You’re mystified as you watch her in action and want to scream, “Stop behaving like that.” Sounds, like I’m talking about a child, right? I’m not; I’m talking about an over-involved parent.
Over-involved parents tend to micromanage everything in their child’s world. They’re the parents who think it’s better to fix, rather than teach their child about the injustices of life.
I’ve seen and heard stories from other moms about parents who do everything for their child. They hang up their child’s coat, take her by the hand to her desk and sit beside her, correcting her, as she begins the 1st assignment of the day.
IMHO, the over-involved parent is an extreme version, a more intense version of a helicopter parent. The over-involved parent misunderstands what her parental job description really is.
Hear me out before you rush to the comment box. I totally understand wanting the best for your child. Everyone wants that for his or her child, including me.
The parent I’m describing isn’t looking at what their child needs; they’re focused on what they want for their child.
What Does a Child Truly Need?
A child truly needs parents who are guided by the “big picture.” Big picture parents understand that what’s said and done today affects how your child thinks about things tomorrow. Big picture parents understand there’s a huge gap between how a fully-grown adult brain interprets things and how an immature child’s brain sees things.
When my kids were little there was a mom who was over-involved and controlled every drop of play and interaction her daughter had with other kids. She’d steer the kids in the direction she thought they should go. She would never wait to see what happened so the kids could learn, she would jump in and prevent it from happening.
We knew this mom was coming from a place of love. However, her child began interpreting her attempts in a completely different way.
Depending on a child’s temperament the interpretation of an over-involved mom will most likely be translated in one of two ways.
One child’s immature thinking may cause him to think he’s special, “When others don’t share with me, my mom jumps in and makes them.” If mom continues to do that for her child he may grow up thinking others should always give him his way. As a tween and teen he may surround himself with kids who bow to his every whim. He may even grow into an adult who has an air of entitlement about him that few will enjoy.
Another child, one with a different temperament, may begin shying away from playing with others, or stop risking new experiences so mom doesn’t step in and embarrass him. As a grown-up he may find he’s uncomfortable taking risks of any kind.
Both types of children will have missed out on learning how to handle themselves in different situations so they’re prepared to handle life’s bumps and bruises when they’re older.
Over-involved Parenting vs. Teaching Parenting
Having the big picture as your guide means knowing that what you want for your child may not always be what he needs due to the way he perceives things.
The conversation below wasn’t created to show parents how to handle the situation. It’s meant to show the difference between being over-involved and teaching.
The Over-involved Parent
Mom: “Don’t worry princess I’ll make sure you get a cupcake even if there isn’t enough for everyone.”
Child: (yelling) “Get it now! Make sure it’s pink—I only eat pink!”
The Teaching Parent
Mom: “Sweetie, looks like there aren’t enough pink cupcakes for everyone. What’s your back-up plan, blue or purple?”
Child: (beginning to cry) “I want pink.”
Mom: “I know and sometimes you have to change what you want, that’s why we have second choices?”
Child: “Okay, I’ll have one with sprinkles.”
I, like every parent, wanted to give my precious kids everything. When I felt tempted I’d silently replay the lyrics to the Rolling Stones song, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need.”
Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding and The Authentic Parent Series. Go to proactiveparenting.net to download two free chapters from her book and learn about other Proactive Parenting programs. Find Sharon on Twitter and Facebook.