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Mother’s Who Overmother

“We have an almost 3-year-old and a 5 year old. I am the parent who spends the most time with them (bathing, dressing, feeding, playing games).”

“Their dad is very loving but doesn’t spend a lot of quality time with them. Both of my children are incredibly clingy. They want nothing to do with any other adult, including my husband. They want me to do everything so if he tries to help they object. Both children are very particular about how everything is done. No one, not even Dad, does things exactly the way I do because I always follow the children’s little rituals. What have I done to make them so dependent on me? Am I babying them too much?”

If I were to say that what makes your children so dependent on you is that you spend too much time with them, I would make a lot of devoted Moms angry. How can a mother ever spend too much time with her young children?

Actually mothers can spend too much time with their children. If you hover over your children all the time you deprive them of figuring out how to self-calm, amuse themselves, and learn to become responsible for their actions.

If you think you are babying your children too much you probably are. Many fulltime mothers find themselves doing this. Daddy should do some of the parenting tasks because fathers are so important to young children, daughters as well as sons. Also Daddy and Mommy are different people and do things differently, the first lesson children have to learn about grownups.

Newborns are totally dependent on you but when children grow up they must depend on themselves. This is a long process and starts early. I think your children are both overly dependent on you and are also ruling the roost. They decide how things are done and who does them in your house. But Mommy and Daddy are supposed to decide.

It is possible to overparent. Parents of new babies sometimes overcomfort. The first little sound, long before the baby starts to cry, sends the parents rushing to the crib. Parents can overprotect so children become fearful and do not develop a sense of what is appropriate risk. Some parents are so overinvolved with their children’s school work that the child does not learn to assume responsibility for consequences. Parents can also be overinvolved in their children’s feelings. If the child didn’t make the team the parents want to fix it. All of us overindulge on occasion but if we make a habit of it our kids become overly materialistic.

I am convinced that just about all overparenting starts out as good parenting. The parent enjoys meeting the child’s every need and gets pleasure from doing so. But remember a big part of parenting is learning to let go.

Probably the most destructive message of overparenting is that the parents don’t trust their children to do what they are supposed to do, from learning to fall asleep on their own to remembering their homework. Children cannot believe in themselves if the most important people in their lives don’t believe in them.

So back off a bit. Bring Daddy into the parenting loop, make a game out of changing the little rituals, and build some “play by yourself time” into your children’s lives. Don’t forget you need some self-time. Think about what you will do when the kids go off to college and you become an unemployed mother.