I recently read an article in the Huffington Post entitled 8 Guaranteed Ways to Emotionally F&^%$$%^ up your Kids. And boy did it get me thinking about the difference between being supportive and overprotective.
The 8 points can be summarized as follows:
#1 - Ignoring your children and minimizing their feelings - This is pretty much summed up by teasing them or mocking them when they are unhappy, essentially telling them that their feelings are wrong. There is no better way to discourage our kids from opening up to us. And then we wonder why they do not feel safe talking to us as they get older.
#2 - Inconsistent rule-making and follow-through – It is impossible for children to please us when they never know what our expectations are. We essentially set them up for failure. Rules and boundaries need to be consistent. Consequences need to be expected and carried through when rules are broken. Even when given discipline or consequences, studies have shown that children actually function better and are more adaptable later in life when they are given clear boundaries as young children.
#3 - Making our child our friend – This is a big No-No. Our children are not to be our friends. It is our job to guide them and direct them, not be their buddies and do things with them they do with their peers. Our children need someone to look up to for advice. Our children should never know our worries and fears nor should we have any expectations of them to help us find solutions to our adult problems. This can ultimately create unnecessary worry and anxiety in our children.
#4 - Putting down/mocking their other parent – Children learn how to love and express love by what is being modeled for them. Children learn many forms of behavior by what is being modeled for them. Lack of affection toward a partner, or worse, berating a partner in front of the children, can too become a source of anxiety for children and contribute to one parent becoming unnecessarily alienated.
#5 - Punishing our children for growing up and becoming independent - We need to stop making our children feel guilty for reaching their normal developmental milestones. And for doing the normal age-appropriate testing of the rules and of our levels of patience. On the one hand we encourage our children to explore and try new things, but on the other we discourage them for fear that they will fail. As parents, we need to be able to take a deep breath and have faith that everything good that we have taught our children has resonated with them.
#6 - Treating your child as a reflection of you – Children need to be taught to live their lives for their own personal growth, not because we want them to represent us well. Our children are not responsible for our image, and should not be made to feel as such. Such children will grow up never feeling good enough, and always feeling like they are letting us down in some way.
#7 - Getting overly involved in our children’s relationships - Our children will only mature when they learn to manage their relationships on their own. Meddling too much in their interactions with their friends, their teachers and their siblings will not force them to manage these relationships on their own. These children will grow up being too dependent on others to solve their problems for them.
#8 - Being too overprotective – We all want to protect our children from any anticipated pain and disappointment but by doing so we are sheltering them too much. Children need to learn how to manage negative emotions. We are not always going to be able to micromanage them. Children need to learn how to stand on their own two feet, knowing that their own parents have the faith in them to be able to take care of themselves, learn to make their own decisions, etc.
I am sure we can all agree that as parents, we all do all of these things, at least some of the time. We are all a little bit, or a lot guilty. Does this mean that we are screwing up our kids and their futures right before our very eyes?
Where is this fine line, which divides being supportive to our kids, or the willingness to go to bat for them, without being too overprotective?
When I figure it out, I will let you know.
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