The headlines have been laden with the college admissions scandal. The lengths that parents went to gain entry into prestigious universities was and is seemingly endless. It is easy from my position in life to read these headlines and think, “Never me” and “That is SO far away.” I mean, first of all, our household is not overflowing in excess finances to pour into bribes and payoffs. Not even an option for us. Not to mention the fact that my oldest is still 10 years away from his high school graduation date. So these headlines don’t apply to me right now, right? Just another news story I can lay aside and move along in my busy day.
Wait! I could not be farther from the truth. I am not immune nor impenetrable from the same traps just because I am not “filthy rich” or approaching the empty nest in parenting. Quite the contrary. These seeming seeds of over-parenting were planted at some point and began sprouting, taking root, and growing over lengths of time. And that time, for me, could so easily have already began if I am not careful.
Imagine the expectations put onto some of these students early on in childhood. Whether they were raised with a silver spoon in mouth or pushed to (over)achievement the end result of entitlement or extremes emerged. And then imagine how these parents altered their approaches when expectations were unmet. If their children were not going to get there, these parents may have taken one step, and one more step, to get involved, intervene, and interceded on behalf of their children.
Now it is so easy for me to stand back and point the finger at “them”. But as I stated earlier I am so easily susceptible to the same parenting traps. And left unidentified or attended to they can take root and quickly grow completely and totally out-of-control. Here are a few self-reflection questions to consider just how much you (and I) just might be OVER-parenting more than we might think:
- When my child has academic problems, how quick am I to “fix it” by talking to a teacher? Hiring a tutor? Doing the homework for him/her?
- If my child faces relational conflict, do I tell him/her exactly what to say and do? Have I contacted a parent too soon in my attempts to “help”? Or have I even gone to my child’s friend/peer to deal with it for him?
- When my star athlete gets limited playing time, am I the first one yelling and screaming from the stands? Or maybe less ostentatious and pulling the coach aside for a one-on-one conversation about what my child needs to do to improve? Or even worse chewing the coach out for the lack of fairness or even poor judgment?
Just because you have done or do do some of these things does not mean you are guilty of over-parenting and are doomed to one day be part of a billion dollar college admissions scandal. However, it may be a good reminder to take some steps back. Here are a few quick tips on how to get over overparenting.
- Sounds simple, but truly listen when your child comes to you with his/her problems. Hear what is really going on and let your child talk it out.
- Problem Solve. As you are listening to your child, engage in a discussion with him/her. Instead of offering a quick-fix or frankly any sort of solution, this is where you can become your child’s coach guiding him/her in solving the problem for themselves.
- Again, sounds simple, but take a moment before/during the conversation with your child and thereafter covering him/her in prayer. Ask God to give your child strength in doing what is right. Pray for God to direct your child’s footsteps in discernment, decision-making, and wisdom.
- Yes, you can and should be involved in your child’s life from school to sports and friendships to faith. But figure out how you can form collaborative partnerships rather than controlling corporations with teachers, coaches, and leaders in your child’s life. It will be a much more effective approach to parenting in community in the long run.