by Sherrie Campbell, PhD
As parents we all love our children to the moon and back. None of us want to see our children in pain and because of this we can over-parent and try and help them avoid emotional challenge and life’s discomforts. What we forget is it is through these challenges our children develop their character. If we are constantly rescuing them and meeting their every need we cripple their abilities to grow into effective, mature adults who are capable of taking care of their needs from the very basics up to their dreams and goals. If we take care of their every basic need for them, they will go forth into the world entitled and unable to process challenges, adversity and/or the needs of others. It is in teaching them to take care of their smaller needs that sets the tone for their abilities to reach their bigger blessings in life.
1. Guilt and fear: None of us are perfect parents, nor has life been perfect for us or our families. Thus, we can sometimes lose perspective on our parenting. We parent, not out of the bigger picture of life with their developing character in mind, but from wanting to make up to our children the pain or unfairness their childhood has brought them. Or, we may be parenting to be “liked” by our children.
2. Giving too much: Out of this guilt and fear we give too much, do too much and try and meet every need (or want) our child has. This type of parenting is appropriate for small children, as it is important for small children to be first, but as our children grow into teens and young adults, if this type of parenting doesn’t mature, the young adult will begin to demand that we meet their needs and throw tantrums when these needs are not met. Out of our own guilt, the tail starts to wag the dog. Our children are now in power and we are the need-meeter.
3. Not allowing our children the experiences of fear and pain: Because we believe our children have not had it perfect, or out of the need to make things perfect for them so they will be happy, we try and protect them from life’s fearful and painful times. In doing this our children do not have the opportunity to learn they do not have to be emotionally perfect to live life effectively. Instead they begin to feel that life, in more challenging times, is unfair and unlivable, and they count on us to fix it for them.
4. Being their “friend”: When we parent from guilt and fear we drop in power from an authority to a best friend. We do not want to be best friends with our children until well into their adulthood. It may feel good to them to feel we are their best friend, but in being in that role, they will not respect or appreciate us an authority and nor will they go through the healthy stages of separating from us and individuating. If we are their friend we cannot simultaneously be their authority when we need to be it for them the most.
5. Allowing complaining: When we do everything for our children we actually make them unhappier. Happiness is a derivative of achievement, even on the smaller things like taking a car in to get serviced. If we rob them of handling daily life inconveniences we do not promote them into developing good character. They will begin to complain and feel totally put-out by life–which will make them angry at life and at others. The result we get is the phone calls riddled with of all the complaints of how unfair life, this professor, boss, boyfriend, or friend is. To mend this we often “choose our battles” and take responsibility for these smaller inconveniences for them, further enabling them.
6. Accepting a lack of gratitude: Our children cannot appreciate us or learn to effectively handle the untimeliness of life’s hurdles if we are constantly rescuing them. If we respond with taking action to every tantrum they are rewarded and will continue demanding without gratitude. They will see their needs as the upmost of importance and not learn how to think about what others may need, think or feel as being just as important.
7. Poor character: When we parent in these ways, coming from love and fear, we accidentally raise children to be emotionally immature, self-centered and entitled. They throw tantrums and give spoiled reactions, far below the age that they are chronologically, and never learn the world is not going to bend on its axis each time they want their way. This creates self-centeredness, unthoughtful of the needs and feelings of others and they become controlling.
By giving too much we cripple our children into becoming self-aware adults. Our intentions come from love and wanting our children to like us and to be happy. In giving too much we are not teaching them about values. Our children may be successful in their career, but happiness lies in the area of love and relationships. If we raise our children to believe their every need will be met they will expect the world and all significant people to bend each time they want their way. When life or people won’t do this for them they become angry, resentful and progressively self-centered. The best and most loving way to raise our children is to be their authority and to encourage them to learn to handle all of their own needs.
Sherapy Advice: It is ok, and actually healthy, for our children to not like us sometimes. They will see the value of this later in life.
Sherrie Campbell, PhD is a veteran, licensed Psychologist with two decades of clinical training and experience providing counseling and psychotherapy services to residents of Yorba Linda, Irvine, Anaheim, Fullerton and Brea, California. In her private practice, she currently specializes in psychotherapy with adults and teenagers, including marriage and family therapy, grief counselling, childhood trauma, sexual issues, personality disorders, illness and more. She has helped individuals manage their highest high and survive their lowest low—from winning the lottery to the death of a child. Her interactive sessions are as unique and impactful as her new book, Loving Yourself : The Mastery of Being Your Own Person.