.

Q: How can a parent achieve a just-right level of involvement?
Dr. B: Stop rushing around and carve out special times to spend with your children in a relaxed, non-demanding situation. Plan activities whose purpose is to enjoy simply doing things together, not to achieve a specific goal. Give yourself time to think about what you want for your children. Most parents want the same things for their children; they want them to be happy, well-adjusted, respectful of others, and self-motivated. The most important support parents can give their children is to communicate that love does not depend on achievements, that they are loved and valued for who they are.

About the NYU Child Study Center

The New York University Child Study Center is dedicated to increasing the awareness of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and improving the research necessary to advance the prevention, identification, and treatment of these disorders on a national scale. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center's mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please call us at (212) 263-6622 or visit us at www.AboutOurKids.org.

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