Alyson Schafer: 10 Signs You're Doing Too Much For Your Kids

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A 7 years old boy doing his homework with his mom | Catherine Delahaye via Getty Images

Who doesn’t want to be an awesome mom or dad? Of course we all do, but sometimes our passion and enthusiasm leads to an ambitious approach which can cross the line.

Sadly, over-functioning parents produce complementary under-functioning children. If parents do too much for their children, the kids evade doing things for themselves. Our kin come to expect us to solve their problems and handle their responsibilities. They don’t develop skills and ultimately stay dependent. That only fuels our belief that they can’t manage without us and we once again step in to help, which keeps the system of over-functioning and under-function going.

Are you worried you might be crossing the line? Here are 10 signs that you’re doing too much for you kids.

1) You’re tired

Of course you’re tired! You’re basically living two people’s lives: your own and your child’s. All day long you are doing two people’s work and looking after two people’s responsibilities. Of course you’re falling asleep on the couch before you can even log into your Netflix account.

2) You’re resentful

Overdoing parents often step in after they have failed to motivate their under-functioning child to do their job. We plea, urge, remind and barter only to fail, and then we still end up carrying their hockey bag in from the car. When you end up doing things for your child you know they should be doing themselves, you feel put-upon, resentful and unappreciated.

3) Your children accuse and blame you

“You didn’t pack my skates! You forgot my lunch money! You made me late!” If your child is wagging the finger at you, laying blame on you for their problems, this is a red flag that you’ve been doing too much for them. Clearly they have come to believe that you are still ultimately responsible for every aspect of their life. Hmm… how did they come to think like that? Just saying…

4) You’re the only one

Look around, who else is wiping their child’s nose? Nobody else in their grade 8 class? Are there other parents standing by their child’s locker and loading their backpack? Who else is helping their child get dressed after swimming? If you aren’t sure what your child is capable of, ask your pediatrician and pay attention to what similar aged children are doing independently.

5) Your kids are bossy and demanding

You know you’re doing too much when your child talks down to you and makes barking demands: “Tie my shoe!” “Get my juice!” “Drive me to the mall.” Me thinks they doth protest too much.

6) Your kids are resistant to doing anything

If you have been overdoing for your child, they may have learned a helplessness attitude and are resistant to doing pretty much anything for themselves. That resistance or persistent under-functioning fuels your belief that they are incapable rather than unwilling, and so you feel more compelled to step in and cross boundary lines to rescue them from their responsibilities.

7) You’re shocked to hear what they can do when you’re not around

You may be shocked or even hurt that you have to fight each morning to ensure your teen is awake on time for school, yet when they are at camp as a counsellor in training, they get themselves up for kitchen patrol at 6 a.m. without your help at all. Who’s being fooled about their abilities?

8) Your life is unbalanced

Are you avoiding your own life? Many parents who focus too intensely on the upbringing of their children are keeping themselves very busy with a noble cause. However, could it be that they are actually avoiding getting on with their own life? Who are you when you’re not busy being a parent? Raising children is one important part of our life, but if we make it our whole life, we lose our sense of self and we put undue pressure on our children to fulfill us.

9) You have low tolerance for stress and anxiety

Many overdoing parents step in to help their children for their own purposes. If you can’t tolerate your child’s disappointments, tears, frustrations, mistakes and imperfections, it could be your own heightened anxiety driving you to solve the issue at hand quickly, so you don’t have to suffer.

10) You have excessive standards

Children are growing and developing so they will inevitably be slow, sloppy and uncoordinated and thus, make mistakes. If you have high standards, you may jump in too soon to correct, re-do, help, resolve or take over in the name of hitting a standard. Sure, it’s their job to clean up after a spill, but can you handle their abilities or do you need to step in with mop in hand to get the job done in a way you feel is right? Can you give up control and allow your child to pick what they want to wear over what you think matches? If you can’t tolerate polka dot tights with a striped skirt, you may not want to hand off the responsibility of dressing. After all, what will people think of YOU? Gulp.


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