A Big Problem: Over-Indulgence in Parenting

What’s wrong with over-indulgence?
We hear so much about the fact that parents are over-indulging their kids; giving them too much of what they want, or before they’re mature enough for it, that impede the children from realizing their full potential. Over-indulged children become adults that have difficulty fitting into society. They expect immediate gratification, have difficulty owning responsibility for themselves, have an inflated self-esteem, and have difficulty relating to others. Many of the parents I coach want to know how they can avoid this trap and best raise their children to be healthy adults.

Why over-indulgence happens:
Blame it on the times. Times have changed. Years ago, families primarily lived on farms. They worked hard. Roles were clear and the kids had a clear sense of what was expected of them. The extended family helped reinforce the family values.

Today, most families live in cities or suburbs. Children don’t have hard work to do at home. Some don’t even have basic chores. The children have constant exposed to the media, which perpetuates the message that they must to have all their superficial needs met. Parents, meanwhile, experience stress because the extended family is usually separated by hundreds of miles, and they have no support. Children grow up not understanding the difference between a want and a need. And unfortunately, sometimes nor do the parents.

Turning off the over-indulgence faucet:
Parents can interrupt the over-indulgence cycle at any given moment. They simply need to evaluate the following:
1. The amount of material things are given to their kids
2. The amount of activities they have them in
3. The establishment and enforcement of rules and chores in the home
4. Whether they are doing things for their children that they should be achieving on their own

Parenting skills can be improved by ensuring that children aren’t just kept busy, but rather that their emotional needs are met as well. Working parents sometimes feel guilty about being away from the home for long periods of time and try to make up for the lost time with material goods. The children benefit more from parental involvement. Tending to children’s emotional needs, even on the limited time available each day, is quality time well spent.

It is a competitive world out there, and even parents of elementary school aged children are anxious about their children getting accepted into college. As a result, they sometimes are tempted to overdo the help at home; be it a project or an essay. Remembering that children are more than a GPA, they will do best in life if they learn self-reliance. Discovering their own independence might also mean that they have to struggle with an academic issue until they learn for themselves how to master it. Do not try to rescue children from painful learning experiences such as homework. Parents cannot follow their children into college. Letting them learn the school lessons at home while growing up will prepare them for success at a later stage of life.

Parents sometimes live vicariously through their children. Missed opportunities in their childhood can cause them to try to make up for them through their children. The result can be compromising to the integrity, safety, or growing independence of children.

What Our Kids Really Need:
1. Children will grow up well if they learn that “no” means “no”.
2. They need to be given discipline, and it is acceptable – even expected – that they will be unhappy about it.
3. Children need to learn that it is safe to share their feelings. They will learn from observing parents doing so comfortably in their presence.
4. Children need to be able to make mistakes. I truly believe that is why they live with us for their first 18 or so years. They can fail at things but the parents will be there to help them process what went wrong, making it a growth experience.

If we look back at the parenting we received, and honestly examine the positives and negatives, then we can incorporate these experiences into the parenting that we provide to our children.

Eileen Lenson
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