My wife calls it “anxiety parenting”. What is it?
It’s the idea that you want to make sure you’re being a good parent, so you worry about being a good parent. That worry, can lead to creating parenting problems that are not real problems. And many times, the problems we see are not real problems.
I don’t want to get into arguments about relativism, but we have to consider what’s an actual problem and what is not.
See if you can relate to any of these stories. You might not match up exactly, but see if these are familiar.
A father is distraught about her daughter’s social life. He is worried that he doesn’t see enough kids with his daughter, and he expects to see more girls hanging out at their house. He worries about her future.
The daughter is going to a top 25 university on a full athletic scholarship.
A mother is concerned how her son is doing in classes. She checks in with teachers, by email or in person. And she checks the grades online. She is not sure if he will be in a good spot for college, and she wants to be reassured he’s doing OK.
Her son has just been accepted to an Ivy League school.
A father wonders if his son will cheat on a test. He hopes he raised him well, but he’s concerned if he considers cheating on this test, he will cheat on all tests.
The test was in Gym class. (One of things I teach is a PhyEd class, so I’m teasing a little bit here.)
A mother declares her daughter is “bored”. She says her daughter is smart, and the school is not meeting her daughter’s needs. She has requested additional math worksheets for her daughter to do, and the two of them (notice that number) work on them together. The mother is confident her daughter will finish all the worksheets soon.
The daughter is in second grade.
Please don’t get a feeling of superiority in reading these stories (we don’t need parent competition). If you can proudly proclaim you’ve never done anything remotely like this and never will, bully for you. But I bet some of you resemble these parents in the idea of worrying.
The point here is that these parents probably don’t need to worry. And I know that part of being a parent is to worry. And I also know parents can relax on some of the worry. Parenting from anxiety doesn’t help anyone – kids, schools, other parents, yourself. Don’t create problems that aren’t there.
In order to ease anxiety parenting, you need to realize you’re probably doing a good job in your parenting, and your child(ren) will most likely be OK. I say this phrase when I talk to other parents and it always get a shocked laugh: I know I’m a pretty good parent because I try to be a pretty good parent. What I mean by that is I work at it a lot. I think about parenting a lot. I talk about parenting a lot. And I work to make sure I’m doing well. (Too much thinking, without balance, can lead to overparenting, which is definitely not the same as trying to be a good parent.) My wife and I are in constant conversation about parenting every day. Most parents I know are similar. When I see kids that are in crisis, it almost always is connected to a parent’s lack of effort on being a good parent. Neglect, distraction, abdicating the role – not thinking about and trying to being a good parent. Most parents I know are not in this situation.
Parents: in all likelihood, things are going fine. Take comfort in that. Breathe.