Wondering why schools discourage moms from dropping off forgotten lunches, homework, or projects in school? You may have been one of those moms who got frustrated because the school officials simply won’t allow it. Well, there is a perfectly logical reason behind it: to curb overparenting.
Overparenting is another word for helicopter parenting, but is most commonly used to refer to parents of older kids, those who get involved in college admission tests. Hovering too much on the kids can start as early toddlerhood when kids start to learn how to be independent and the parents won’t let them. The parents end up doing tasks (i.e., dressing them, cleaning up messes) and making decisions (i.e., what to eat, who befriend) for your kids that they can already do by themselves. “Tiger mom” parenting, described as overscheduling activities, having too strict routines, and too high expectations, can also be considered overparenting.
The result: the young ones grow up being too dependent on their parents that they could not function on their own. That or the kids’ self-esteem is way under that they break down.
Research published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies has found that over-parented children are less independent and competent to do things on their own and have trouble relating to others as teens. These can result in depression and less overall life satisfaction. On the other end of the spectrum, a separate research published in the Journal of Positive Psychology has found that kids of less controlling parents end up happier and have higher life satisfaction and better mental health throughout life.
It's true. As former dean at Stanford University Julie Lythcott-Haims writes in her book How to Raise and Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success: “Without experiencing the rougher spots of life, our kids become exquisite, like orchids, yet are incapable, sometimes terribly incapable, of thriving in the real world on their own.” Indeed, Our kids need both to experience the ups and downs, much like Riley of the movie Inside Out needs both Sadness and Joy growing up.
Moms and child-care professionals speak up “I think it's part and parcel of parenthood in the same way worrying is, which is a silent voice in all mothers' heads, admit it or not," says Joni Tan, fulltime tutor and mom of one. For her, all mothers have, at one point or another and in more than one occasion, over-parented their kids. She claims that she has benefited from being raised by a tiger mom: “I wouldn't be as resilient dealing with disappointments and setbacks in life if i hadn't been taught that way early on.”
Mom-of-three Joy Queja Claveria, on her end, tries not lecture an overly “passionate parent.” When it comes to those instances, “I want to tell them to keep calm and to talk and really listen to their child." She would rather observe and learn from them, for example, making mental note of the no-no’s that could affect the psychological resilience of her children.
For Sharlene Picache, HR officer and mom of two young kids, she thinks overparenting is a reflection of the parents' fears and insecurities. “The challenge is finding the right balance between allowing your child to make mistakes and being there for them. ‘Pag nasobrahan, mahirap na.” she adds. We all want the best for our kids that it sometimes takes a big leap of faith to let them go.
School teachers like California-based Lana Juan, mom to Kaleb, 3, who handles high school students, and Jam Mancenido, who use to teach at Keys School in Mandaluyong and is now the head trainer at The Teachers Trainers, helping parents strike a balance is like walking on a very thin line.
Over parenting hinders the students from solving problems on his own, which is necessary for independence, personality development, and emotional intelligence.
Juan says she has encountered moms who are the ones talking to the school teachers, registrars, etc. “I know they only want the best for their kids and they mean well, but their ways are an exaggerated means to a certain end,” she says. As teachers, it’s part of their job to work with parents find a balance and she knows all too well how difficult it is to find the right parenting style that works for every parent and child. Teachers can only do so much. Most schools would offer seminars and talks, but you can never know what key learnings they take home and if they would actually do something about it.
Sometimes you really just have to say to the parents that they are no longer helping their child. Mancenido shares how does it: “I initially establish a good working relationship with them. From the very beginning, I am open with everything regarding the child's experiences in school, my role, my expectation of parents, etc. This is so I can rely on them as real partners throughout the year that I am handling their child. So on those times when I had to give feedback, I have been honest.
“But in a few cases where the parent is difficult, I present first the student’s performance backed up by evidence. Then, I say that based on research and observation of the child, ‘one of the possible reasons’ behind such performance is the current circumstances at home, including his relationship with the parents. That way, hindi masasaktan yung parents kasi may research component; it’ presented objectively. Hindi siya mukhang feel ko lang na issue talaga ang ginagawa ng magulang,” she stresses.
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Martial arts trainer and dad-of-three Ruel Espin agrees: He reassures the parents that their child is in good hands. “Crucial ‘yon e, yung the parents trust you and they trust that your area all on the same page. Nagkakaproblema lang kapag magkaiba ang goal ninyo for the child. Kapag ganun, you either work to get back on track or switch trainers,” he explains. He says that as much as he would like to help the parents see a different light; it might come across as overstepping his boundaries. “Pagdating sa training, that’s my area e, kung ayaw mo makinig, then lipat ka na lang. It’s not my place to parent the parent. As a parent myself, ayoko rin na maynakikialam sa pagpapalaki ko sa mga anak ko.”
It's often frowned upon if other parents meddle in a domestic issue. However, Rina Lim, a dance instructor who teaches kids, stresses in order for your views to be heard, you have to have a strong bond with the parents before you can even bring up their overparenting ways. “If the parents of my students ask for my opinion, then that’s when I speak up. As long as it’s not within my area of expertise, if I’m not asked, I try not to meddle,” she says. She admits however that it could be hard to be caught in the middle, even for the kids.
Anything in excess is never a good One rather controversial strategy to stop overparenting kids is to teach kids that their actions have consequences—by actually letting them suffer the consequences. But can you really just let your kids starve during the day just because he forgot to bring his lunch bag? This approach only serves its purpose if the consequence is direct and if it does not pose any danger to the child.
Catherine Newman writes in her blog for the New York Times that this is also an extreme approach, and anything done more than required would also not benefit the kids. She suggests, “What about something else altogether? Not dependence, not independence, but something more like interdependence, where we acknowledge our mutual reliance, count on cooperation, and nurture generosity, compassion and charity. Interdependence means saying, in a million ways, ‘How can I help?’—to your children, your partner, your friends, your community—and expecting them to do the same.”
Interior designer Ardeliza Claveria-Chua, who has conducted art workshops with kids, was raised by non-overparenting parents, and when she encounters parents who hover too much, she feel sad. She shares, “When I was a child, I’d compare them with my classmates more 'involved' parents and I thought they didn’t care. I did everything on my own since grade 1, from doing my assignments to studying for exams. They are very strict in terms of rules and very nurturing in terms of providing a good life, they allowed us to take charge of things we can handle. Looking back, I learned to be independent, and now I can own all my achievements.”
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Be that unwavering, loving and caring parent and yet still have the wisdom and the strength to know when to let go—to be supportive and yet not too controlling. It’s a constant struggle.
Juan reveals that she herself is wary of turning into one of them. “When Kaleb is in the playground, I let him be, but if he does something scary or new I make sure I'm right there in case we fall. But there are also times that I purposely ignore him because I want him to figure things out by himself. Plus, I also want my alone time." It's different for every parent and child. The end goal, however, should be the same: to raise kids who can live their life to the fullest as adults.
The old saying holds true: It doestake a village to raise a child--a community that supports to equip kids with that skills and knowhow they would need growing up. Lend an ear and take a step back to evaluate. We parents are tasked to raise children who can live a decent life even after we've passed. It's not easy, so childhood is the perfect time to start traning them for an independent life. It takes time, so start early. Open their minds to the world, both the good and the bad, and guide and teach them about life, not take over theirs.