02 Jun Giving Too Much of What Looks Good
Guest post by Paola Zorrilla Soto
Working parents, unresolved conflict between adults, divorce, separation, stepfamilies, two homes, addictions, long-awaited child, an only child, only grandchild, the oldest child, the youngest child, neglect, abuse, overcompensating a child for different reasons, lack of good parenting skills, and so on. Here is a list of common family situations, some of which are more common than ever before due to new trends in today’s society. Do you or somebody you know meet any of these criteria? I would say yes, and yes! Well, guess what? According to David Bredehoft, licensed psychologist, certified family life educator, and author of the book How Much is Too Much? these categories are among some that are frequently associated with overindulgence at home.
I know, parents. We all love our children. We all have good intentions. What we probably ignore is that “the impact does not always match the intent” (Valerie Batts). As parents, we desire to give the best to our children – we instinctively want to protect them from hurtful or harmful things, but is it possible our efforts may actually undermine our desires? Sadly, the answer is yes. Studies have found that parents can overindulge their kids, depriving these little ones of achieving their full potential.
Research made by the Concordia University showed that 38% of individuals who were overindulged during their childhood ended up becoming what the study refers to as, “helicopter parents” whose children display conformity, neuroticism, and interpersonal dependency1. Another study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies (2014) suggests that children of over involved parents, a characteristic typical of parental overindulgence, tend to be depressed and feel less competent and less satisfied with life2 . An important detail to mention is that most overindulged kids tend to become overindulgent parents.
So, what is overindulgence?
It is simply, “giving too much of what looks good, too soon, and for too long.” The three types of overindulgence are giving too much, overnurturing, and providing soft structure. Examples of these behaviors may include giving too many toys, classes, clothes, etc. It is doing too much and requiring too little of our children. Does your child help with the household chores? Remember that, “When parents are over-functioning, children respond by under-functioning” (Mark Henningsen). Do your children follow the family rules, respect the boundaries, and acknowledge your authority as parents? Some of the consequences of overindulgence are incompetence, self-centeredness, low self-control, immediate gratification, confusion of wants with needs, entitlement, helplessness, weak social and personal boundaries, and lack of gratitude. Do you want something like this for your loved ones?
Questions you can ask yourself to measure your levels of parental overindulgence 3
- “Whose needs are being met?”
- “Is what am I about to do more for my child or is it more for me?”
- “Is harm being done?”
- “Is this child receiving a disproportionate measure of Dad’s/Mom’s emotional resources?”
- “Do dad and mom agree on basic parenting practices?”
- “Am I giving my child experiences that are not appropriate for his age?
Find some extra resources here.
Overindulgence is detrimental for society
Current research has found:
- A correlation between permissive parenting, which can be seen as soft-structure, and alcohol consumption.
- A relationship between low levels of self-regulation and permissive parenting. 4
- A connection between buying impulsiveness, instant gratification, less optimal financial behavior and parental overindulgence 5
- Kids whose parents used material rewards and material punishment have higher probabilities to be materialistic and perceive goods as a way to enhance the self.
- Personal and social insecurity are linked to materialism and overindulgent parents. 6
- Overindulgence was related to teenagers’ perceptions of life satisfaction as well as unhealthy eating habits among them.
- Overindulgent parents tend to let their children eat whatever they want. 7
Millennials and new generations
The Communication Studies academic journal (2014) suggests that most helicopter parents have wealth and resources with which they overindulge their kids and that between 60% and 70% of college students said they have helicopter parents. It is interesting to note that a recent Pew Research Center analysis stated that more than one million Millennials are becoming mothers each year. Based on the research of Bredehoft and others, the probability of these new mothers and fathers become overindulgent parents is high.
What can we do?
What are ways each one of us can avoid over indulgence in our homes? We can definitely continue loving our children and continue to maximize our parental roles. We should be wiser and carefully observe our teachings and the ways we interact with them. Children need rules, discipline, boundaries, choices, positive and negatives consequences, and varied experiences, in order to build strong foundations for successful lives.
Being parents is not an easy task. As parents, we are accountable for the healthy development of another human being. Our dedication and attention is required because one day our children will become the future adults, parents, citizens, and professionals of our society.