It's only natural to want to be the best parent you can for your children, but could you be doing too much? As mom Cyd S. asks the Circle of Moms community, "What do you do if you are accused of being a helicopter mom?"
When you, your child's teacher, or someone else suggests that you are doing too much for your child, the first step to take is to "step back and evaluate yourself and your actions," mom Shawnn L. recommends. "It's hard not to helicopter," she admits. "So, if you've been told that you are a helicopter, evaluate your behavior and how you approach interactions with your child's/adult's teachers."
If you see any of the signs that you are overparenting, then "you may want to try to correct a thing or two," Shawnn says. Here, Circle of Moms members offer four tips to give your parenting style a healthier balance.
1. Distinguish Between Needs and Wants
One of the basic questions to ask yourself when trying to determine if you are being a bit overbearing is whether you are catering to your child's needs or wants. Ask yourself if you are taking away your child's ability to comfort himself, if you are diminishing his independence, and if you are raising a child who is needy and dependent, Tah D. suggests.
"Running to your child[ren] every time they wimper is a bit extreme," Nancy K. adds. "However, if your child is crying and not squawking, there is a difference. You have to look at the basics. Are all your child's needs being met? Have you given them enough affection and attention?"
A Circle of Moms member who calls herself "Northern Mom" says she "was a bit of a mother hen" with her eldest daughter, for example, by getting too involved in her schoolwork and doing her daughter's homework "because it wasn't perfect enough."
"I used to be a neat freak at home worrying about every mess she made. I had to have everything perfect," she says. But Northern Mom's attitude changed when her daughter completed an oral speech assignment on her own and won at Legion Level. "I saw just how happy she was when she accomplished something on her own without my help. I realized that I was not being a good parent because I wasn't allowing her to be herself and actually contributed to her insecurities," she says.
2. Nurture Independence
"We parents can, and more often than not, do more for our children than we should," Marty B. says. "Even though my own children are grown now, I fight with myself to not — even now — do for them what they should be doing on their own. I guess I know what it was like, and I don't want them to struggle or worry like I did back in the day. But I realize by helping them, I'm actually hurting them because when I'm unable to help or am dead, my kids won't be able to do for themselves. That's when I force myself to sit back, pray for them, and otherwise do nothing else. I want to know that they can take care of themselves long after I'm gone, and that they will feel secure in their own strength and abilities."
Mom Anine S. agrees: "As a parent, you can not possibly be with you child at every waking moment. There are going to be times when you child is either in school, playing a sport, or whatever, and teaching them to not depend on anyone but themselves is a great thing."
After all, Taia N. adds, "Do you really want your kid to have to end up taking a course in college on how to do housework because you did everything for them to keep them from being upset?"
3. Offer Choices
Offering choices is a good way to help your children practice being independent and prepare them for life as adults, Circle of Moms member Kim K. says. "How you guide your children with those choices changes as they grow older into teens. Teach them to love the choices they make, especially as they grow older." And when they are adults, they will be more comfortable with decision-making, she explains.
Northern Mom says now that she's no longer overparenting, she lets her children make lots of choices and involves them in adult activities so that they can understand that their actions have consequences. "I let them be in charge, I involve them in almost everything, let them cook with me, make breakfast, stack up the wood, clean the house, make mistakes, and learn from them."
4. Let Them Make Mistakes
Letting your child take charge can sometimes lead to undesired outcomes. But Circle of Moms members say letting your child make mistakes is part of the learning process. Northern Mom says when her fifth-grade daughter came home with a D- on her math test, for instance, she was disappointed but didn't overreact. "I just asked her why this happened and after a while, she admitted she didn't take it all that seriously," she says. "She felt very bad, took the test home and re-did it on her own. The next day, she returned the papers to the teacher. The teacher was so impressed that she gave her a re-test. I explained to her that in real life, there are no second chances. Failure is part of learning."
Even from a young age, Denikka G. encourages her 4-year-old and 2-year-old to problem-solve and to figure out how to fix their own problems. "I allow them to make mistakes and deal with the consequences," she says. "Only when they've gotten stuck and frustrated will I step in with some help or a suggestion."
Mistakes happen, Corinne agrees. "When adults aren't used to the sometimes heavy consequences life can deal them, it's a huge slap in the face, and they have to learn what they should have grown to know."
Ultimately, parenting should be about balance, Circle of Moms members summarize. If you're overparenting, remind yourself that you're raising children to become adults, Denikka says. "How can they do that and be productive if we don't let them face their own bumps along the way?"