'Overparenting' Is Turning Our Kids Into Ninnies

Today it's much more common to over-parent than to under-parent. Perhaps in reaction to our own under-parented upbringings, we children of the 1970s and '80s have become uber-involved in everything from the PTA to gymnastics camp. You know us when you see us hovering over our children at the playground, screaming at the store because Timmy was out of our sight for 2.1 seconds, and picking our kids up from sleepovers because our family believes only in "late-overs."

This isn't the blog where I bash all overparenters because I know, to a certain extent, I am one, too. My children are my life in a way I know I never was to my own parents. I write about them, think about them constantly, and take them to museums, enrichment classes, and events daily.

The fact is, It's SO HARD not to over-parent today. It's harder than ever to just let go. Writer Katherine Ozment addresses over-parenting for Boston Magazine


In our house, the phrase "Good job!" is so pervasive that it has lost all meaning. I have uttered it to our kids for getting themselves into the car, eating dinner, and brushing their teeth. Our community is all too happy to pitch in: Our son has so many YMCA basketball trophies that he’s taken to giving them to his little sister. Recently, when surveying his completed math homework, I told him: "That’s amazing." He replied, "No it’s not. This was easy."

We all do this. I tell my daughter she did a "great job" when she wipes herself after using the bathroom (and no, I am not kidding), and 90 percent of my friends, no matter how "cool" or "removed" they think they are, over-parent, too.

We fuss and stress. Are our kids learning enough? Getting enough sunlight? Laughing enough? Playing enough? Are there toys safe? Imaginative? Fun? Do they have friends? Do they feel sad?

It's exhausting and it doesn't show any signs of stopping. According to Ozment, it's also bad for kids. Our obsessions and fears about their failures are actually limiting them and keeping them from thriving. Kids need to fall down and fail and they need to do so on their own, away from our watchful stares.

Ozment cites her own best memories of childhood (which are similar to mine), and all of them were about freedom. I once rode my bike all the way to the mall and hopped a bus downtown. I did this with my friend when I was 12. It was exhilarating to have that kind of freedom and it's something I would never in 10 million years allow my children to do.

I over-parent and I need to stop. My kids aren't my life, but I am sure they think they are. My guess is most of you, if you are honest, over-parent, too. It's the way we are now, it seems, and our kids are going to suffer for it.

How do you over-parent?


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