9 Surprising Ways You Might Be Over-Parenting Your Child

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by: Lindsay Hutton
Is your child a coddled kid and you don't even know it? In today's society, "helicopter parenting," or the tendency for parents to hover and help their child even when they are capable of acting alone, is a growing — and perhaps detrimental — trend. Research published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies has found that over-parented children show less autonomy, competence and ability to relate to others as teens, which can result in depression and decreased overall life satisfaction. The following are the top areas moms and dads can fall into the over-parenting trap, and some helpful hints for how to take a step back.
Mother fixing girls dress
Dressing Your Child
Raise your hand if you still pick out your child's clothes, help him put them on, and help with zippers, buttons, socks and shoes. Guilty?

In reality, although he may need some help with buttons until he fine-tunes his motor skills, your child should be capable of dressing himself by the age of three. Instead of picking out what your child is going to wear, allow him to choose his own outfit from a few options you've selected. As he gets older, give him a little more range in options until he is fully independent in dressing himself.

We don't always agree with our child's fashion choices, but try to remember that his clothing is a form of self-expression. As long as his clothes are clean and decent, let him wear what he wants (even if you don't like it).

Teen girl holding broken smart phone
Replacing Lost or Broken Items
Sometimes toys or personal items really are lost or broken by accident. But, if your child is careless with her possessions, and mistreats or constantly loses them, resist the urge to immediately replace them. Seeing your child upset is, well, upsetting, , but by showing her that it's important to take care of her things, she'll likely become more responsible in making sure they stay in one piece.

This is a good lesson for older children and teens as well. Cell phones and other electronic items are a privilege, not a necessity. If your teen loses or breaks hers, having to buy a replacement with her own money will help teach her about the value of her possessions.

Little kids helping with housework
Cleaning Up His Messes
Your child lives in your home, and should play a part in keeping it clean and tidy. Children as young as two can put their toys away with helpful instruction and, by the time they are preschool-aged, should know that they are responsible for putting toys away on their own.

As your child get older, he should be responsible for more age-appropriate household tasks, such as doing laundry, helping to clean, and other basic chores. Learning to be responsible and self-sufficient, and taking pride in his environment, is an important lesson that your child will carry with him when he leaves home.

Three friends eating pizza
Controlling What He Eats
Of course a healthy diet is important for your child, but monitoring and controlling everything he eats can lead to unhealthy eating habits and power struggles. Expose him to a variety of healthy foods, but allow him to choose which ones to try. Once your child is elementary-aged, he should have enough kitchen skills to prepare basic meals. When he reaches his teens, he should be comfortable enough in the kitchen to cook several nutritious meals himself. By helping out in the kitchen, your child will gain an awareness and appreciation for food and nutrition.

And remember — a little junk food will not be his ruin. Your child's day-to-day diet should be well-rounded and healthy, but avoid stressing out about a made-from-a-box cupcake at a child's birthday party. Enjoying occasional indulgences in moderation is a good life lesson, too!

Mother holding two fighting kids back
Intervening in Fights Among Peers
Do you step in immediately when a squabble erupts over a toy, if one child isn't sharing during a play date, or if your older child has a disagreement with a friend? As long as nobody is in danger, it's better to wait and let the children resolve it on their own. It's a helpful lesson in conflict resolution.

If you do need to intervene, try to avoid offering any solutions and instead be a mediator to help them arrive at one themselves. You might be surprised to see how well they are able to work it out alone. Teaching your child to handle his own conflicts from a young age will help him greatly as he faces tougher battles later in life.

Smiling mother holding happy son
Giving Excessive Praise
Encouragement can go a long way in fostering your child's self-esteem and pushing him to strive to do his best, but some of us have the habit of giving excessive praise even when a child's effort is lacking. The down side to this is he may never feel the need to push himself to succeed. (Think rewarding "participation trophies" to all players on the soccer field, a child expecting a higher grade for less work, etc.)

A study from Columbia University found that children who were continually told they were smart tended to avoid activities they didn't excel at for fear of failing. Instead of praising your child the next time he falls short, talk about what he could have done to make the outcome better and what he'll do differently next time. It's important to remember that failure teaches us how to accept disappointment and develop coping strategies to overcome obstacles later on in life.

Three girls laying in grass laughing
Micromanaging Her Friendships
Although at times we'd love to, we can't pick and choose who our children are friends with. The process of establishing and keeping friendships holds many life lessons (and joys) for a child, and will help shape her self-awareness and interpersonal skills.

Some friendships will be positive and some will be negative — and that's normal. Instead of shielding your child from experiencing the pitfalls, or even the end of a friendship, talk to her about how she feels about certain friends and why, and express the values you look for in your own friendships. It's a normal part of life and will teach her a lot about herself, and which qualities she values in others.

Boys and girls youth soccer
Over-Scheduling
Helicopter parents sometimes have unrealistic academic, athletic, and artistic goals for their children, resulting in jam-packed schedules. The down side to this? Kids may be left with no free time to discover and develop their own interests, thus diminishing their creativity.

Allow your child to develop his own interests. Try to keep after-school activities to one per season, and avoid pushing your child if he decides there is one he doesn't want to continue pursuing. And remember, free time allows your child to read, play, and use his imagination. What could be wrong with that?

Boy sitting in kitchen doing homework
Setting Strict Routines
Young children need daily structure and a set bedtime routine, but by the time your child is 12, he should have some freedom in deciding how to manage his time. Allowing your child to decide when and how to do his homework, how to spend his free time, and when to go to bed will give him the proper time management skills he'll need for when he is out on his own.

Try to find a good balance between giving your child complete autonomy and dictating every minute of his day. Set some restrictions, such as no television or video games during certain times of the day, to help encourage him to use his time wisely, and enforce a winding down period of quiet reading or another relaxing activity of his choice at bedtime. Removing technology and other stimulations at night is a good way to help guide him in determining a healthy bedtime.