The Science Daily recently reported on a study conducted at the University of Mary Washington. The research showed that children whose parents were overly involved in their lives when they were young were more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and less satisfaction as they got older. When children are micromanaged, they are unable to handle stressors because they feel less confident in their abilities.
The study showed that many parents are unable to adapt their parenting styles. They continue to hover over their children as if they were still young. They are overly involved and this inhibits their children’s emotional and social development.
College students in the study disclosed that even though their parents may have believed they were supportive, they instead felt controlled and undermined.
Struggle creates strength
This study reminded me of the Butterfly Story: A man watched how a butterfly struggled to leave its cocoon through a tiny hole. He felt sorry for it and wished to alleviate its pain. He found some scissors and snipped off the opening of the cocoon. It staggered out, but it was not a healthy butterfly. The time spent battling its way out is part of nature helping the butterfly get its wings ready to fly. Instead, the aid the butterfly received was its demise.
One of parents’ greatest challenge is to see their children suffer. When this happens, they wish to relieve them from pain just as the man freed the butterfly from its cocoon. Often my client’s parents ask what they can do to help their children when meltdowns occur. Some of these children and youth have endured a great deal already. Their parents feel helpless and want to know how to best handle their children’s emotions when they get out of control.
How do you find the balance?
- Show support but do not overprotect.
- Ensure everyone’s safety.
- Remember your children’s emotional age, not just chronological age.
- Talk about a plan you will follow when meltdowns happen.
- Agree you will not intervene, but will be there once they are calmed.
- Remember, when the human brain goes into the fight-or-flight response and the limbic system or “animal brain” takes over, the “thinking brain” is basically non-existent at that point.
- When your child has calmed down, validate and acknowledge their feelings, then teach and correct.
- Do not threaten or bribe. These tactics only work temporarily.
- When your children believe they need you and you liberate them, their dependence on you becomes stronger each time.
- Take small steps to gradually step away from the rescuing you may tend to do.
Don’t give up!
Remember what matters in the long run is to have children who can recognize their emotions and know how to sooth themselves. Researchers in the study asserted there is evidence that balanced parental involvement can benefit children social and emotional well-being. When parents are aware of their parenting styles, they can allow their children to develop strong wings so they can fly on their own. That should be the overall goal of every parent.
Springer Science+Business Media (2013, February 12). Helicopter parenting can violate students’ basic needs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 14, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212111803.htm