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It’s possible to parent your kids a little too carefully.
Every good parent wants to be active in their children’s lives and set them up for future success. However, there’s a fine line between sticking to appropriate boundaries, making constructive suggestions, and over-parenting your child. Stifling kids with too many rules and expectations can lower their confidence and creativity. Here are seven things you must give up to ensure that your children grow up healthy, happy, and free to be themselves rather than tire themselves mentally and physically trying to live up to the expectations you place upon them.
1. Give up telling them what to do.
Of course children need to be given guidance as they learn more about the world around them, but this does not mean that they need to be told what to do in every aspect of their lives! Instead, ask them about the actions they have chosen for themselves. Bombarding your children with unnecessary instructions as to how they should live their lives will trigger resentment and hinder their creativity because you will be doing all their thinking for them!
This advice applies from the games they want to play and the clothes they want to wear right up to the career path they wish to pursue. Research published in the journal ‘Sociological Spectrum’ suggests that children given more freedom by their parents are less likely to fall victim to anxiety, depression or feelings of failure in their college years compared with those who are closely monitored or subject to ‘helicopter parenting.’
2. Give up your unrealistic expectations.
Remember that children are human beings, and that no human being is perfect. It is immensely stressful for a child to believe that they have to be “the best” at something (or even everything!) in order to considered a worthwhile person. We all have our own individual strengths and weaknesses. Communicate to your child, both explicitly and implicitly, that you appreciate their own unique mix of talents.
3. Give up over-protection.
If you are the kind of person who tends to worry about every possible outcome or potential disaster, take care not to let this attitude be reflected in your parenting. Children need to be granted the freedom to have new experiences and to make their own mistakes. If you hold your child back from new opportunities or activities on the off-chance that they will be dangerous, your child will learn that the world is an unsafe place. As a result, they will be less likely to take positive risks in the future.
4. Give up making decisions for them.
An important skill for all successful adults to learn is how to make healthy decisions. This ability needs to be developed in childhood. Give your child help in making life choices, such as choosing a hobby or major in college, but know that ultimately you need to make it clear that they should be the ones in charge of their own decision-making. Do not attempt to tell them how to build a CV or map out their life path for them as this can have damaging consequences. Researcher Bill Deresiewicz’s 2014 book, “Excellent Sheep,” makes a convincing argument that academic over-involvement increases a child’s risk of depression, anxiety and fear of failure later in life.
5. Give up blaming them for their mistakes.
Everybody makes mistakes, and this includes your child. Unless a particular mistake is the result of an obviously unwise decision, try not to blame your child more than is necessary when they make an error. Mistakes are often a valuable means of acquiring new knowledge. Sit down with your child and talk about how they can learn from their mistake and make better choices next time.
6. Give up praising their intelligence.
When children are praised for their efforts rather than their intelligence, they feel more inclined to push themselves harder in the future. Praising a child for their intelligence gives the impression that you are praising them for a fixed characteristic, which in turn does nothing to spur them on to greater self-improvement.
7. Give up setting so many family rules.
Some family rules are a necessity. After all, children do require some boundaries and need to be taught right from wrong. However, an overly rigid family setup can cause a child needless anxiety if it means they live in constant fear of breaking a rule. In addition, it can also stifle their creativity if they feel as though they are merely a cog in the family machine that has to behave in the same manner at all times. Research carried out by psychologists at the University of Colorado-Boulder have uncovered links between a highly-structured childhood and a lack of decision-making ability. Prepare to change or get rid of family rules if they have no obvious benefit.
It can take time to shift your thinking and approach, especially if you were raised by over-protective or over-involved parents. Remember that in general, psychological research supports a careful but liberal parenting style as the best way of encouraging your children to really excel in life and also to feel happy in themselves. Enjoy your children for who they are, and endeavor to demonstrate your love for them on a daily basis.