It’s time for a little tough love. No, not for your child. For you.
I know it’s hard. I know you care about your child more than anything. I know it well because dropping my eldest off at college was staggeringly — and surprisingly — hard. But …
Crossing the line from parenting into Blackhawk-level interference is madness, and the madness needs to stop. Not because we don’t love our kids, but precisely because we do.
Hear me now, overprotective parent: Raising a child who is never allowed to handle anything on their own is not serving that child well.
I’m going to say that again in a different way. If you aren’t letting your kid do as much as they can on their own, you are actively limiting their ability to succeed (in college, at work — or in life, even). See what some psychologists and sociologists say in this NY Times article.
Be honest with yourself. Is keeping your child dependent on you somehow making you feel validated? (Look, I told you this was going to be tough love. If your discomfort level just went up, maybe a little introspection is in order.)
Warning signs that you’re reaching Blackhawk level in parenting your teen/young adult:
- You call a college pretending to be your child. Yep, that happens.
- You see no problem with calling a professor, or boss, to address a problem your child has complained about.
- You routinely handle situations for your child because “they’re so busy.”
- You routinely handle things for your child because that’s the only way to ensure they get “done right.”
- Your child cannot make a decision — on anything — without talking to you first.
“But what if they don’t need me any more?!” They will. Just not in the same way.
Think about it this way: A long time ago, they needed you for every little thing, but now they don’t. When you needed to change their diapers, you did it. Then they started handling toileting on their own, with some occasional help from you. (“We are about to get in the car for an hour. Are you sure you don’t need to try to go?”) Now I’ll bet they don’t need any help from you in this particular area at all. Did they stop needing you? No. They just need you in other ways.
Keep in mind that while your child is in the process of becoming an adult, you are in the process of becoming the parent of an adult. That’s a brand new ball game.
We’re all learning here. We won’t get it right every time, and that’s OK. But can we agree that we need to err on the side of reasonable coaching and independence?
Peace to us all on this journey.