Confident Children - Avoid Overparenting
For many years underparenting was perhaps the biggest problem
Recently there has emerged another type of parenting that,
whilst never as harmful as underparenting, can be detrimental to
children's healthy development – that is, the trend by many
of the current generation of parents to overparent their
Overparenting occurs when parents solve children's problems
rather than give them the chance to overcome problems
themselves. It occurs when parents allow children to avoid
legitimately challenging situations so they won't be
inconvenienced. It also occurs when too much control or too much
order is imposed on children.
Overparenting is predominantly a mindset. It is a belief that
children can't overcome difficulties themselves and they
can't cope with discomfort or disappointment. It comes with
increased affluence but it can occur in any socio-economic
group. From my observation, it is more likely to occur in
smaller rather than larger families or in families where a death
has occurred or tragedy has been a visitor.
An overparented child is a protected, spoiled child. He or
she often lacks real confidence and won't take many risks. An
overprotected child avoids new situations and looks to hide
behind his parents when difficulties or challenges arise.
An overparented child can be any age but often becomes more
apparent in middle primary school when the challenges children
meet start to multiply. The overparenting may have occurred in
the early years but the results only become apparent during this
Some children by their nature place more demands on their
parents, which results in overparenting. They receive more
attention, more material possessions and more spoiling than they
need because they can so bloody-minded and so insistent that
parents give in just for some peace and quiet.
Sometimes circumstances such as family breakdown or a change
of circumstances can lead to overparenting or overprotection as
a form of compensation for the inconvenience that has been
caused. While a child's behaviour may lead to feelings of
guilt overparenting in this manner doesn't do the child any
favours in the long term.
How can a parent break from a pattern of overparenting? This
is hard to do because overparenting can seem so normal. However
if a child is so reliant on a parents that they think they
can't cope without them then it is time to take some action.
Parental illness is one way to change overparenting, although
it is not a recommended course of action. When a parent is
incapacitated or sick for a lengthy period of time children
generally have no choice but to fend for themselves in a whole
range of ways. From my observation of families I am constantly
amazed how children rise to a challenge when they have to.
Another way to kick the overparenting habit is to do so by
stealth. Little by little parents need to pull back on the
over-assistance that they provide children. They can start by
insisting children walk to school (provided this is reasonable
from the perspective of safety and their well being), get
themselves up each morning or other simple forms of self-help as
required. When a new behavior becomes the norm rather than the
exception then it is best to look for another area to withdraw
their assistance from.
Another way to defeat the overparenting habit it to give
children ideas, tips and techniques to cope with their
challenges rather than allow them to avoid or pull out of
challenges. For instance, a child who wants to pull out of an
after school class after three weeks because they haven't any
friends may need some ideas about either how to make friends or
make do without friends until the end of term.
It helps to develop a "Hang tough" attitude rather than a
"Let's try something else when things get tough" attitude.
Overparenting prevents children from developing a "Hang
From my experience those children who do best at school and
beyond the school years are those who have parents whose first
response is to teach and support rather than protect or
compensate when social, physical or intellectual challenges
occur. It also helps to have parents who show absolute,
unwavering confidence in a child's ability to cope and fend
for him or herself, yet be wise enough to know when children
need their help and compassionate enough to lend a hand once in
It is hard to get the balance right between developing real
independence and not placing too much responsibility on
children. It is essential for all sorts of reasons that
childhood be protected, even prolonged. But that doesn't mean
that children be closeted, spoiled or get every material good
they want. Effective parenting is a balancing act between the
head and the heart, between providing opportunities for
resourcefulness and showing compassion, and between being a
supportive parent and a protective parent.
Michael Grose is
The Parent Coach. For seventeen years he has been helping
parents deal with the rigours of raising kids and survive!! For
information about Michael's Parent Coaching programs or just
some fine advice and ideas to help you raise confident kids and
resilient teenagers visit