Are You Smothering Your Child?

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Are you guilty of over-parenting? Sure, things that your child needs can be done by you. After all, you are the adult! However, there is a fine line between meeting your child’s needs and smothering them to the point they have little independence. A child who has had everything done for them can struggle with finding independence as they grow. How can you tell if you’re smothering your child? And what can you do about it?

First off, don’t be too hard on yourself! Just because you find that you either consciously or subconsciously “smother” your child doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It only means there is room for some adjustments that can benefit both you and your child.

The “It’s Easier to Do it Myself” Attitude

Consider this situation. Your child has just learned to tie their shoelaces, however, hates doing it and is ragging on you to do it for them. You know for a fact he/she can do the task themselves, however, when you’re running late for work, it’s easiest to give in and do it yourself. Although you are correct that it is easier to do it yourself to save time, in some cases it’s better to be late than to take the easy way out. If you anticipate this delay or end up running late without tying the shoelaces, your child will get the hint that it’s up to them to get their shoelaces tied.

Keep in mind that this technique only works if your child knows how to do the task. Whether it’s tying their shoelaces, making the bed, or fastening their seatbelt, the child must be able to execute the task at hand. Of course, you’ll need to check they’ve done it right, at first. If the child is unsure of or completely unaware of how to do the task, take some time to teach him/her to avoid frustration from both ends. This brings us to the next point.

Equip Your Child With Tools

No, this does not mean giving your child a hammer and nails! Equip your child with tools to develop the knowledge to complete a task. You can’t expect your child to do something he/she doesn’t know how to do and get frustrated because they can’t do it. That’s unfair to both of you! The middle ground is met by giving kids the tools they need to complete a task then getting out of the way.

In this case, “tools” are “how-to” detailed instructions to complete tasks such as putting away toys, sweeping the floor, preparing dinner, and going on job interviews. For example, if you have a younger child, you can show them how to put their toys away by using a toy box. If you have an older child, give him/her instructions on how to use the microwave to prepare dinner.
Be advised that your child should practice these tasks with you present at first. If you step aside too soon, your child might give up since he/she is unsure of how to proceed. If you step in too often or too soon, your child may become dependent on you thus presuming he/she “can’t do it” and give up. Teach your child the skills involved in completing the tasks and ensure that you know he/she know how to do it.

Foster Internal Motivation

Experts have said that motivation comes from within for true independence. If you make broad requests such as “do your homework” or “clean your room”, the child may feel overwhelmed (how does “clean the house” sound to you? daunting!). Break the task down into simple steps. Experts say that coaching and encouraging the child are both fine, however, is not the same as stepping in.

Make a checklist for your child for each task they need to complete. For example, a “do your homework” checklist may look like this:

1. Get a drink and snack
2. Find a comfy place to set up books
3. Write out spelling words and study the list
4. Complete science worksheet
5. Read chapter of book and write a summary for it

Feel free to break the list down further to cater to your child’s age/needs. Be patient in your attempts and really listen to what your child needs. Have your child write a list to avoid having to tell him/her what to do over and over.
ing to tell him/her what to do over and over.

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