Saturday, November 21, 2009

Overcoming Overparenting [edited]

I saw this Time article linked on a couple of blogs. It is a must-read for any parent. I'm not sure I agree with all their final conclusions, and while it can obviously go either way (if we celebrate our failures too much, we could end up justifying error that maybe we should correct), I do agree that our generation has swung more to the side of hyper-parenting.

This brought to mind Elder Oaks' talk, "Good, Better, Best." For example, he said:

The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children's values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.

Family experts have warned against what they call "the overscheduling of children." In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together. Among many measures of this disturbing trend are the reports that structured sports time has doubled, but children's free time has declined by 12 hours per week, and unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50 percent.2

The number of those who report that their "whole family usually eats dinner together" has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together "eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children's academic achievement and psychological adjustment."3 Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children's smoking, drinking, or using drugs.4 There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: What your children really want for dinner is you.

[edited to add the following quote that came to mind after I posted...] That same general conference also included this wise counsel from Sister Beck that rings in my head often...from her "Mothers Who Know" talk:

Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world's goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.

Some quotes from the Time article that stood out. For example:

"I hope that we're getting away from the helicopter parenting," Meyer says. "Our philosophy is 'Give 'em the morals, give 'em the right start, but you've got to let them go.' They deserve to live their own lives."

Sounds an awful lot like Joseph Smith's teach correct principles principle, doesn't it?

I won't quote any more...just go read it. And then let's talk. I don't believe there is one right way to parent (which is another point in the article -- we have to figure out what is right for our own families). But I do believe it's good to talk about these things.

So...How do *you* find a balance in guiding your children and helping them prepare for their futures, and letting them fly and learn and make mistakes -- and just be kids? What do you to do to simplify and carve out more family time? What do you do to not hover to the point of smothering?


Anonymous said...

Great post - it is something I think of often...I have little girls, and I wonder - where do I draw the line between being over-involved and neglectful.

For me, so much of it is about following the Spirit. If I allow the Spirit to rule in my life, I find that I waste less time and effort with things that are not needful.

Of course, having the Spirit requires constant work and attention on my part.

Anyways - mostly I'm grateful for the apostles and other leaders of the church as they often remind us parents of what our focus should

Thanks again! - chococatania

Annette Lyon said...

Great quotes all. I need to head over to read the Times article now. But I agree--as a parent, our job is to prepare them to be capable, spiritual, strong adults. That takes time and effort, but not hovering. There's a difference.

Mama D said...

Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing. It's a good reminder to evaluate my own parenting, and make needed changes.

BookwormMama said...

The whole article was great until the end where the guy who has never had any children gives horrible advice on how to be a parent.
When it comes to parenting I want to hear from someone who has "been there and done that". Not someone who talks and speaks about it but really has no clue about it.
As for the rest of the article
it's central message of slowing down and basically of LETTING GO OF OUR FEAR was really true. Some things came to mind though as to why a 9 year old shouldn't ride the subway alone or ride their bike around town alone as we could as kids. The world IS different. The world IS more dangerous now than it was when we were kids. That is a plain fact, evidenced by the corrupt morals of society, the higher crime rates, the loose morals and violence seen on TV and movies nowadays give way to more people doing and saying things that they wouldn't do or say 30 years ago. We know by revelation from our own prophets that these are the Last Days and as wonderful as that can be, that means it is also pretty dangerous too. So there is that difficult part of balancing between too over-protective and just being safe. I wouldn't let my 9 year old ride her bike to school alone. Wouldn't do it. And the reason why? Because even though I was allowed to do it, it wasn't GOOD that I did. Because things happened to me that I wish I hadn't seen or heard or witnessed and that I don't feel I NEEDED in order to grow or learn. I learned about sex in elementary school on the bus on the way to school. I don't recommend that for anyone, least of all my children. I still have images in my head that I don't ever want to have there from that time in 5th grade. In a relatively safe city, considered the safest city in America for it's population size. I walked home from a friend's house, as I always did in my neighborhood and two times I remember strangers pulling up next to me on the sidewalk trying to get me into their car. Again, in a safe city, and a safe neighborhood. I understand the realities and the dangers that our kids face today not to mention the other dangers of the corrupt world we live in. It makes me want to protect them all the more. Where is the balance? I don't really have the answers. I have never been a parent before now. I am learning along with everyone else. I wish each child came with a specialized instruction manual! LOL
But I am learning one thing... that making decisions out of fear is NOT what Heavenly Father wants us to do. If there is anything this blog post has reminded me of {and thanks by the way, great post!} it is that fear is NOT of God. That is what Satan uses. Fear. Our Father uses love. So we have to make sure as parents that we are making choices out of love and not out of fear. Way easy to say, very very hard to do. I know, because I am a parent. Scariest thing I have ever done in my life! :}

jendoop said...

Yes! When I think about enrolling my kids in activities I ask myself, "In 50 years will it matter if my 9 year old took ballet?" My answer, for my children and who we are, is no. So it is not what is best for us, it's not worth our time.

In making that decision for my family it doesn't preclude another family making a different choice. I truly believe that parents, even non-Mormon parents, can receive revelation about how to parent their unique children.

bookwormmoma, We all have unpleasant things in our lives that we wish wouldn't have happened. But we are here to learn from our own experience the difference between good and evil. If we never saw evil we would not know the difference. I'm not saying we should expose ourselves or our children to evil intentionally, or even carelessly. But we should not put a huge weight on ourselves as parents to avoid all possible bad influences. I see it as impossible, a overwhelming weight that could paralyze. (eg. I don't want my children to hear inappropriate things on the bus. But driving them to school everyday isn't realistic.)

What I can do as a parent is equip my children with the greatest gift - knowledge of Jesus Christ and his atonement. If we truly believe in the atonement we can rely on Christ's healing power to overcome those things that we couldn't protect our children from. (If my children do hear inappropriate things on the bus I can talk to them about it, and they can pray for comfort and help. We can work together to resolve things. The situation can bring us closer together as a family and help them begin a relationship with the Savior.)

m_and_m said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. It looks like the last part of the post was hidden for some reason. It's visible now.

A few thoughts....

I think the Spirit really is key. It's also a constant challenge to really do what it takes to have the Spirit, to discern and listen, and then to follow. I'm grateful for the Atonement that makes up for where I still lack in all those ways. I, too, am grateful for our leaders who help keep us focused.

I also think it's hard, as bookwormmamma said, not to be afraid. I think that is some of what this article is talking about. And yet, jendoop is right that we can't necessarily protect our kids from everything along the way.

There's a quote from a former bishop that is a guide for me. He said, basically: "Sometimes we want to be able to put our children in an armored car. But we have to instead help them learn how to put on the armor of God."

There is no formula for that. And that doesn't mean that we deliberately expose them unnecessarily to things. And our homes should be havens from the world. And yet, it's impossible to shelter them from every danger, be it physical or spiritual. And so we teach and pray and teach some more and testify and pray some more.

Lots of things to think about.