We are an obsessed society. We are obsessed with entertainment, food, money, losing weight and yes, even parenting. The next time you are in a book store, stroll over to the parenting section. What you will see will simply amaze you. There are 10s of thousands of books on the subject. They are there because people are buying them. We have become a society obsessed with parenting. It has led to a a phenomenon called over-parenting.
Over-parenting can be described by the following characteristics.
1) Parents feel that every decision they make is life threatening. This mindset often begins in infancy. What diaper rash cream to choose, what organic baby food is best, and what baby videos will stimulate the child’s brain are all dilemmas of great importance to parents obsessed with doing it “right.” Making mistakes is not an option and having anything but the best is seen as a disservice to the child.
2) Parents are afraid of everything. These parents fear that McDonalds is full of germs, playgrounds are unsafe and the potential for their child’s self-esteem to be damaged is looming around every corner. As a result, these parents encapsulate their children in a sterile bubble-like environment where colds, scraped knees and those hard (but valuable) life lessons are avoided at all costs.
3) Parents see their children as a reflection of themselves. They think, “If my child is successful, I can pat myself on the back for a job well done.” This mindset creates a family environment similar to a pressure cooker. Children feel burdened with the weight of performance. Some children rebel against this pressure while others seek to rise to meet the challenge, simply to find that the bar of achievement is never fixed. Perfectionism, disillusionment, isolation and a lack of intrinsic motivation are the sad side effects of such an environment.
This is not to suggest that we go the other way and leave children to fend for themselves. It is not even to suggest that we go back to the “good old days” (which, I suspect, were not any better). We simply need to relax. Yes, parenting is a big job with high stakes and yes, it is stressful. But parenting is not a perfect cause and effect relationship. Doing everything “right” will not ensure that our children will turn out “right.” We all know of great parents who have had wayward children or conversely, lousy parents who, despite all odds, have children who grow up to be remarkable individuals. Therefore, let’s take the pressure off our shoulders to perform and perfect and seek to enjoy the time we have with our children. Let’s view mistakes and hardships as opportunities to grow and scrapes on the knee as an essential ingredient to a balanced and joyful childhood.