Deb is the mother of two boys, ages seven and ten. She read the Real Love in Parenting book. She has talked to me about parenting on many occasions. But then I talked to her husband and learned how she behaves with her sons.
She lays out their clothes for school the night before. She helps them brush their teeth. She gets their pajamas out to wear. She gets them up in the morning, and then she’s right behind them every step of the way, making sure that they’re on schedule, that they eat the right breakfast, and much more. She helps them do their homework, takes it to school if they forget it at home, and otherwise rescues them at every opportunity.
She says that all this is just what “good” mothers do when they “take care” of their children. Deb’s friends are effusive in their praise of her being a “great mother,” because of the energy and “concern” she devotes to being a “good parent.” Who could deny the outward evidence of her serving her children? But we have to ask, who is she helping? What is she really doing?
Sure, part of her cares about her sons’ happiness, but most of her motivation consists of the following mix:
- A need to be SEEN as a good parent.
- A need for her children to thank her for serving them, which she ensures by reminding them to thank her.
- A need to feel important.
- A need to have a secure role in life—a purpose.
How do I know her motivations? Because she gets irritated with them if they don’t follow the tightly regimented schedule. Because her care of the children interferes with her marriage. She prefers to get clothes out for her children, for example—who are easily old enough to do everything she does for them—over spending time with her husband, who feels neglected and even dismissed. These are undeniable indications—proofs, really—that her motivations are primarily selfish.
So what else is wrong with what Deb is doing?
- She’s teaching her children that they are helpless and weak.
- She’s teaching them to obey HER rather than to do the right things simply because they work.
- She’s stealing from them the opportunities they need to learn to be responsible. Children are guaranteed to be happy when they are loved, loving, and responsible. With her over-protective caretaking, she is actually contributing to her children being unhappy for a lifetime.
Think I’m exaggerating the effects of Deb’s smothering? Not at all. I regularly work with adults twenty, thirty, and more years after they’ve been “cared for” as Deb’s children. They feel entitled, they don’t know how to take care of themselves, they have a hard time with decisions, they become disgruntled and unproductive employees, and their relationships are a nightmare. All because they were not loved and taught, just spoiled and protected.
Our goal as parents is to love and teach our children in a way that they can be independent and happy for a lifetime. We are NOT here to take care of their every need and protect them from inconvenience and pain.
Learn How to Love and Teach
Eliminate confusion and conflict with your children.