According to recent media reports, hyper-parenting is becoming a new epidemic in America. Parents, in their attempts to provide their children with the perfect childhood and best resume for success as adults, are micro-managing their children. Children no longer have free time, as every waking moment is spent at some activity or in preparation of a scheduled activity. Parents pour over their homework, in some instances doing their children’s homework themselves in order to get the grade. These parents aren’t doing so out of malice but truly do have the best interest of their children at heart. Unfortunately, their children are growing up without much of a childhood to speak of and without attaining the skills they need to function in life. When it is time to leave the nest, they will be at a loss.
I recently listened to a broadcast on NPR concerning this grave disease afflicting today’s parents. When asked what the difference between today’s parents and those parents in the 1950s was, the man being interviewed cited several things – having a parent home with children, not starting an institution until older (6-7 years being the previous time period as opposed to today’s daycares and early preschools), and having freedom to play. He then went on to say that today’s parents are ridiculous – allowing children to sleep in the same bed with them, immediately addressing crying in infants, etc. He stated that he had never seen a baby brought into the hospital for being distraught and that babies should be put to bed alone and not checked on until an appropriate time the next morning, suggesting parents invest in earplugs.
What this man, reportedly a doctor, failed to realize was that by eschewing hyper-parenting, he was essentially going to the other radical extreme – neglect. While hyper-parenting is detrimental to a child’s healthy development, so is neglect. Allowing a child to cry and scream for hours before going to sleep, known as the cry it out method advocated by Ferber and Babywise, has proven to be harmful – physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
This swing from one extreme to another is referred to as the pendulum effect. Neither end is healthy. Somehow, it was missed that those parents in earlier times, by allowing free play, being available to their children, and by being the most important individuals in their lives when the children were young, were essentially forming strong, healthy attachments so that their children could grow into themseves. Hyper-parenting our children isn’t doing them any favors. Neglecting them in an attempt to not hyper-parent isn’t, either.