Can Being Too Perfect a Parent Mess Up Your Kids?

Filed under: Opinions, Expert Advice: Tweens, Expert Advice: Teens



Sometimes, we feel like the official parenting motto should be "I just can't win."

Honestly, you let your children take the reins when it comes to deciding what they want to do, and you're a slacker destined to raise hellion teenagers. You try to plan their activities and get involved at their school and suddenly you're labeled helicopter parent.

Now, experts are warning that if you manage to offer up an idyllic upbringing for your kids, that's actually a bad thing, too.

Author and therapist Lori Gottlieb recently stirred up a little parenting controversy when she penned a story for The Atlantic in which she makes the case that providing your kid with too perfect of a childhood could be harmful to them as they hit adulthood.

"None of the experts I interviewed for my article, "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy," advocate going from over-nurturing to under-nurturing, from over-indulgence to hard-line rigidity," Gottlieb writes on the "Today" website. "Lavishing love and affection on your kids is a good thing, along with healthy nurturing, which means supporting but not fixing, being present without being intrusive, and wanting your kids' happiness but knowing they may need to struggle."

Gottlieb tells "Today" she, like many parents, is challenged by how to make her own kid happy.

"It used to be we wanted our kids to be generally content and now they have to be happy at all times in every way," she tells the news show.

Wendy Mogel, author of "The Blessing of a B Minus," tells "Today" parents who rush to their children's aid for every little thing may, in fact, experience a backlash.

"I think of parents these days as kind of good parents gone bad because we are so devoted and so concerned that we see something like a scraped knee or a skinned knee as the end of the planet as we know it," she tells the news show.

This sense of over-protectiveness extends as kids grow, Gottlieb adds.

"And then, when they get older and they don't get into the school play, we're calling the teachers and we're saying, 'well, can't you find a part for my kid,' " she tells "Today."

Keeping our kids from ever knowing the feeling of rejection or not keeping score during a soccer game so they don't feel the sting of a loss can actually be harmful, the experts say.

"It is causing problems because it's almost as though when they're young we say 'Look at you! You breathed in, then you breathed out!' When they win a Nobel Prize or an Academy Award it's a come-down from childhood," Mogel tells "Today."

So, what's a parent to do?

"If you want your kids to be resilient and function in day-to-day life, they need to experience some challenge, some struggle and some disappointment along the way," Gottlieb tells "Today."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.