I have a feeling you are reading this article right now because you are worried that you are over parenting your little one, or someone else has accused you of doing it. Or maybe you have or know of a child who needs a little more space to grow.
I’m a mom of three, with extensive experience interacting with kids of all ages (and the product out in the workforce). I have seen first hand the impact of parents who have babied their kids, or held them back from growing.
It is a huge problem out there in the world.
But first, let’s talk about “babying.”
What does it mean to coddle a child?
Coddling a kid can mean many things, and much of “babying” is a personal opinion. In general, when someone uses the term “coddling” or “babying,” it means that someone has the opinion that a child is being treated like he or she is younger than she is (or is less adept/mature than she is).
Depending on who you ask, coddling can mean:
- communicating with children in an infantile manner (using baby talk, incomplete sentences, play words, high pitched voice)
- helicopter parenting (hovering around the children all the time to keep them from doing things kids want to do)
- helping kids do things (too much)
- taking over for a little one when he struggles with a task or expresses frustration
- comforting the child when the child falls, gets injured, or has injured feelings (too much)
- pampering the child (doing everything for him)
- letting the kids do whatever they want
- caving in the face of a child’s tantrums
- letting them win
- choosing not to challenge the kids
- protecting the kids from feeling any sort of pain, loss, grief, disappointment, frustration
- picking him up, or carrying him around (too much)
Like I said before, much about coddling is the third party opinion of someone else, perhaps another parent, a grandparent, or well-meaning bystanders on the playground, that the child doesn’t need something that you are doing or saying because of their age or growth.
Not everything on the above list is a behavior that is “too much” for children, but in many cases, it can be.
Can you coddle a child too much?
Can you over parent your child? Absolutely. I’m 100% a believer in parents backing off from children to give them opportunities to grow on their own. As a mother of three, I have seen the impact of my involvement in my kids’ activities versus when I back off and let them have their own experience.
Kids need a chance to try things out, to fail, to suffer disappointment, and to cry. Parents need to let them be little, when they are little, and then let them grow as they are ready to grow.
When parents get in the way of that process, we slow that growth, and make it hard for them to learn their life lessons.
But here’s the thing. Kids need their parents too. They need the support and love and interaction with their parents, even as they strive to become independent and the masters of their bodies and emotions.
The love and attention that parents provide to the child must be in balance, along with opportunities for growth.
It is when things get out of balance that parents get into trouble.
How do I stop over-parenting my son or daughter?
First of all, I need you to take a deep breath.
This is honestly the first step in doing the right things for your family. You must be calm and rational as you make parenting decisions. Very often we parents try to do things with our kids when we are “triggered” or our emotions are aroused in some way, usually because of something the kids did or said.
Next, I want you to look at the way you see your young one.
How do you think of him and his life? Do you think of your son as an independent person, that you are molding and guiding? Or do you perceive your son as something that needs to be cared for, and protected? There’s nothing wrong with caring and protecting. But if you think of a human being as something fragile, like a piece of glass, then it is almost impossible to put them in any sort of situation where growth can happen.
Children will become resilient, if we let them. To change the way you raise your child, you must think of them as a person, as a human detached and apart from you.
Third, brainstorm up a list of the ideal good kiddo.
Come up with a list of all the things you would want him to do or be. On my list, here’s a few things of what I want to see from my children:
- pick themselves up on their own when they fall down
- respond to challenges cheerfully
- try their best in every opportunity
- lose gracefully
Now that you have your list, compare your list to your life. Is the way that you are interacting with your child fostering those qualities you have written down?
Fourth, teach your child.
I want you to repeat this to yourself over and over: kids do what we teach them to do. They go about the world as they are taught to go about the world. Children learn about the world from what we say to them, do with them, and what they observe.
If we treat them like they are incapable of completing even the simplest task, they will come to know and believe that they are incapable (“I can’t do it”). If we resolve every problem for children, they will believe that only an adult can resolve disputes.
Going back to my list, you’ll see that I want my children to pick themselves up on their own when they fall down. Notice that I didn’t say anything about tears or crying. They can cry all they need to when they fall, or when they fail. This also doesn’t mean that they do it alone, that I ignore them when they struggle. It just means that I don’t do it for them.
When my daughter falls off her bike, I go to her and make sure she is okay. I touch her face, hands, anywhere that she is injured. I use words to communicate to her that her feelings of pain or frustration are valid. If she isn’t ready to get up, I kneel down to her, or even sit down, and encourage her crawl into my lap for cuddles until she is ready to jump up again on her own. It might take a few seconds, or even minutes.
But I don’t pick her up and carry her away from the situation. I stay there with her, and encourage her to get up on her own, if she can. In almost every case, after we wipe her tears away together, she is off to the races again on her own.
This isn’t for everyone, I’ll admit that.
It’s an example. A story from my life, and how I guide my kids intentionally.
Even if you don’t agree with me and how I handle falls with my daughter, you have to know that you are training your kids to act a certain way, whether you want them to act that way or not, by how you respond to them.
This doesn’t mean passive parenting, or permissive parenting. It also doesn’t mean authoritative parent, or dictator-type parenting.
It just means you have to parent with a plan and a purpose.
What if my son is already spoiled?
Spoiled? You mean like a fruit? Kids aren’t vegetables. Just because kids act one way right now doesn’t mean that they can’t learn and grow and change.
Like I said above, kids act they way they are trained to act. Their have complex minds, that can adapt and flex.
If your children are behaving in a way that you don’t like, you need to go back up to the steps that I talked about above, and do the following:
- Breath (and get calm)
- Take a look at how you perceive your children (something to be shielded vs someone to be guided/molded)
- Make a list of what you want to see
- Train your children
Your work will be harder if your kids are older when you finally start on the process of molding their behavior. Naturally, they will be resistant to change, and will likely push back against your new structure and style.
There isn’t a short term solution. There is just commitment and work.
Your people need our love and our guidance.
They look to moms and dads for the model of how to live their lives. Adults are their safety nets, their security blankets, their important people. But this doesn’t mean our duty is to shield them. In the process of raising them, sending them to school day in and day out, in spending time together as a family, we must teach them, work with them, share with them.
You are on the right path if you are reading this article. Now go out there and do the work.
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, all under the age of 10. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the US, Emily is a mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the computer when the kids are sleeping. She started this blog in April of 2019 and is proud that the blog is now paying for itself. If you want to know about her journey as a blogger, check out out her personal digital journal or her post about failing her way to blogging success.