With the onset of COVID-19, many families are spending more time together than ever before. Work, school, and play for many of us have merged to become one. However, with all that “togetherness,” there is the danger of falling into the “over-parenting” trap.
Of course, we all want to raise independent and resilient children who are prepared to reach their full potential. However, research has shown that over-involved parents can stifle their children’s development and increase their levels of depression, anxiety, and narcissism well into adulthood.
Now in the depths of a pandemic, the family dynamic is changing as families spend more time together. Parents are being challenged like never before to step back and evaluate their helicopter-parenting tendencies. They are both parent and teacher, sometimes dealing with rebellious teenagers, and often welcoming back adult children into the “nest”.
On August 20 at 11 a.m. CT, Cresset will host a webinar titled “Thriving Families: Raising Children in an Emerging World | How to Raise Independent & Resilient Children in the Age of Over-Parenting”. Award-winning author and leading child development expert Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair will offer insight into why over-parenting is harmful, and how we can avoid “helicopter-parenting” pitfalls.
We recently connected with Dr. Steiner-Adair to learn more about what she will explore:
What tools can parents give their kids to help develop independence and a sense of self?
Catherine: Social and emotional intelligence is foundational for raising independent, self-motivated kids. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is how children understand and manage emotions, set and achieve goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
To develop that sense of intrinsic motivation, children need three basic things:
- Feel competent (“I can do this!”)
- Feel a positive and supportive connection to their parents.
- Have a sense of autonomy – that they have control and ownership.
What are some common over-parenting mistakes?
Catherine: The following are some of the most common over-parenting mistakes I’ve seen:
- Not letting kids learn or develop resilience and accountability when they are frustrated, disappointed, or in trouble. Parents “over-function” by calling a teacher, coach, or influencer rather than helping their child come up with strategies to advocate for themselves.
- Not letting children make their own choices. From what to wear, to where to go to college, to with whom to be friends, to what to read. Let kids make their own choices.
- Editing a child’s opinion rather than being curious about why he or she thinks differently from you.
- Over-functioning in general, especially in academics – write the topic sentence, check their homework, bring it to school if they forget it. On a similar vein, when parents have their children tutored more than necessary, over-coached, and surrounded by “managers.”
How can we avoid over-parenting?
Catherine: The first step in backing away from over-parenting is to understand why you do it. What are you afraid of? What are you anxious about? Did your parents model this approach with you?
When we lead from fear and worry, we tend to become more critical, more controlling, and often wreck our relationships with our children. This often creates self-doubt and anxiety in children, instills fear of taking good risks, and leads to kids who are extrinsically motivated.
It’s so hard to manage our worries alongside the hopes and dreams we have for our children. Self-regulation and managing your own worries, anxiety, and desire to “make things right” can be difficult but is essential!
How does technology play into over-parenting?
Catherine: I call the smartphone “the biggest umbilical cord ever!” Yes, it’s great to text with our kids, share photos, etc., but within limits. Parents who over-parent use technology to over-connect in ways that create dependency issues and contribute to separation / social anxiety. If the school / summer camp says, “No smartphones on this trip,” and you give your kid one to hand in (and one to hide,) this teaches your child all kinds of wrong messages.
Likewise, when parents text with their middle school and high school kids during the day and help them with school issues / academic issues or simply chat, that cultivates dependency. It undermines children learning that they can solve their own problems (or talk about them after school.) It deprives children of learning how to self-regulate, self-advocate, and develop autonomy.