Signs You Are Overparenting Your Child

A mom comforting her young child
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Overparenting refers to a parent’s attempts to micromanage their child’s life. Constantly hovering over your child to ensure they're making good decisions, protecting them from any hint of physical or emotional discomfort, and preventing them from facing the consequences of their behavior are just a few of the well-intentioned goals of the overprotective parent.

Overparenting usually stems from a parent’s desire to manage their own discomfort, as they can’t tolerate watching their child get hurt, fail, or make a mistake. At other times, parents feel guilty about disciplining their child and refuse to enforce consequences.

Ongoing hypervigilance and overindulgence can have serious consequences—such as stunting a child’s development and causing a child to become overly dependent. Here are the warning signs that you’re overparenting your child.

You Get Into Power Struggles

Frequent power struggles can signal that you’re being too picky or too demanding. If you find yourself arguing with a 5-year-old about eating enough vegetables, or you’re getting into constant battles with your 15-year-old about the way they style their hair, you may be preventing them from developing the independence they need.

You Micromanage Your Child

Sometimes, it’s easy to assume there’s a “best way” or a “right way” to do everything, but that assumption can lead to micromanaging your child's every move. If you can’t let go and allow your child to explore new opportunities—like wearing clothes that don’t match or putting the bathtub on the roof when they're playing with their dollhouse—it’s likely that you’re overparenting.

You Can't Let Your Child Fail

Nobody likes watching their child fail, but if you jump in to rescue your child whenever they experience problems, they won’t learn from their mistakes. If you’re quick to tell them the right answer every time they're struggling to figure out their homework or you intervene at the first hint of a problem during a play date, your child won’t develop problem-solving skills.

Sometimes, kids need to experience failure firsthand. Recovering from failure provides children with opportunities to discover how they can do things differently in the future. 

You Worry Excessively

If you’re always the only parent who seems concerned about your child playing on the monkey bars at the playground, or you can’t stand the thought of your 13-year-old crossing the street with friends, it can be tempting to assume it's because you’re more caring than the other parents.

But before drawing that conclusion, consider the possibility that you may be overparenting. If you don’t treat your child like a smart, competent human being, you may be cheating them from reaching their full potential.

You Try to Control How Others Treat Your Child

If you find yourself frequently arguing with teachers, coaches, daycare providers, and other caregivers about their rules or the way your child is treated, it may mean you’re overparenting. Helicopter parents often call teachers to demand their child get a better grade or they forbid Grandma to allow the children to eat any sugar.

Trying to micromanage how other people treat your child isn’t healthy. Kids benefit from learning different rules in different environments.

You Don't Have Age-Appropriate Expectations

Sometimes, overparenting stems from expectations being set too high. For example, a parent may get a child involved in dozens of activities and may even manage a child's free time to ensure that they're always being productive.

At other times, overparenting results when parents have expectations that are too low. Parents who don't believe their child is capable of behaving independently may do everything for them—like their homework—because they worry their child can't do it right.

You Overindulge Your Child

Overparenting often equates to overindulgence. If you don’t assign chores, or you don’t expect them to be independent, they won't learn life skills. Sparing your child from responsibility will only harm them in the long-term.

Parenting your child in a way that prevents you from experiencing any anxiety isn’t healthy. It’s important to allow your child the freedom to be a kid. Overparenting can prevent your child from experiencing a rich and full childhood that will prepare them to become a more responsible adult.

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  1. Locke J, Campbell M, Kavanagh D. Can a parent do too much for their child? An examination by parenting professionals of the concept of overparentingAust J Guid Couns. 2012;22(2):249-265. doi:10.1017/jgc.2012.29