Your Parenting Style Could Be Making You Depressed

In the age of Tiger moms and helicopter parenting, it can be hard to gauge how much time you should spend with your children.
Parents, today spend way more time with their kids than in years passed. A recent study of 11 wealthy countries estimates that in 2012, a mother spent an average of 120 minutes per day directly parenting her children. In 1965, a mother only spent 54 minutes directly parenting kids.
 women child rearing times
And while men, on average, still spend far less time than women caring for children, the time they do spend caring for their kids has jumped from 16 minutes a day to 59 during the same time period.
Father time caring for children

These numbers may seem underwhelming but you must keep in mind that the numbers have doubled during a time when childcare options have nearly quadrupled. In our current society parents work longer hours and employ the help of nannies, au pairs, nurseries, daycare, afterschool programs and the list goes on… but they still find the time and a way to stay tethered to their kids.

Let’s face it, overparenting is the new trend.

The problem with over-parenting

It’s safe to say that every parent wants what’s best for their children. Most, if not all of your lifestyle and parenting choices are centered around trying to provide the best opportunities for your kids. As a parent, you are preoccupied with trying to ensure your kids are healthy, safe, have access to the best education and are set up to be successful adults.

You don’t mind going the extra mile to make sure their kids are doing okay. You drive 14 hours in a blizzard to pick your son up from college because he wants to spend the weekend at home. You insist that your daughter discuss every decision with you–no matter how small–in order to help her avoid making mistakes of any kind. And though your intentions are honorable, your methods could be doing you more harm than good.

If your child isn’t doing well, our culture has a way of making you feel as though you’ve done something wrong. You are pressured into feeling that your child’s successes and failures are a direct reflection of you. Consider the following questions:

  • Do you think that your children’s accomplishments are a direct reflection of good parenting?
  • Does your child’s bad behavior signify a failure of some sort by you as a parent?
  • Do you allow your children to fail? Why or why not?

The answers to these questions can help you determine if your parenting is more about you and your issues than it should be. The better your kids do, the better you feel about yourself as a parent. Your value and worth have become directly tied to the success and/or failures of your children. This creates a mountain of unfair stress and pressure on you as a parent and on your kids. 

Research shows that parents who over-parent and hover are more susceptible to depression than parents who don’t. Overparenting can cause:

Loss of identity

Your world shouldn’t revolve entirely around your kids because during the process you can cause you to lose your own identity. All of your likes, dislikes, hobbies and interest become driven by your children’s interests and needs. You no longer know what you truly enjoy doing, who you are and you don’t take time for yourself. 

Relationships to suffer

Always allowing your children to be the number one priority and the center of your joy is unfair to others in your life. This is especially true if you are married. Your relationship will begin to suffer and you may be tempted to put your marriage on the back burner. Over time, as you continue neglecting your spouse the relationship deteriorates and the only thing you have in common is the kids. This is a path to a stressful and unfulfilled marriage which could end in divorce.  

A lifetime of codependence

You may think that once your children are grown, then you will focus on yourself a bit more and reignite the romance with your partner. But the truth is that once you’ve established a pattern of co-dependence it doesn’t end with the kids becoming adults. You will continue to worry, over-parent and allow your kids to rule your universe for the rest of your life.

Stunted growth for your child

Your child learns how to function, handle relationships and deal with failure by watching you. They will be ill-prepared to deal with life’s inevitable setbacks. They will either believe the world revolves around them or will always put themselves last. It will be hard for them to establish and maintain balanced and healthy relationships.

The key to good parenting? Relax…

Your kids are going to make mistakes. In fact, they need to make mistakes. Shielding your children from failure shields them from valuable life lessons, robs them of the tenacity and fortitude failure provides and it tampers with their destiny.

The litmus test of good parenting is not determined by the successes and/or failures of your children. Preventing your child from making mistakes is an exercise in futility and counter-intuitive. Your role as a parent isn’t the prevention of failure but showing your child how to get up and recover when they do fail. It is your job to demonstrate how they should handle mistakes and cope with missteps with integrity. This is how you truly impact and shape their character.

As a parent, your job is to love unconditionally, guide and gently correct your children. You are not your child’s savior, force-field or life’s compass. So, relax, stop hovering and have a bit of faith in the process. You are a great person and an awesome parent. Your kids will be just fine.

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