How Not To Overparent Your Kids (And Love Them Better)

Originally published Thursday, 24 May 2012.


Why do we sometimes overdo it with our kids?

Why do we overparent them?

Why is “parenting” even a verb?

There is one conversation I have with other parents that always ends the same way: our heads all nodding vigorously.  You know the conversation.  It goes like some version of this:

“Gee, when I was growing up, my parents did not spend this much time watching my every move.”

My brother-in-law recently sent me an article from Boston Magazine about this same topic that hit way too close to home for me.  The title is “Welcome To The Age Of Overparenting,” and the author writes about the anxious, hovering moments spent with our kids that many of us know far too well.  She goes on to describe how she’s noticed even her kids beginning to signal to her: “Mommy, it’s too much!”

What is going on?

Yes, there is all the craziness out there that causes fear to grip our hearts and pull our kids in closer.

But there is another grip on our hearts as well.

I believe it is the desire to worship, misplaced onto our relationships with our children.

On the whole, as a culture, our dependence and reliance on an all-powerful God has weakened. Even those of us who call ourselves Christians struggle mightily with giving up control to God. We’re used to blazing our own trails, to being our own saviors. In fact, it’s encouraged.  “DIY” didn’t become a catch phrase out of the blue!

So when we search for meaning in our lives, we no longer turn to God.  Instead, we begin to turn to our own achievements and our closest relationships.

As moms, we can easily find ourselves worshiping our children and our roles as mothers.  In fact, our marriages can come under stress because of this very dynamic.  We frequently put our children ahead of our husbands, and both ahead of God.

But this kind of worship won’t hold water.

Children grow up. We see them changing before our eyes, skipping out the door, not looking back.  And it’s the right order of things!  We want them to move forwards in their lives. We grieve when that forward motion is interrupted.

What then, can we do, to help our hearts with this desire to “overparent”?

First, we must remind ourselves constantly that our kids are not ours.  We are their stewards for awhile, but they don’t belong to us.  We barely had a hand in creating them.  They are truly gifts from God.

Second, we must commit them with joy to the Lord.  He upholds them, He has their lives in His hands.  He’s the one they ultimately belong to for all the days of their lives.

Last, with a great gasping effort, we’ve got to turn our own lives over to Him as well.

In my own life, this is not the most gracious thing you’ve ever seen!  Much of it comes about because I have nowhere else to turn.  It happens when I realize that no other foundation holds up.

He is a firm foundation.

For us and for them!

Question:  What about you?  Do you find you struggle with the desire to overparent?  How do you respond to it?



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Dr. Ann is a Christian M.D., wife to her wonderful husband, and mom to a terrific gang of three.  At The Marriage Checklist Ann blogs about marriage, motherhood, and more!  She is syndicated on, and has been featured onBlogHer.comMichaelHyatt.comFox news, and Good Morning America.  

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Copyright Dr. Ann 2012