Less is more: The Hazards Of Over-Parenting


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Naba Basar

Naba Basar is a class teacher and teacher trainer at Fajr Academy, Karachi.

Latest posts by Naba Basar (see all)

 

parenting

Image Courtesy quotesgram.com

 

When my son was born- naturally, I was overjoyed. The mommy in me thought- now is the time to materialize the ‘to-do’ list I have been preparing since as long as I can remember.

My dreams,my desires, my wishes, my passions, my plans, my goals, my wants, my, my…and only my!

But, when things don’t go the way you planned in your head, you just tend to over-do it. You become somewhat reactive, and do more of something rather than less. If children are not listening to you, you most certainly will raise your voice, rather than lower it. If they are struggling with something, you jump in with plenty of ideas, rather than keeping quiet, or offering to help when needed. However, knowing that a softer voice would probably be more effective in getting their attention, but you have little or no faith at all in that notion.

With all the workshops, courses and webinars we have attended; the text we have read, and the discussions we have gone through; and thanks to the social media- there are strong assumptions that when our children are struggling, it means they need more: more attention, more time, more focus, more love, more rewards – maybe more warnings, and more punishments. Parents may wonder, for instance, if my daughter seems to be daydreaming lately, so perhaps, she needs more attention from her parents. My son isn’t doing too well in school this term/semester/year- perhaps, he needs more focus from teachers and parents. Or, my little one seems to have low self-esteem,  maybe he needs more love, acknowledgement, praise and rewards.

Stop Over-Giving, Over-Admiring, Over-Rewarding, and Over-Sharing

Anything in excess is never good. Mommies need to be wise enough to strike a balance between emotional needs, physical and material needs. How to attain that wisdom? We have many options now, but don’t delve too much in it for you will begin to over-think about matters which don’t even exist.

Maybe for some kids and for some parents, this is true; but, most of the time it is not. Often, giving more of those things is a sure way to impair our children, and you may push them towards being dependent all the time. Even though, we react this way out of unconditional love, we can be causing the very opposite outcome of what we intended.

One thing parents really need to be trained for is- to make your child independent; because, face it- you will not always be around to make things better for them. Why not start earlier and make them more responsible?

Years from now, when my son was still an infant, I was watching a talk show. This woman’s philosophy to make a child in-charge, made me realize how important it is to start early on. Don’t do everything for them, that way your prime focus is not to spoon-feed your child. What she said after made so much sense to me. When you are doing every little thing for your child, one – you are paralyzing them; and two – when your child is all grown up, you miss doing chores for them. And hence, you feel you have nothing left to do anymore. You end up in misery, and this causes major issues when you become the dreaded mother-in-law. When instead of you- someone else is running errands for your son.

From the very first day, we’ve been conditioned to over-do for our kids. By over-giving, over-rewarding, and over-admiring, we are contributing to their ultimate dependence on, perhaps, everything.

As a result, many kids believe, they can’t manage their schoolwork without help from their parents. Children don’t feel good about themselves- unless they are acknowledged by others; while some do not know how to regulate their lives without getting others’ time, focus and attention. Unconsciously, we as adults have encouraged dependence, rather than self-reliance in our little Ummah. Kids get addicted. And sometimes, we get our own validation by feeling useful and necessary through over-doing for our children. But in the end, they learn helplessness rather than resilience. Teach them to be responsible for little things at a tender age, give them job tasks according to their age, strength and understanding. Never underestimate your children’s potential.

That’s also, where we over-look Sunnah of the Prophet (sa). The ultimate example and inspiration for our little ones, who would not just do his own work, but help around the house.

Tolerating our Kids’ Pain

Being empathetic to people, especially to children is really important, to understand ones feelings, emotions and needs.

We hear all the time that in order to be a good parent, partner, or friend- it is important to fulfill others’ needs, and be empathetic to their feelings. Yes, that is important, but only up to a point. This perhaps is quite challenging for any parent, especially mothers.

For example, a teenage girl has issues with a friend at school. The parents empathize with the teen’s pain and struggles so much that each time the child has issues, they rush to solve it. Some may go to the extent of running, and picking the child- as soon as the youngster shows signs of distress. They would do whatever they could to make her feel better, assuring her that she hadn’t failed, and she was just not ready.

Same goes when a child who comes home, and complains about his teacher(s). Coming to the child’s aid instantly, may paralyze the child’s ability to deal with matters ultimately.

In such a scenario, would it be possible for the teenager to become more responsible and learn to deal with issues, without being too dependent each time? Her parents could have encouraged her to challenge her fear, manage her anxiety, and regulate her own emotions.

If you, as a parent, acknowledge your child’s struggles, efforts, pain and distress without rescuing them from it, each time- they can irrefutably grow up and become a more autonomous and responsible individual.

Naturally parents need to be more tolerant towards the child’s pain. Although, it can be very challenging to wisely pick and choose where to empathize, and where to let go. It is only when parents can raise their tolerance level for their child’s pain that their child can be motivated to do the same and not break down.

Is more ever better?

Is more the right solution? Is it ever better than less? You be the judge.

Try doing more for yourself and less for your child. For instance:

  • Empathize less, cater needs less, and focus less on her. I came across this piece where someone suggested- let your child get bored. It is then when the child will learn to entertain or busy themselves. But, if you as a parent begin to sympathize, suggest alternatives, and solve problems for them- they will come to you each time. I remember, as a child, when my parents’ friends would come over, we kids were left on our own without my parents suggesting what we should play. We (most of the times) never came to them grumbling, or whining that we are bored. I believe that’s why we came up with very creative games and kept ourselves busy. We, as parents, don’t give our kids a chance, and end up complaining about what we have hammered in them.
  • Think less about fulfilling your kids every need, and more about helping them take charge for themselves. A classic example- don’t go running back to school so that you can give homework books your child forgot – this attitude will never make them responsible individuals. Again, this is very age dependent- but try to begin as soon as possible. Also, never try to rush to replace something your child has lost due to carelessness.
  • Think less about your children’s feelings (all the time), and more about helping them function at their best. A mother telling her child, “You may not feel like apologizing to your cousin, but I am holding you accountable to do the right thing.”
  • Think less about giving into their whining and complaining, and more about helping them deal with problems and fine-tune themselves. “I know that you hate doing your chores, but when I ask you to do them, I expect them to get done. You can be unhappy about it, but please find a way not to drag others down when you are unhappy.”

Be there for your kids in the ways they actually need you, but move out of their way otherwise – learn to know the difference.

Letting Go

Surely, as a mother, you were repeatedly told by teachers, family, in-laws and friends, or acquaintances- that your kids seem to need more from you—attention, time, focus, recognition, rewards, approval—stop and think hard about it. You must have taken a couple of guilt trips each year as well. Clear your mind, take a deep breath, relax, get all the pre-notions out of your head, and in your quiet comfortable space, ask yourself- Does your child really need it? Are you actually a careless, negligent mother? Be honest to yourself and not judgmental. If so, then of course you should do more of what they need from you.

Remember to communicate…always talk, converse, discuss.

Nevertheless, in the more likely scenario, they are getting more than enough from you. Hence, it’s best for them if you cut back, and let them struggle to find their own legs. Letting go will leave you feeling wobbly at first, but with practice and time, you will find your own strong legs to stand on.

Lastly – Do not raise your children to financially provide for you. Raise them to worship Allah (swt). If you give your children everything, but haven’t given them the Deen, then you haven’t given them anything. Give them the Deen, which is everything. Teach your children Quran, and Quran will teach them everything Insha’Allah.

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