You might be an over-supporter if you are quick to do things for your child that they could likely do themselves. If you find yourself answering questions for your children that they could answer themselves or if you frequently and automatically give help, hints or advice without being asked. It might feel like the right thing to do, but it could be doing more harm than good.
Do you have a hard time seeing your child become frustrated?
Do you have a low threshold for your seeing your child struggle?
Do you pave the way for you child ensuring “smooth” experiences?
If so, you might be an over-supporter.
Encouraging, empowering and helping are fine, but over-supporting does not allow our children to struggle with and overcome problems…a critical life skill.
There is a risk. Kids who are over-supported will end up lacking confidence, problem solving skills, and resilience. Instead of learning healthy strategies to deal with challenging life situations, these children will doubt themselves and rely on others.
I’m not talking about abandoning our children. We all need love and support, especially children. I’m just saying that there could be a danger in doing too much.
The danger might be obvious by now. but, counter to the intended effect, children who were helped too much end up having a harder go at life. Adult life ends up being more of a struggle, not easier, for those who were over-supported. Work and relationships are harder to maintain. Without a strong sense of agency and autonomy, children learn to be somewhat helpless, looking outside of themselves for the causes and solutions to their problems. The over-supported have a harder time handling stress, they lack accountability and look to parents to fix things when things go wrong. As a parent you might end up dealing with the over-supported child well into their adulthood as they have learned that they cannot rely on themselves.
So, what can you do?
- Don’t do things your child is capable of doing. (wiping their face, washing their hands, feeding them, putting on their clothes). If they need help getting started, that’s okay.
- Instead of doing things for your child, help them learn the skill, the process to do it for themselves. Even if it takes a long time to learn the process. The child will be learning more than just a specific skill, but the fact that skills can be broken down in to smaller chunks.
- Believe in your child. Believe that they can and will learn to do things for themselves.
- Give your child real responsibility. Have some accountability at home. Lead with positivity and consistency.
- Let go of perfection. As your child starts to take over more, things will not be perfect. That’s okay. They have not had as much practice. Back off! Bite your tongue. If you want to engage in helpful dialogue, ask your child reflective type questions that will help him or her reflect upon the process…rather than telling them how they could have done better.
- Help your child create his or her plan, not your plan.
- Adopt a growth mindset. Every mistake, every failed attempt is an opportunity to learn…and to take responsibility.
- Show your human side. Normalize mistakes…talk about how you too make mistakes.
- Help your child learn to advocate for him/herself. This is the ultimate goal of parenting anyway. So start young by encouraging and respecting their voice. Ask their opinion on things, and value it.
A toxic combination for killing confidence is Over-supporting combined with a blame or mistake focused mindset. This paralyses children (and anyone else). A feeling of incapability plus fear of trying is the only possible result in a environment like this. Bold attempts are not made. If attempts are made, they are timid and always focused on what could go wrong.
The result is not pretty. It leads to individuals that don’t trust themselves and their own abilities. They end up being deadly scared to try.
The last step is to be honest. If you see that you could be one of the things getting in the way, take some action to address it.