At what point does it become too much? This is a question that I have often considered as a parent. It is a constant struggle that ultimately comes down to the question, "Am I benefiting my child or just myself?"
I get it. I really do.
I struggle with it too.
With knowing when and when not to discipline, or spoil, or even protect my boys. That last sentence might make you hesitate… shouldn’t we always protect our children? Shouldn’t we always give them what they want? Shouldn’t we always discipline when they have don’t something wrong? While most parents would say yes, there are instances where these things can hinder rather than help. Stick with me and I will explain: In moderation, each of those acts are beneficial to the raising of children. However, some parents can take it too far.
The consequences of over-controlling, over-indulging, and over-protecting can affect the rest of our children’s lives, so as parents we need to be evaluating to make sure none of these categories become the foundation for how we parent. This is an issue that plagues me from time to time. There is a heavy weight that comes along with training up your children.
Over-controlling parents discipline their kids too much. Their children grow up thinking everything is their fault. Often they become passive aggressive and worry too much about what others think. It becomes impossible for them to relax or have any fun because they are in a constant state of worry.[i]
Then there is the overindulgent parents who give their children whatever they want. This only encourages selfishness and a lack of self-control. Instead of being able to work towards a goal, they begin to get a sense of entitlement and have little sense of accomplishment.[i]
When parents overprotect, children become afraid to make decisions and fend for themselves. They might rebel. They might become dependent and lack maturity. You might also find that children of overprotective parents have trouble regulating their emotions.[i]
As parents, we are meant to train up our children. To teach them the values and morals of the Bible so that when they grow up, they have the tools they need to make healthy relationships and experience a life of blessing.
So what does loving my child too much look like? It manifests itself in over-controlling, overindulging and overprotecting your children.[i]
Yes there are times when you want to make sure your children listen. Yes, there are times when you need to shower them with treats and privileges and yes, you want to protect them. But when you overdo it, you risk sending your child the wrong message.
Over-controlling parents are overbearing, get frustrated at their child easily and often, and use every situation as a teaching moment. They make all the decisions for their children and don’t spend time to enjoy their children.[i] They also over-discipline. Any little offense that the parent deems as so is punishable. If this sounds like you, maybe take a step back from controlling every little detail. Let your kids be kids. Enjoy them. Let them experience life on their own and make their own mistakes.
Over-indulgent parents rarely say no and never discipline. They give their child whatever they want and bribe them to get them to listen. Their child’s will is elevated higher than the parents and they are constantly asking what their child wants. Often they dish out undeserved or excessive praise.[i] Discipline is non existent in the home and blatent disobedience is ignored. These parents need to remember that THEY are placed in authority over the child and they are not their child's friend. Saying no and having limits is a good quality and molds children into realizing that they aren’t the center of the universe.
Over-protecting parents tend to lie to their kids about reality. “Spot went to live on a dog ranch with all his brothers and sisters.” They also don’t push their children hard enough and do tasks that their children should be doing for themselves (like clean their rooms and make their beds).[i] This only encourages laziness and takes away a child’s responsibility. Building walls around our children only encourage them to be in a constant state of fear. Is this the life that you want for them? Try letting them be kids. You can’t protect them from everything. Let them eat dirt once in a while. Have them make their bed and put away their laundry.
Overall, we as parents need to be on the alert to avoid being over-controlling, over-indulgent and over-protective. A very important part of being a parent is to prepare them for what they are going to encounter in the world.
Believe me, they need all the help they can get.
If you think you fall into one of those parenting categories, I would highly recommend reading the book, Loving Your Child Too Much by Dr. Tim Clinton and Gary Sibcy.
If ever you are struggling to know exactly how to react in a certain situation with your children, remember do unto others, what you would have them do unto you. Would you want to be talked down to? Disrespected? Overprotected?
1stJohn 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
Loving people is difficult! It requires sacrifice. It’s not easy.
In the same way, loving our children in a healthy way is difficult. Sometimes it may mean letting them go their own way and watching them fail. Other times it might mean saying no when they really want a toy and watching the smile fade from their face. It might mean disciplining your child. Whatever the case may be, we need to love them in way that prepares them to go and be a light to the world around them.
[i]Clinton, T. E., & Sibcy, G. (2012). Loving your child too much: How to keep a close relationship with your child without overindulging, overprotecting, or overcontrolling. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.