Can you help your kids too much?

Washing dishes - doing too much for kidsShe says: My mother doesn’t feel I do enough for my children. This stings, not because I feel she’s right (she’s not) or that I’m constantly suffering “mom-guilt” (I’m not – well, a little), but because I feel I’ve learned from her mistake of having done too much.  Is there such a thing as doing too much for your children? I think there is. In over-helping, you can end up hurting.

I’m really ashamed to admit this but my mom made my bed every day for as long as I lived at home. She researched scholarship opportunities for college. She made the contact for the first job I had. And foolishly, I didn’t recognize that none of those things were okay. My parents had done so much for me all my life that I didn’t know that wasn’t the norm, until I got out in the world and started comparing notes with other people. What a wake-up call! I know my parents did everything they did out of love but I quickly realized how much I DIDN’T know how to do like cook, clean, network and fill out forms, for goodness sake! It was a quick but sharp learning curve but I’m proud to say I learned how to do everything I needed to do for myself in life, in time to get married and have children who wouldn’t have survived very well if their mother hadn’t known how to function in life!

I made it my parenting goal (and my mantra) to raise “happy, healthy, functioning people.” That “functioning” part includes knowing how to fill out a job application, how to clean the toilet, how to figure out how to get from point A to point B. And for my and my husband’s efforts, our kids have been functioning really well, with confidence, with a strong work ethic, knowing that they are ultimately responsible for themselves, for years. Now, as teens and young adults, I know that if they had to, they could take care of themselves just fine.

Now, does that mean Thomas and I leave the kids to feel like there’s no one who has their back or who will help them out? Absolutely not. They know we adore them and are there for them throughout their lives. We’re just not going to do it all for them because, to us, being a good parent means raising good people with strong life skills and capabilities. Sorry, Mom, while you did a million-and-one wonderful things for me, doing everything for me isn’t always what’s best for the kids.    

He says: It’s really interesting to me that Courtney and I came to the same parenting conclusions from having come out of very different parenting styles. With a single mom who worked very long hours, my sister and I were cooking, cleaning, mowing the yard and more from an early age. While I’m sure I grumbled about it plenty, I was also happy to be doing my part to help someone who was doing so much for us. Having to navigate all of the bumps in the road for myself was beneficial and I wanted that for my kids too. Fortunately, we have the benefit of Courtney being present for kids because she works from home. Coming at parenting from our different perspectives, Courtney and I are able to have a good balance between helping and hindering by helping too much. It’s really about empowering our kids to be their independent selves.              

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