Adolescence is full of opportunities for success and failure – and to be well-adjusted, adolescents need to experience both. Your daughter may miss the tie-breaking shot in a hockey game or be the only girl that doesn’t get invited to a high school party. Your son may blow his chance at a college scholarship. And every adolescent is likely to feel the rejection of their first break-up.
And though moms and dads can create a soft place to fall, depriving your adolescent of these experiences by protecting them from challenges and shielding them from the natural consequences of their actions can cause a lifetime of hardship.
Over-indulgent parents don’t like to see their kids hurting and instantly go into fix-it mode. Rather than letting their youngster experience the consequences of their decisions, these moms and dads step in to defend the youngster and alleviate any discomfort they may feel.
There is a fine line between responsible parenting and over-indulgent parenting. No one would tell a parent not to protect their youngster – just don’t over-protect. Parental involvement is essential for a youngster’s healthy emotional, social and academic development. But when your love and concern manifest in the following behaviors, you may have overstepped their bounds.
• A willingness to do anything to see your youngster succeed
• Blaming others for your adolescent’s problems
• Doing anything to make sure your adolescent doesn’t experience hardship, sadness, disappointment, anger or other difficult emotions
• Getting involved in every aspect of your adolescent’s life, including academics, dating and friends
• Giving in to your adolescent’s every demand
• Making demands of teachers, counselors, friends, coaches and others because the adolescent can’t or won’t resolve their own problem
• Minimizing or justifying your adolescent’s behaviors
• Needing to be liked or viewed as your adolescent’s friend rather than a parent
• Stepping in immediately when your adolescent is in distress
• Striving to make your adolescent happy all of the time
• Using cell phones, e-mail and instant messaging to stay in constant contact and hover around your youngster at all times
What’s Your Motivation?
In most cases, over-indulgent parents’ primary motivation is to protect their youngster from harm. But they may also be motivated by other less admirable intentions. For example, moms and dads may be partially motivated by a desire to look good in front of other parents by having their adolescent reflect positively on them.
For example, a parent may intervene at school and do their youngster’s homework assignments so that their adolescent can go to an Ivy League university. Although their primary goal may be to provide the brightest possible future for their youngster, they may also be acting out of a desire to look like “good” moms and dads.
Some parents are also driven by a desire to feel good about themselves. Moms and dads may view their family’s happiness as a measure of their own success. Although they want their families to be happy for the sake of each family member, they also protect their adolescents because they’ve lost their own identity apart from their youngster.
Over-indulgent parents tend to produce kids who are fearful, anxious and lack confidence in their own abilities. Even though the moms and dads are undoubtedly acting out of love, their actions are often based on their own worries, fears and feelings, not necessarily what’s in the best interest of the youngster. If adolescents aren’t given the opportunity to face and overcome challenges, they never learn that they are capable of doing so.
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