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My title is from a definition on overparenting, used in an Atlantic article. In a study on overparenting, referenced in the article, the following definition is used: ” a misguided attempt to improve their child’s current and future personal and academic success.” On some level, parenting involves attempting to improve children’s success. The important word here is misguided. Misguided means veering off course. If parents lose their way in parenting, they can do more harm than good.

I think about this often as a teacher, because in the attempt to help their children, parents are increasingly blocking their children from possible life learning. This is because in some cases, a student’s issues become the parent’s issues, and the student is most likely not involved anymore. The Atlantic article quotes the study again, saying overparenting “take their child’s perception as truth, regardless of the facts,” and are “quick to believe their child over the adult and deny the possibility that their child was at fault or would even do something of that nature.” I don’t doubt that parents are trying to be helpful, in “advocating” (a word I hear often) for their child. But I don’t always see advocation. Sometimes I see interference.

At a recent school basketball game, I noticed a player on the bench; it was late in the second half and he had not yet entered the game. Whatever the reason for not entering the game, he was in tears. He never got in. I asked him later what was the reason for not playing. He said he didn’t know. (Parents, please don’t ever believe it when your kids say “I don’t know”. It came out later he had cussed out the coach. Yeah, that might have had something to do with it). After the game, I saw his mother talking with the coach. The player was nowhere to be seen (although he showed up later for the two of them to argue with the coach). I’m not sure what a parent has to say to a coach in this situation. If not careful, a parent could get in the way of important lessons for their child to learn.

Here’s my hope, as a parent: when a grown up confronts me and tells me how one of my kids has screwed up, that I can listen without getting defensive and then figure out what to do. And one of the first things to do will be making sure my kid takes care of his/her responsibility – apologizing, working, repaying – whatever is necessary to attempt to remedy the screw-up. Hopefully my work is not misguided, and actually helps my kid in life.

Image: http://real.fstatuses.com/cards/chalkboard/661917.jpg

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2 thoughts on “Misguided improvement: on overparenting, and teaching

  1. Rob, thanks for sharing these comments and insights. The opportunity for young people to learn from adversity seems to be declining.

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