Fight the Urge to Overparent: 7 Ways to Stop Hovering

Fight the Urge to Overparent via The Risky Kids

Can I let you in on a secret?  As passionate as I am about raising independent kids and taking risks, I still struggle with the urge to overparent.  I have a feeling I’m not alone.  In talking with other parents, I’ve come to realize that we all have at least one thing that makes us want to hover or get over-involved when it comes to our kids.  When you feel yourself beginning to helicopter, here are 7 tips to help you overcome that urge.

Find Your Tribe

Some people are able to march to the beat of their own drum no matter where they are or who they’re with.  Most of us probably struggle with voicing our opinions or parenting our way when we’re around people whose ideas and values are different.  Finding other parents who practice free-range parenting can help you keep your desire to overparent in check.  You can bounce ideas, be a resource, and best of all, feel safe from judgement with each other.  Pay attention to other parents at the park, playground, or school and see if you see yourself in them – and then introduce yourself!  And don’t underestimate the power of friendships you make online.  Support from like-minded parents online can be just as powerful as a friend next door.

Acknowledge Your Own Issues

We all have our buttons that are easily pressed, and often they are rooted in some kind of fear or lack of knowledge.  I can be laid back in nearly every aspect of parenting, but when it comes to my tween’s digital life I am a classic helicopter parent.  It turns out that it’s hard for me to give up that control, and my fear is that she’ll share something she’ll regret later or make poor choices with negative consequences.  By realizing that this is an issue for me, it allows me to think about how I handle situations that arise.    Often it forces me to check myself – am I parenting rationally?  Or am I making decisions based on my own fears?

Fight the Urge to Overparent

Know Your Child

You really do know best.  You know what they’re capable of and what they’re not ready for.  Some kids are ready to play alone in the front yard at four, while others need more maturity.  If you know your child has the skills they need to try something, let them do it – even if they might fail.

Find Your Own Project

Parenting is a job, one we all take seriously.  But our children can’t be our pet projects, hobbies, or source of our inner fulfillment.  An unhappy or bored parent seeks to control, making it too easy to get over-involved in every aspect of their child’s life.  Find your own purpose and sources of happiness.  Make time for your own hobbies, be of service to others, and take care of your self.  It takes the pressure off your kids to please you, and you’ll set a good example for them to follow as they parent their own children.

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Remember the Toddler Years

Did you overparent when it came time for your babies and toddlers to learn to walk, talk, feed themselves, or use the bathroom?  Chances are you let them fail – they fell down, mispronounced words, missed their mouths, had accidents.  They learned from trial and error, and you were there to cheer them on when they mastered those tasks.  Yes, the potential for bigger mistakes grows as our kids grow.  But better that they fail and learn while still under our care, than never learn how to try or handle failure as an adult.

Have a Mantra: “Mistakes Are Good”

This is where real growth takes place.  One summer Elena loved nothing more than to read books outside.  The only problem?  She was always forgetting to bring the book in with her.  I nagged her for days, or worse yet, brought her things in for her.  Finally, I realized I wasn’t doing her any favors, and I stopped.  One morning I found her sobbing on the back porch – she’d left  a library book out and it had rained.  I had a choice: I could overparent, and handle the situation for her, or I could let her learn from a natural consequence.  She took the damaged book to the library, explained the situation to the librarian, apologized, and handed over $20 of her own money she was saving for an iPod to pay for the book.  She never left another book outside again.

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Get Comfortable with Feeling Uncomfortable

Feelings are messy, and dealing with kids’ feelings is every bit as hard as dealing with your own (if not harder).  It’s difficult to see your kids unhappy, frustrated, angry or sad.  My first urge it to fix it.  What we don’t realize is that the temporary relief we provide them only serves to make those feelings even more unbearable when they return – and they will.  Life is full of mess.  Be there for your kids, but give them the time,space, and tools to process their own emotions.

Is this something you struggle with, too?  In what kind of situations do you tend to overparent and how do you fight the urge to do so?

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Comments

  1. My need to overparent is based on which kid we are talking about. The “baby” (who in reality is 10 years old) gets more of my hovering than the other two do. But I’m trying to step back, watch more and let them figure things out. My MIL used to call that “being a boring parent” — in a good way. Thanks for the sensible tips and the encouragement.

  2. oh man, such fantastic tips. Seriously…
    I think I’m totally “ok” with letting my kids do their own thing. The only thing that stops me is wondering what other parents think of my “lax” parenting…

    • That’s often my hangup, too. I care far too much about what others think about how I parent. Good thing we’re so close – we can be in the same tribe!

  3. I’m totally with DesignHerMomma, what about the judgement of other parents? Their own need to overparent might extend to me….or my kids.

    I over parent a little…I think…maybe. I just want nice, kind, polite, creative kids.

    • I smell another post brewing … “How to Underparent When Others Overparent.” Might need to work on that title, though, it sounds a lot like underpants. I hear you, though, it’s definitely something I’ve dealt with as well. A lot depends on the situation. If we’re at the park and I don’t know the other parents and they’re being a little ridiculous (the mom who told her kids not to run and to be quiet comes to mind), I ignore them. Let them judge away, chances are our paths will never cross again. If we’re with friends or acquaintances who are stricter, I pull my kids aside privately and tell them the rules are going to be a little different for now, and we’re going to not do things that they know I would otherwise let them do. I think it’s a good lesson for them, as it’s one we know well as adults. Different situations and environments call for different kinds of behavior. You behave differently in the bar than you do in church, right?! And in the end, I believe that kids who learn to follow rules and adapt to different situations will end up being nice, kind, polite kids.