Over-nurtured: Am I Too Involved In All That My Child Does? by David Bredehoft

This type of parenting goes by a number of labels: the over-involved parent, the helicopter parent, the overprotective parent, the hovering parent, the over-scheduling parent, even the tiger mom (parent) however, I call it the over-nurturing parent, the second type of overindulgence.

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What is nurture vs. over-nurture?

Author Jean Illsley Clarke says, “Nurture is the name of all the ways we care for others and ourselves. Children must be nurtured, or they do not survive. They must have food, clothing, protection, touch, recognition, and love…True nurture is about one’s being, one’s right to exist and to have one’s needs met. It does not need to be earned. It has no price tag. It does not have to be paid for by obsequiousness or obedience.”

Over-nurture is very different. Over-nurture is being over-involved in your children’s lives. It is doing things that children should be doing for themselves, smothering them with love, allowing them too many privileges, making sure they were always entertained, and hovering over them constantly trying to insulate them from frustration, stress, and anxiety.

Consider the following as examples of over-nurture:

  • 43% of parents nationwide do their child’s homework. More fathers (47%) than mothers (39%) do homework for their kids.
  • A majority of American parents (62%) say they can be overprotective, especially mothers.
  • 30% of college job recruiters have had a parent submit a resume for their child. 15% had a parent complain when their child wasn’t hired and 12% have had a parent call to schedule an interview for their college-aged child.
  • Parents say their children’s day-to-day schedules are too hectic with too many things to do.
  • 37% of families say they plan to spend over $1,000 per child on school and after-school activity fees this academic year and 20% plan to spend more than $2,000.
  • Grandparents provide financial support to grandchildren annually ($794 vacations, $297 meals out/entertainment, $484 extra-curricular lessons).
  • Youth sports are an estimated $15 billion dollar industry.
  • 79% of parents say their children play games on electronic devices each day.
  • Parents with school-age children say their kids have played sports (73%), participated in religious instruction or youth groups (60%), taken lessons in music, dance or art (54%), volunteer work (53%) after school in the last 12 months.
  • Helicopter parenting can trigger anxiety and stunts children’s emotional and cognitive growth.
  • 41% of children ages 9 to 13 feel stressed all of the time or most of the time because they have too much to do.

How can I tell if my overindulgence pattern is over-nurture?

Read and answer the following questions honestly for each child. The more “Yes” answers, the greater the probability that your overindulgence pattern is Over-nurture!

The majority of the time…

  1. I am involved in everything my child does.
  2. I give my child a great deal of attention.
  3. I anticipate what my child needs and provide it.
  4. I make sure my child is entertained.
  5. I schedule my child for lots of activities, lessons, and sports.
  6. I seek out activities for my child to participate in.
  7. I hate to see my child be frustrated.
  8. I find something for my child to do when he/she is bored.
  9. My child’s activities should be fun.
  10. I do things for my child that he/she should be doing for him/herself.

© 2014 by Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson, and David J. Bredehoft. Used here with permission.

Over-nurture: What are the risks?

Quite often we do things for children that they should be doing for themselves. We do this for a variety of reasons. We may be in a hurry. We may be stressed or want something done a certain way. Maybe we believe it is our job to keep children happy and stress-free. All of these reasons are coming from a good heart, but not always helpful for children in the long run.

When asked which skills were missing because their parents did things for them when they were children, subjects reported the following: communication, interpersonal, and relationship skills, domestic and home skills, mental and personal health skills, decision-making skills, money and time management skills, as well as learning to be responsible.

I know I over-nurture my children. What do I do?

As a parent I know you are concerned and do not want to over-nurture your children, however, you may not know what to do instead. Here are a few suggestions to help you avoid over-nurturing your children and avoid the damaging effects of childhood overindulgence.

My next entry: "Are You A Pushover Parent? Don’t Have Rules Or Enforce Them?"

Do all things with Love, Grace, and Gratitude

© 2019 David J. Bredehoft

© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2022;  bredehoft@csp.edu