Do you find yourself saying or thinking any of these things:
- “I’m worried that if I discipline my child, she will be upset with me and that will ruin our relationship.”
- “He doesn’t eat all his food during meal time, which results in my whole day trying to get him to eat his food.”
- ” I can see my child is making a mistake, but I just don’t know how to say no to her.”
- “He wines constantly, so I have to give him what he wants.”
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many parents feel like they are giving their children everything they want and need, but there are still behavioral issues, such as tantrums and stubbornness.
All parents want what is best for their children. These are good intentions and with the these good intentions you may be over-indulging (permissive parenting) your child.
What Is An Over-Indulgent (Permissive) Parent?
Two synonyms for over-indulgent parenting are “over-permissive” or “over-nurturing.” A lot of the times over-indulgent parents base their indulgence out of love for their children with the feeling that their children should not lack anything they want. Some characteristics of over-indulgent parents are: Giving to much (toys, time, money); Over-nurturing (doing task that their children should be doing for themselves, like making their bed); Soft Structure (little discipline, rules are not enforced, giving in to temper tantrums).
Having low demands and high responsiveness is another way to describe over-indulgent or permissive parenting:
Low Demands: no expectations of their children to regulate their emotions and to behave appropriately.
High Responsiveness: Being so responsive to needs and wants that over-indulgence is used to make a child happy.
Why Over-Indulgent Parenting Happens
Most parents don’t want to raise a “spoiled child.” If this is the case, then why are there a lot of parents who over-indulge their children? Here are some reasons: Guilt and overcompensation; Unmet needs of parents; Anxiety in parents with a high need to control; and Understanding the difference between short-term happiness and emotional well-being.
A parent feeling guilty because he or she has a hectic schedule can cause parents to overcompensate by giving their children whatever they want. Feelings of guilt can also come in the form of societal pressures as to what parents should being doing for their children. As a result parents feel like they are not doing enough and they give into these pressures without even considering if they really want to do it.
Some parents may also feel like they had unmet needs as a child during their up-bringing. Parents with this mind set often think their childhood could have been better if it wasn’t for these unmet needs. Because of this parents will give their children everything they want so they don’t feel like they had unmet needs when they get older.
Being a parent is a hard job, which can lead to parental anxiety. To relieve this anxiety parents may give all the comforts of life to their children and focus on them too much.
Some parents misunderstand the difference between short-term and long term happiness (emotional well-being). Often parents will over-indulge their children just to keep them from throwing a temper tantrum. This is short-term happiness for a child. Long-term happiness is helping a child to regulate their emotions so they don’t throw a temper tantrum.
The Effects of Over-Indulgent Parenting
There are consequences for children if parents are over-indulgent, such as: developing a faulty world view; a false sense of entitlement; a lack of self-reliance; behavioral problems; difficulty with relationships; insecurities; and anxiety.
Developing a faulty world view for a child who has over-indulgent parents is a child who believes that everything in life should go way, that there shouldn’t be any hardships in life. In reality not everything goes our way in life and there are hardships.
Closely related to a faulty world view is a sense of entitlement. When a child gets everything he wants, he begins to think it his right to have everything.
Children who get everything they want (entitlement) don’t develop self-reliance. It is better to teach a man to fish, then to give a man a fish to eat. Parents unintentionally send the message that their children are not capable of learning to take care of themselves and as a result a their children feels like everything things has to be done for them.
Behavioral problems like back-talking, temper tantrums, impulsivity, and increasing demands will show up with children who have a faulty world view, who are entitled, and who lack self-reliance. These behavioral problems are children pushing boundaries to get want they want. Children learn that if they push these boundaries their parents will eventually give in.
These behavioral issues start in childhood and can go into adulthood, which leads to relationship problems. Children may have a hard time engaging with friends. Teenagers may struggle with friendship boundaries without help from their parents. Then as an adult there may be struggles to fit in which could lead to loneliness.
Anxiety and insecurities result as these over-indulged children grow-up. These feelings of anxiety and insecurity often come from feeling lost with their parents and not feeling capable of making decisions.
How To Avoid Being An Over-Indulgent Parent
The very first step to stop being an over-indulgent parent is to recognize this particular parenting style. Ask yourself some of these questions:
- Can I tell the difference between my child’s wants and needs?
- Does my child need to miss school or does she want to miss school?
If you struggle to distinguish between you child’s wants and needs you may be an over-indulgent parent and recognizing this is the first step to avoiding this kind of parenting style.
Another way to avoid being an over indulgent parent is to distinguish between protecting your child and preparing your child. Keep our children safe from harm is important, but there is such a thing as over-protecting. Being over-protective or overly cautious does not help a child to learn to be independent as an adult.
If you have determined that your parenting style is an over-indulgent (permissive) style then it is important to set rules, which means you will have to say “no” a lot – “no” means “no.” Saying no means you are enforcing rules and that is important. It doesn’t mean you are denying your child happiness.
Coddling your child is tempting because you don’t want to see your child make mistakes, but mistakes can be healthy. Making mistakes can be a learning experience for a child and these learning experience can help a child to know how to handle future situations. in essence resist the desire to coddle.
Avoiding coddling may also mean that you allow your children to fight their own battles. This may mean letting them figure out how to resolve issue with their peers. There are times when you will need to step into help them, such as when your child is being bullied. But if your child is having small tif with a peer then let them resolve it.
Lastly to avoid being an over-indulgent parent you may need to let go of the idea of being the “perfect” parent for your child. Being “perfect” as a parent is unachievable – it really is! But being “a good enough parent” is do able and is a healthy way to parent for both you and your children.