Imagine two spectrums of parenting. First, is the internal spectrum…On the right end, some parents worry excessively about the child, in the middle, we have relaxed parents, on the left end, parents who are over-confident about the child. Second is an external spectrum, on the right end some parents do over-parenting, who control excessively, in the middle, parents, who keep a balance of control and freedom, and on the left end, parents who give too much freedom, or even neglect the child.
Today we’re talking to parents, who are on the right ends of both spectrums, who worry too much and who over-parent. We’re hoping to bring them to the middle zone. If you are already in the middle or towards left, you can ignore this post. So, my recommendation to parents who over-worried and over parent is very simple: detach yourself, a little from your child…more specifically…Detach yourself from what your child will be after your parenting.
Why do we think some detachment is important? You see yourself in your child. They have 50% of your DNA. You made them. So you feel like: “This is my creation in the purest form. And how can I be okay if my creation turns out to be substandard? I am the one raising them. It’s like I am the tree from which the seeds are coming, AND I am also the gardener who’s going to work on those seeds to turn them into new trees…If the garden still turns out ugly, what does that say about me? I am NOT going to let that happen.”
Now add to this your genuine and deep love for the child, and your parenting philosophy becomes. “I am going to do my best to shape this child into the best version of herself.I’m gonna fix her personality, sharpen her talents, and install in her the best habits so she can be a happy responsible human being” Sadly, this philosophy turns ugly very soon, almost always. Because this is the best turns into over-parenting, meaning, correcting a child for the smallest things, disciplining, unnecessarily punishing harshly, nagging them to do this, learn that, finish this, start that…and when all of this fails, which it often does, you worry “ why isn’t he on the normal track? what will he do with his life? how will he even survive in society ?”
As worry continues, you keep up the overparenting. They feed off of each other. You’re so invested in your child’s growth that it ends up ruining everyone’s peace of mind and relationships. That’s why some disinvestment, some detachment is very advisable. Here are four perspectives that can help you detach a little.
First, understand that your child is not born a blank slate or a white canvas. You can’t just paint any picture on it. Studies from behavior genetics have shown that about 50% of an adult’s personality and intellect is decided at birth,40% by culture, and only 0 to 10% by parenting. So, on the whole canvas of your child’s future personality and intellect, nature has given you this very small block to paint your picture, just 0% to 10%, on average. Yet you worry about the whole canvas, yet you’re trying to control things as if you’re going to change the whole design. You can’t, so please reduce your efforts, they are not doing much.
Second, to YOU, your child might seem so very precious and special, but are they …really? zoom out. Look at this word from up above. A lot of children are born every day all around the world. Barring some unfortunate exceptions, all of them are very precious to their mothers and fathers. There are millions of other kids, just like yours who are also cute, beautiful, talented, creative, intelligent, etc. These you need to be able to entertain the thought “yes, it’s my child. But ultimately it’s just another child“ In the deeper analysis, your child is just another child walking around among 7.5 billion other children. You need to break the spell of specialness and preciousness that you’ve built around your child. It’s okay to care a little less, or let’s say, less enough to bring you to sanity.
Third, raising children is so hard…You have to spend your hard-earned money, your limited time and energy on them. You already had your problems now you have to solve problems, in your child’s life, like siblings fighting, child is sick needs comic books, lost their toys..you have to buy a new one, etc. Children already suffer so much from your life, why would you want to add the extra responsibility of shining and polishing them to perfection? Do you know how hard it is to change a human? changing other humans is one of the toughest things to do. Why are you making your own life harder than it has to be?
Instead of that, focus on your fun and happiness, you are more than just a parent. It’s okay to take your mind off of your child, it’s okay to go out for a party, even though your 12 old daughter, at home, is a bit stressed about a test the next day. It’s okay to get some space from the child, to protect your sanity. You are already doing a lot, providing for the child, their food, clothing, shelter education, health care, etc. The child is lucky to have this. Give yourself some credit. Be more satisfied with your basic parenting and reduce your parenting goals. Keep your fun alive, your hobbies active, stay in touch with your friends, go back to your job if you liked it, get your sleep whenever you can. You owe this to yourself. You are more than just a parent.
Fourth, if we ask you a question, what are your goals of parenting? if the answer is a happy healthy responsible and successful child, the answer is incomplete. One goal that is often missed is friendship with the child, like a good long-term relationship. We’re asking you to want this goal then, we’re telling you, WORRYING TOO MUCH AND OVERPARENTING will damage the relationship because you’ll end up engaging in so many negative behaviors. You’ll be doubting, criticizing, controlling, forcing, shouting, beating, etc. When the majority of your interaction is negative, the relationship is doomed and your love for your child is taking the shape of worry. Reduce that, let your love take the shape of some good memories, and a lasting friendship with them.