NEW DELHI: Are you the parent who hovers over or influences every decision your child makes? Are you the parent who micromanages their choices and decisions, lest they make any mistakes? Are you the parent who ensures their child succeeds at every step, small or big?
If you answered an emphatic yes for all the questions above, you might be convinced that you are a good parent and deserves a pat on the back. But technically, this fits in the description of what many are blissfully unaware of -- a style known as "overparenting". How do you find out if you are guilty of this?
I was reminded of Andre Agassi's quote when I got a chance to interview him. He said, "the sign of good parenting is to raise kids to be independent and not need us at every step in their future." A very insightful line that got me thinking. Are we guilty of raising children in a bubble-wrapped world?
Parenting is about providing a safe cocoon for them, inspiring them, and pointing them in the right direction. But over the years, there is an urge among parents to "do what's best for their kids" and in that process, we have started fearing and avoiding failures -- both for the kids, and for ourselves, as parents.
Why overparenting does more harm than good?
I know what you are wondering. "Could caring for our offsprings be deemed as harmful?", you might think. Actually it is true.
Often known as helicopter parenting over parenting can inhibit a child's confidence and the ability to make their own decisions when they grow older. They always look behind to seek help and acceptance from you, which might not be possible at every walk in life. That's not all. Experts say children who were raised in an overparenting style, also tend to have a less realistic view of the world around them. Their problem-solving and decision-making abilities take a hit and they are afraid of trying out new things, in fear of failure and that holds them back from their peers. Is that an ideal future that we want to build for our Gen Alpha kids, who are otherwise stronger and more confident than us, the Millennial generation?
Be open to mistakes and consequences:
The parent needs more convincing here than the kids! Let them fail. Nothing teaches you better than mistakes themselves. Bruised knees are signs of a child who has played well and learnt more in the process. Once they understand they are responsible for their consequences their actions take a different and a more responsible turn.
Don't over sanitise kids:
Just like physical immunity, mental immunity also builds gradually and something we need to work on as parents. Sanitising every surface or opportunity for our kids is impractical, and not recommended too. Be there to catch them if they fall, and direct them if they feel lost, but don't be there as the one who stops them from falling. Guide them and involve them in small chores at home, it is okay for kids to sweat it out a little, at home. They will learn so many valuable life skills this way.
Control impulse to blame and teach kids to take onus for their actions:
Here is a common sight. When a child trips and falls down, you will find an overprotective parent or grandparent, coddle the kid and hit the floor hard, for tripping the child. As "caring" as that might seem, it teaches kids from a young age not to take responsibility for their actions and to transfer the blame. Avoid such practices right from the beginning, and teach your kids to be more careful and not fall, rather than blame the floor (or anyone else).
Teach your kids that it is okay to be vulnerable:
Yes, we want children to see that we are perfect in everything we do. But when they constantly see that, they don't know what the other side of perfection looks like. As adults, when we make small errors, or if we consider something as our weakness, learn to accept it, in front of your kids, and tell them this is why you did it. This needs to be done, with discretion, of course, but when kids see that you are more human than the perfect image they have in mind, they learn more from watching you than anything else. Create and connect with your kids, in a more relatable way.
Don't be the go-to problem solver all the time
In most houses, the moms take up the role of the 24*7 problem-solver. Sock missing? Mom knows where it is. Missed your lunch box at home? Mom rushes to school to hand it over to you. This has to change, especially when the kids grow older. When my girls need help from me for their homework or assignment, I love to chip in, but I let them think for a while, before they come running to me for answers. Those few critical minutes where they strive to fight their own fires, will go a long way in preparing them for the future. Let them face the consequences. Be there for them, but not for every small task or mistake they do. This way, they will never learn how to rise again.
Go ahead and tweak your parenting style, to ensure you do what's best for your kids not just today, but in the long run too! Happy parenting!