If you’re struggling with exhaustion related to parenting, you may want to consider parenting like it’s 1989, and do a bit less. There’s a trend these days to overparent, and it’s not good for us or for our children. Read the article below or listen to the podcast to learn how to parent a little less, yet achieve more, both for you and for your children.
Listen to the Podcast version!
Being Raised Independently
As a Generation X Mom, I’m often struck by the difference between how I raise my kids and how my parents raised us.
Growing up, I was very independent. Starting in 4th grade (about age 9 or 10) there are some things I did all the time:
- I stayed home alone all day (even without a TV!)
- I walked over a mile to the library alone, through busy streets
- I wasn’t reminded to do my homework, so it often didn’t get done
- I folded the laundry for the entire family and put it away
I loved being independent. I could go to the library any time I wanted! On the way to the library, I could stop off at the drug store and buy things I needed.
Memories of those days make me smile.
It’s one of the reasons why I still love to walk. Feeling the wind and fresh air reminds me of those early days of freedom.
The Overparenting Trend
These days, giving that much independence to kids (at least in the US) is a rarity.
A few years ago someone in my community allowed her two children to walk together, without a parent, down a busy street (there were sidewalks). True story — someone called Child Protective Services. It took hours for the parents to be able to retrieve their children, who were simply walking somewhere alone.
Whoever called in the complaint didn’t mean harm. She reflects the culture of our society.
Fear. Overprotectiveness. Lack of trust in our children.
This story brought up lots of discussion in our community. People started wondering, ‘What’s appropriate for kids to do alone?’
To end the story – the kids were returned to their parents and the CPS for that county created a new policy, they will not be involved unless children are harmed or at substantial risk of harm.
Soon after this event occurred, I was listening to a podcast (I wish I could remember which one!) and heard the speaker talking about a trend. She explained that kids entering college these days were as delicate as teacups. They were used to being protected and at the slightest challenge, they would crack, like a delicate teacup.
I still remember that moment when I heard her explain how delicate college students are today. The blood rushing to my face as I realized that I was guilty of this, too.
I wasn’t raising my kids like I had been raised. And I knew I had to start paying attention.
We’re Overdoing It
If you live in the US, without even realizing it, you may have picked up on the overparenting trend. After all, it’s part of the culture and it’s what you see on TV, other parents around you, media, everywhere.
We don’t want to be a mediocre Mom, we want to be a WONDERFUL Mom.
It’s no wonder we’re exhausted and need to be reminded to do self-care. We’re doing too much and it’s not good for us or our kids.
Overparenting is exhausting. It’s physically exhausting when we do things for our kids that they can do themselves. But I think the bigger trap is the mental exhaustion.
It’s the worry that depletes us. What if school starts and I don’t have time to buy my kid’s school clothes? What if my kid has a huge assignment and doesn’t finish on time? What if, what if, what if.
It’s the “what ifs” that drain us.
We’re always “on” since we’re always worried about the next thing we need to do.
Trust me, growing up, my Mom did not lose sleep on whether or not I had enough clothes to wear or whether an assignment was done on time.
Sure, she worried about my health and lots of other things. But she didn’t worry about the mundane things that we tend to worry about nowadays. The things that make us crazy!
Become More Balanced by Doing Less
If this is resonating with you, one way you can feel calmer and at ease is by doing less.
Imagine if you felt that you didn’t have the weight of the world (or at least all of your kids’ problems) on your shoulders.
You would be a different person without that constant worry and stress.
The less you do for your kids (within reason! I’m not advocating neglect) the more space and ease you’ll have.
Do It For Your Kids
If doing less makes you feel guilty, don’t do it for you. Do it for your kids.
You want your kids to grow up and be independent. After all, you’re raising a future adult.
You want your kids to have the satisfaction of being independent.
Learning From Mistakes
Another “unintended consequence” of overparenting is that our kids never get the chance to make a mistake.
Imagine what would happen if your child went to school without her homework. Her teacher would probably have something to say, right?
But so often we force our kids to do their homework. We don’t want them to get “into trouble” or a bad grade.
The constant nagging is
- not good for our relationship with our kids
- drains us to the very core!!
Imagine we “let” our kids face the consequences of their actions. What if they get in trouble? Or get a bad grade?
They’ll probably survive. But better yet, they’ll learn the hard way not do that again.
If we’re always protecting them, it drains us and they never make mistakes they can learn from.
We also try to protect our kids from bad experiences. So many of us are guilty of this since we may have had bad experiences growing up and we don’t want our kids to go through the same pain. It hurts us to think of our kids hurting.
But normal bad experiences (I’m not talking about bullying or abuse) are a part of life.
How many times have we planned a vacation and it rained the whole time? Life happens.
When we shield our kids too much, they don’t learn to be resilient.
An Example of Resilience
I was really lucky that I happened to read How to Raise an Adult at exactly the right time.
The book is by Julie Lythcott-Haims. As the Freshmen Dean at Stanford University Stanford University, she noticed that kids entering college (all colleges, not just Stanford) seemed less and less able to think and do for themselves. Parents were handling things that in the past, college kids would handle on their own.
The book is amazing and I highly recommend.
My child had just had a very negative experience at a sleep away camp. I was sad and depressed for her.
Right after she got back, I just happened to read the book and learned that kids are supposed to experience “bad” things. It’s what makes them strong.
Thanks to what I learned from the book, I was able to re-frame the entire experience.
I explained to my daughter that although camp didn’t go well, she made the best of the situation. We discussed ways she was resilient despite the circumstances. For example, she didn’t ask us to come home early. She didn’t cry and scream and complain. Although she wasn’t happy, she dealt with it.
Thank you Julie Lythcott-Haims.
Instead of my child having negative memories about her experience, discussing her resilience in dealing with the experience changed her perspective and made her feel proud of herself. Wow. What a gift.
Thank you again Julie Lythcott-Haims.
How to Stop Overparenting
As I mentioned earlier, until I learned better, I was also trending towards raising teacups.
My transformation was slow and truthfully, I’m still transforming. It takes a long time to change behaviors that are ingrained in us and our culture.
First, I was honest with my kids. I explained what I learned about overparenting and explained that I didn’t want to raise them to be teacups. They agreed wholeheartedly!! It’s actually a joke in our family now. They’ll do something hard and say “I’m no teacup!”
Next, I slowly started doing less. Very very slowly. I got a lot of resistance to this. It was hard for me and for the kids at first. It would have been MUCH easier to just do the thing.
But I slowly drew back.
I also started doing things the Montessori way and made some adjustments so my kids could reach things and get what they needed on their own.
Finally, Julie Lythcott-Haims recommends that you give your kids chores. She explained in an interview that this can be particularly difficult if your kids are older since there will be A LOT of resistance. Keep at it!
Personally, I find chore charts don’t work. They lose their newness after a few weeks.
I created a printable for you based on expert advice (and things that work for me!) on how to encourage kids to do chores. Chore charts and rewards don’t seem to work. I find creating a positive environment is one of the best ways to encourage chores. Click above to download the chart. If you don’t have access yet to the resource library, sign up below.
Getting Kids to Do Chores
The best way to get kids to do their chores is to start small (#mysecretthatalwaysworks). If they’ve never done chores, they can start with one thing and once they do it consistently, you can start onto the next thing.
I also LOVE the Montessori ideology that kids should do whatever they are capable of doing. For example, in a Montessori classroom, they will put cups lower so kids can reach them and get their own drinks.
Wishing you lots of success with your parenting, no matter how you choose to parent. Below are some resources I find helpful: