Previous Post Next Post

Baby

Brought to you by

Attachment Parenting vs. Over-Parenting — How much is too much?

By Katie Allison Granju |

Recently, a coworker and I were looking at some old family photos she had lying on her desk. Several of them were of her grandmother, tending to various household chores for the camera.The photos looked to be from sometime in the 1950s, or possibly the early ’60s. There she was, dressed in her June Cleaver-fresh, shirtwaist dress, standing at her spotless formica kitchen counter, preparing a meal. In another shot, she was perfectly coiffed, and dressed in pressed capris as she weeded the front garden.

“That’s how I remember her,” my friend said. “She was obsessed with having a perfect house and yard. Her casseroles looked better than they tasted, and I don’t recall ever seeing a speck of dust or dirt anywhere in their house.”

She went on.

“God, it’s so ironic. She was so consumed with being the perfect homemaker that she didn’t realize no one was actually comfortable in her home.”

Those of us with pre-women’s lib mothers and grandmothers remember women like this. They were the obsessive, vaguely dissatisfied homemakers Betty Friedan wrote about in The Feminine Mystique. They were the women whose worlds had become so narrowly focused on one facet of their lives – homemaking – that all the joy had been sucked right out of them.

Thank God we aren’t those women. Right? Right?

Or are we? In recent years, I’ve encountered a disturbing trend among my current mothering peers. While we no longer pore endlessly over the grout-cleaning tips and curtain-sewing patterns in Ladies Home Journal, we’ve replaced this pre-feminist housewifery-porn with postmodern parenting-porn in the form of Fit Pregnancy and PARENTS magazines.

We may not stay up nights worrying about how to keep our whites whiter, but you can bet we’re losing sleep over why little Jasper isn’t yet out of diapers. We may no longer feel the need to compare the firmness of our jello salad with that of the other women at the church potluck, but we’re not-so-secretly frantic over why little Ella from playgroup can already tie her shoes when our own five-year-old Ruby can’t yet do the same.

In other words, we may no longer be “professional homemakers,” but whether we stay home with our kids, or work outside the home, we’ve turned parenting into its own, highly stressful, endlessly demanding, often joyless undertaking. In fact, a recent study by research group Public Agenda found that seventy-six percent of American parents describe raising kids today as “much harder” than it was during their own childhoods.

But are we making it a lot harder than it has to be? I think so.

Last week, I was eating a meal with the parents of a lovely one-year-old child, their first. As the very cute baby played with her food, I noticed she was managing to get quite a bit of her mashed peas into her rosebud mouth with her small spoon.

“Wow, she’s really getting the hang of that spoon,” I commented with a smile.

“Yes,” her mother replied, “I’ve been working really hard with her on it all week. It’s kept me pretty busy.”

Working really hard on teaching her to use a spoon? All week? Kept her pretty busy?

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Hearing this intelligent, accomplished woman with a master’s degree in biology tell me how consuming she’s found teaching her toddler to use a spoon is just one more example of our current culture of hysterical parenting. I mean, really, when did parenting become this difficult? When did the admirable quality of involved parenting become this?

While it’s one thing to be pleased – even proud – over baby’s ability to connect spoon with mouth, it’s quite another for her mother to become that invested in it, logistically or emotionally.

Wait, wait, you may be asking. Aren’t you that same Katie Allison Granju who wrote a parenting book telling people to give their children more attention? Well, yes, and no. I did write the book Attachment Parenting (for which Dr. William Sears wrote the introduction), and I do believe strongly that infants and very young children thrive best with a high-touch, responsive style of parenting, but I’m also that mom who encouraged her two-year-old to play in the mud – some of which he certainly ate – and her five-year-old to climb trees. Yes, my kids slept with me as infants – because I found we all got the most sleep that way – but the kids were enjoying sleepovers with family and friends by kindergarten.

These days, I let my youngest kid enjoy his growing collection of pocket knives, and I expect my children toIn the past decade and a half, the parenting zeitgeist has shifted . . . into overdrive. ride their scooters out of my eyesight in our urban neighborhood. And I frequently tell my children that since I already completed elementary school, and have no intention of repeating the work, they will need to do their homework without me hovering nearby.

I have often described my parenting philosophy as “benign neglect.” Responsive parenting means just that: we respond to children’s needs. It’s not the same as over-parenting, in which we anticipate, preempt, or take control of our children’s needs and developmental tasks.

Of course, like all parents, I have my worries. In my case, I fret that they are watching too much TV and not developing a strong enough work ethic. I worry that the fact that their parents are divorced will leave them irrevocably damaged. And like everyone else I know, the primal fear of stranger abduction is always hovering at the edge of my motherbrain.

But I can say honestly that I don’t obsess about the minutiae of my parenting, and as I get ready to give birth to child number four with husband number two, fifteen years after becoming a mother for the first time at age twenty-three, I am increasingly finding that this puts me in a distinct minority. In the past decade and a half, the parenting zeitgeist has shifted . . . into overdrive.

While there have always been obsessive, overbearing parents, they used to be the exception, rather than the norm. They were the kinds of hyper-involved parents no one wanted to become; because as they lived their lives solely through the prism of their parenting, it was believed they produced the archetypal “mama’s boy,” the child who was never allowed any activities outside his parents’ watchful eye, and who was coddled and protected from all conceivable risk. This type of childhood, we have always believed, ultimately produced individuals who were stunted in their ability to make bold moves or take leadership roles – or even function independently.

Until recently, the essential tasks of parenting were seen as nurturing and socializing children. Today, however, this simple mandate seems criminally neglectful. Now, parenting requires constant vigilance, unflagging attention to every detail of our children’s lives, and ever present monitoring of their every activity.

This over-parenting has become an epidemic. Legions of well-intentioned mothers and fathers, urged on by popular media and the marketplace, are frantically striving to create an endlessly controlled, bubble-wrapped childrearing environment. From neuroses with regulating our babies’ sleep habits, to insistence on antimicrobial everything, to the attempt to continue “babyproofing” our homes until our babies are well into elementary school, our current parenting zeitgeist is competitive, market-driven . . . and exhausting.

But as hard as we are on ourselves, we are even harder on our parenting peers. In its study of parenting attitudes, Public Agenda found that six in ten of us rate other parents only “fair” or “poor” in raising their children. And these days, one big way we try to out-do these “fair” and “poor” parents is to buy better stuff. Our parental anxieties now include the belief that without the hippest, newest parenting swag, successful childrearing is no longer possible.

In fact, we no longer choose a stroller, but a parenting identity. Are you a trendy BugabooAre we bungling the very thing we seek to perfect? Frog kind of mom or perhaps a Mclaren traditionalist? God forbid you show up at the playground with a straight-from-Baby-Superstore Graco. How tacky! One mother I spoke to for this article sheepishly confided to me that she had gotten a new credit card for the sole purpose of paying for her $1,000 Stokke Xplory stroller, saying it made her feel like there was at least one thing she was assured she would do “better than anyone else at playgroup” for her son.

Peggy O’Mara, publisher of Mothering magazine and a keen observer of American parents for the past two decades, says she believes the commercialization of parenting masks our insecurities.

“I think people think they need a lot of baby gear because so many people use their children as social collateral, and judge one another by what they have for them,” says O’Mara.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that active, involved parenting matters . . . a lot. For those of us who take it on, raising a kid is certainly among the most meaningful and important tasks we’ll ever do. In fact, I happen to agree with Jackie Kennedy, who famously said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” The question becomes, however, whether the hovering, obsessive, all-consuming parenting style that has become de rigeur is actually serving our children – or us – very well. In our hyperfocus on all things parenting, are we bungling the very thing we seek to perfect?

Nearly ten years ago, author Judith Rich Harris made the cover of Time magazine with her wildly popular book, The Nurture Assumption, in which she argued that parents should stop worrying so much. But Harris took her argument several leagues further with her assertion that the reason parents should stop worrying is that ultimately, what mothers and fathers do – or don’t do – has little impact on how children turn out.

But Harris was dead wrong. Parents have a huge impact on how their children turn out, and that’s precisely why we need to take a hard look at the obsessive, controlling, perfectionistic parenting culture we’re living in. In fact, facilitating children’s ability to function independently, to figure things out, and to grow into themselves without excessive interference is in itself an essential task of parenting.

Parents’ increasing obsession with creating a totally germ-free environment for children offers an instructive example of the way over-parenting is counterproductive. Fifteen years ago, when I brought my first baby home from the hospital, his father and I were instructed to keep him away from obviously sick people during the newborn period. After that, our pediatrician told us that exposure during infancy and childhood to household and environmental germs was part of building a healthy immune system.

Fast forward to 2007, as parents now attempt to create an artificially germ-free childhood. Not only do they avoid exposing their kids to sick people, they surround their children with antibacterial soaps and washes. They buy toys and baby gear coated in space-age, microbe-resistant surfaces, and trips to the grocery store require a specially made “shopping cart cover” meant to prevent little Liam or Ava from encountering anyone else’s bacteria.

But medical experts are pleading with parents to stop with the anti-germ hysteria because rather than preventing illness in children, it’s actually causing it, encouraging the growth of treatment-resistant strains of bacteria, and preventing kids’ exposure in the healthy doses required to grow a strong immune system.

Yep, that’s right, it turns out that regular, old, everyday germs are good for kids. So is regular,When parents micromanage children’s lives, everyone loses. old dirt, disappointment, boredom, frustration, conflict, and the occasional playground accident. All of these help children to develop their own coping skills, creative and spiritual core, and sense of self.

When parents micromanage children’s lives, overly investing themselves in their kids, everyone loses. Mothers and fathers lose themselves in their roles as parents, while kids never find themselves.

So here’s my unsolicited advice to parents: take a step back. Relax. Enjoy. Your baby will sleep without an expert consultant coming to your house. Your toddler will eventually leave diapers behind. I promise. The Graco stroller won’t mark your child – or you – as a loser.

Let your preschooler play in the dirt, and your kindergartener deal with the classmate who pinches her.

And for God’s sake, let the baby figure the spoon out for herself.

More on Babble

About Katie Allison Granju

katie-allison-granju

Katie Allison Granju

Katie Allison Granju is the married mother of five children, ranging in age from toddler to teenager. In addition to blogging for Babble Voices, she also publishes her own blog, Big Good Thing. Katie also enjoys working in her flower garden, riding her bike, and feeding the chickens she keeps in the backyard of her family's large Victorian house. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katie Allison's latest posts →

« Go back to Baby

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, profile photo and other personal information you make public on Facebook (e.g., school, work, current city, age) will appear with your comment. Comments, together with personal information accompanying them, may be used on Babble.com and other Babble media platforms. Learn More.

100 thoughts on “Attachment Parenting vs. Over-Parenting — How much is too much?

  1. chatgoddess says:

    Amen! I admit, with my first, I gave in to being a little more overprotective and overinvolved, but now, by Number 4, who has time for that?I enjoy watching (and guiding but not forcing) my kids’ development. And Katie, great to see another article from you – and one that’s so on target.

  2. Dewi says:

     
    Leave it to Katie Allison-Granju to write such a relevant article putting her finger on the current pulse of parenting neurosis and craziness. I believe there is truth in her analogy with the style of 1950/1960′s homemakers that derived all of her identity through pride in her clean home and cooking, to the determent of the family and friends comfort.  The current over bearing parent style (I see it in both working and stay at home parents) have transferred all that energy to creating the “perfect” accomplished child.

  3. arirang says:

    Wow. It’s a good thing that I suck at housework.

  4. OneWeirdMother says:

    Thank you, Katie.  This kind of amped up parenting shit *is* exhausting, it is unnecessary and probably even harmful in the long run.  And yet as a first-time mom, it is so easy to fall for while simply trying to do right by your child.

  5. BBBGMOM says:

    I love the term “benign neglect.”  I seem to recall reading it in an Anna Quindlen column a few years ago.  After reading her take on parenting I adopted the term to characterize my own or at least to assuage the guilt I feel from time to time about my dusty (but fun!) household.  I find that I do let myself slip into a pocket of paranoia at times, however, when it seems “all the other kids” are being prepped and preened and groomed while my kids are just rough-around-the-edges basic children.  I do hope that it will still be possible for my children to get into decent colleges (in nine years) in spite of my lax style and the lack of finishing school credentials on their applications!

  6. Bmanjayhawks says:

    Fantastic article, and I couldn’t agree more. As a matter of fact, I just wrote a similar article in my own ‘Dad’ blog, though not nearly as in-depth, oh yeah and without the hyper-focused housekeeping stuff, and I didn’t really talk about the obsession with parenting gear either. But other than that it was very similar!:http://dadrants.wordpress.com/2007/04/09/are-we-hurting-our-kids-futures-by-overprotecting-them/First of all, I must admit though that we do use the shopping cart cover thingy (I believe that is the technical term for it), but it’s not because we’re worried about the germs. It actually serves more as a stability device. Our daughter was/is able to sit upright much easier in the cart-cover, versus sitting in the cart free-style. As for the “Spoon issue”, I think there’s one other thing that deserves mention, and that is the sheer enjoyment you get as a parent from watching your child figure things out for themselves. Our daughter is VERY close to crawling, and my wife and I love to simply sit on the couch and watch her flop around and rock back-and-forth, and try to “work it out”. In the process, we got to see her figure out how to get from her stomach back to a sitting position. It was really amazing (at least to us), and we would never have gotten to see it if we were hovering over her trying to guide (dictate) her every move. Part of parenting certainly involves teaching your kids, but part of parenting is also knowing when to let them just figure it out for themselves. Chrisdadrants.wordpress.com

  7. superblondgirl says:

    This article was fabulous – it expresses the new culture of parenting beautifully.  “Benign neglect” is a phrase I love – that’s what I strive for in my parenting, as bizarre as it sounds to want to neglect your child.  But, really, some of my most wonderful childhood memories are of doing things by myself, discovering worlds outdoors while my mom was busy with something else, figuring out how something worked, etc. etc.  It’s surprising how hard it is to get a balance between helping your child and doing everything for him – you find yourself slipping so much and have to step back and realize that if you coddle him and do it all, what is he really learning?

  8. wksocmom says:

    I think this made some valid points, but I also think a lot of these parents stand out and it probably really isn’t the majority.  I’m happy to know we spend more time playing with our kids than doing housework (my MIL still talks about laundry day, dusting day, ironing day, ugh) – but I still think a lot of us are maybe focused on sleeping or spoon feeding to make our lives easier, not just to supercede the next parent.  I’m probably just a bit naive, and since I work find myself at parks with very few other kids so I don’t have a chance to compare them.   I also think the schools play a part.  I can’t believe how many times I’ve heard about assessing the ability to hold a pen firmly in kindergarten, and that don’t worry not all the kids can read yet. 

  9. birdfourth says:

    Equating high-end strollers with spic and span countertops of yore is certainly insightful. But I don’t agree with blaming modern parents’ hovering tendencies on their neuroses. If I were to let my six-year-old go around our neighborhood unaccompanied, I would surely be arrested. In fact, any number of freedoms I had as a kid — and I long for for my daughter now — are simply borderline criminal. She is six and has never crossed a street by herself.
     
    It’s not just “neurotic” parents who are quelching children’s natural tendency to explore and be free and take risks. Increasingly, our society won’t let kids be kids. They can’t go to malls as teens, you can’t drop them off at the park and go do your shopping, you can’t leave them in the car while you shop (some of my best memories as a child took place in a parked car with  my sister, a rolled down window and some wisecracks). Kids can’t break bones without the parents’ being investigated. The author lets her kid on a scooter out of her sight, but for how long? The whole day? I bet not. Where’s the line?
     

  10. Janesaid says:

    So I must have found the medium between the two ages. I freak about my house and how that reflects on me, thereby neglecting the kids for a small part of the day just to catch up on daily tasks, while they catch up on their imaginations. Then wig whenever my friends sign their kids up for kindermusik or baby-signing or preschool when we haven’t even considered it. But, we play music, we dance, we sing, we read, we go to the park and socialize, and we clean together. Then I calm down and realize that these aren’t needs – they are wants and by just caring this much about our kids is what makes us good parents. So we sit back, relax and take a breather.

  11. BBBGMOM says:

    Janesaid – I want to be your friend.  :-)   You sound like me – or at least what you wrote captures my flitting back and forth quite aptly.  Freak about house/freak about kids then take a deep breath and just decide everyone’s probably fine. 
     
     
    As for other comments – I agree with the very good point that times have changed and it is no longer considered safe for a young (six-ish) child to run around out of earshot and eyesight for hours upon hours the way my friends and I did thirty years ago.  It is critical that we parents figure out safe ways to let our kids have their space (to use their imaginations, work out conflicts, etc.) without actually jeopardizing their safety or getting ourselves reported to CPS.
     
     
    Another phenomenon that I find interesting that I do not recall from childhood is the proliferation of autism spectrum diagnoses.  I don’t have any intelligent thoughts or theories on why this is the case, but I do believe the heightened awareness of behavior disorders keeps parents more vigilant about how kids play and interact.  So many kids I know nowadays are on “meds.”
     
     
    GirlsGoneChild wrote a moving piece about bullying at the playground, which I find relevant to this discussion – the “look the other way” parents v. the helicopter parents v. the benignly neglectful parents.  I guess we’re all somewhere on the continuum and may shift position based on circumstances.  Bottom line, when I was six, hardly any parents were around to witness our bullying or bullied behavior so we nice kids banded together and isolated the bullies.  That was our way of taking care of business – don’t let the mean kid play.  As for longterm repercussions… I don’t know.  I shudder sometimes to think of what might have become of the bullies of my childhood. 
     
     

  12. uncon says:

    Here’s the worst thing you probably did to your children – get divorced.  What’s the deal with everyone getting divorced?  Whatever issues you had with each other, if you loved each other enough to get married AND have children that you owe it to yourself and your children to work it out.
     
    I suppose people need psychoanalysis or something to help them realize that their issues with their spouses stem from childhood issues projected onto them. We live out unresolved childhood issues with our spouses.  It’s a shame.
     
    All you’ve shown your children is that adult married parents can’t get along enough to even live together. 
     
    I know some will give me the exception, the .1% where the spouse is physically abusive or some other scenario but even in those cases the question must be asked, why would you marry someone like that?  Not everyone marries a nightmare spouse, but if you did then you owe it to yourself and your children at least to find out why.
     
    It’s not about blame but about being inquisitive about why you would be emotionally susceptible to a jerk or promiscuous person or whatever the problem is.  Ultimately, the problem is you even if it’s with them.

  13. sconnolly says:

     It seems Ms. Granju isn’t content with guilting-out a generation of working parents who
    don’t co-sleep or breast-feed their kids. She now complains about the very “over-parenting”  for which she bears some responsibility.Ms. Granju uses the testimony of a co-worker who showed her a ’50s era photo of her
    “perfectly coiffed” grandmother “dressed in pressed
    capris as she weeded the front garden.” Spare us the sterile horror of a mother who cooks, gardens and dresses
    in something other than puke-stained sweats. Instead, what we generally
    have now are stay-at-home moms with grimy houses because they’re
    ideologically forbidden to put their kids down.Indeed, the style of over-parenting Ms. Granju
    decries, “in which we anticipate, preempt, or take control of our
    children’s needs and developmental tasks” is often a
    continuation and extension of attachment parenting.

  14. roxannex says:

    And you really don’t feel that “attachment parenting” contributes to this hyperparenting? If you encourage (guilt) parents to eat, sleep, and breathe their infants and toddlers, how can you expect them to just turn that off? 

  15. Loocy says:

    I’ve seen this over and over again with my friends. Everyone’s miserable, the kids, the parents, their friends. And it is inevitably the ones who are doing attachement parenting. I’m so used to this from the attachment parents that when I read the article I was left with a feeling of, “Yeah, that’s obvious.”

  16. pegmac says:

    I say everything in moderation — and then I must admit that we have 3 soccer games, 1 baseball game, a playdate for my 2 year old and 2 birthday parties on Saturday and Sunday. Honestly, I’m the first person to tell you not to over-schedule the kids. But somehow life takes my family hostage and we must simply hang on for the ride. Maybe tomorrow (next week, month, year, decade?) will be less busy… 

  17. jlehr says:

    while i certainly agree with a lot of this article, i disagree with the throwing in the sleep training. the friends i have that practice attachment parenting have the worst rested kids i know and therefore they are too. Everytime the child stirs they go to the parents. They can’t fall back asleep on their own. Sleep traning basically means you put your child’s need to nap and go to sleep for the night ahead of your own schedule so they are well rested. Focussing attention on this does not make one an over-parenting parent. It makes one a responsible one. 

  18. mama2two says:

    First, the title of this article and the topic is just playing into the culture of fear among parents … adding just another layer that consumes their already busy lives. Calling “over-parenting” a crisis is just absurd. Now they need to worry that they are parenting too much. Come on.
     
    And, I’m sorry, but the author’s “urban neighborhood” must not be anything like mine. First, there is the issue of traffic. Thousands of cars pass by at more than 40 miles an hour every day. To think that a young child would be allowed out unsupervised … oh, wait, that is happening all across America’s cities. Please, do some research and live in a real urban neighborhood where parents are not parenting at all. Perhaps the rest of us are overcompensating because we see what lack of parenting is doing not only to our cities, but to this country. But, I’m guessing this author doesn’t see the things I see on a daily basis.
     
    Finally, I just cannot see how teaching a toddler to use a spoon is over-parenting. And, I hope that woman decides never to confide in the author again … I surely wouldn’t. Isn’t teaching a child to use a spoon teaching the child independence? How is that over-parenting?
     
    Thou shall not judge … puh-leeze. The author of this article is the queen of judging.

  19. dianeinjapan says:

    I never did any “sleep training” or “potty training” with my kids.  They slept with me until they outgrew the need.  We all slept well, together, and now we all sleep well, apart.  I never spent my days obsessing over getting them out of diapers–they did this on their own, when they were ready.  They are both far past this stage now, and through the years they together have probably had a total of four or five “accidents.”  I don’t mention this to pat myself on the back, but to reinforce the idea of “benign neglect” while also emphasizing the importance of meeting kids’ needs when they initially have those needs (example:  a baby who is held and carried a lot will often grow into a toddler/preschooler who isn’t clingy at all–though yes, I realize that personalities also enter into the equation).  It’s one thing to help a child along when he shows an interest in using a spoon; it’s another thing entirely to put the spoon in his hand, tell him he’s going to use it, and work with him for hours.  

  20. AllisonWonder says:

    Thank you,

  21. mindiemonster says:

    Amen! I hate to point this out to parents, but children have been learning to use spoons, walk, run, and climb for centuries without someone there helping them along. I babysit a little girl who’s mother SPAZZES if she gets the tiniest bruise. In the meantime this little girl (8) is failing PE, cause she spends all her time inside (we wouldn’t want her to hurt herself). In other words over parenting is setting her up for a sedentary life. You cannot protect your children for the rest of their lives, eventually they have to learn to do it for themselves.

  22. amyphilo says:

    ugh my baby just pressed some buttons on my keyboard and totally screwed this post up.

  23. amyphilo says:

    OK FIRST I want to say that I think sleep training is brutal and cruel and people who do that, if they feel guilty, then GOOD.
     
    Second, we sleep with our kids and they get way more sleep than a lot of kids, especially those who wake up countless times a night alone and scared.
     
    THIRD I LOVE breastfeeding, cosleeping, and being with my kids. I would not have it any other way. I do not feel guilted into doing it, it is natural, easy and comfy.
     
    FOURTH you can not train a child like a rat, just let them be who they are.
     
    Read the book THE CONTINUUM CONCEPT which illustrates basically what Katie said here.
     
    People are going to do what they are going to do, I just wish people considered the true needs of their own kids and did not treat them like rats or prisoners they can do with as they wish, treat however they want and believe that it makes them well-behaved or better off for it. Yes that is right, I judge people who do mean things to their kids. I personally think that sleep training should be considered child abuse. Why it is condoned and promoted by some, I have not a clue except that it came from the experiments psychologists did on their own kids as well as others during the first part of the 20th century, when it was demonstrated that you could condition animals and people to expect things. Well when you let your baby cry it out you are conditioning them to expect you to stop responding. Eventually they get the idea, but that doesn’t mean they are happy to be alone or to be crying. And a newborn cannot possibly understand where mommy has gone.
     
    Is this post too mean, well too bad.

  24. pandacookies says:

    This was a great article! Thank you so much. I’m glad that I’m not the only one out there that is appalled at the 24/7 baby obsession that has gripped most American parents’ lives recently. I love your description of “benign neglect” because that is the kind of parent I want to be – I want my kids to be independent and figure things out on their own!

  25. bombaygirl says:

    A great article.  Thanks.  I fall into the benevolent neglect category, but for about a year, when my sone was 2, I was the hyper-vigilant mom.  Because he was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  So, I was constantly trying to ensure that he wasn’t going to harm another child, get in the way, make sure he was attending to me/object at hand, etc.  I really feel awful about that year.  He is now 3, and I have a 1 yr old girl.  I’m back to the benevolent neglect…they play well together, he has never ever shown any signs of anger/hate towards her, nor towards any other child for that matter.  That diagnosis was my downfall.  I have eased up, organize playdates with children of friends, instead of a formal playgroup, and he does great. 

  26. sfwork says:

    oh my gosh, how refreshing! I agree with you 100 % — especially that bit about the parents who buy every new gadget or fashion item (the more expensive, the better). to me, it’s kind of like the bozo who drives a hummer (over compensating!) my question to you: what do you think of the parents (they are usually the same ones who over parent) who won’t let their kid enjoy any of the fun things about being a kid: sugar, mc donald’s, tv, alone time, disney… I’m not saying I let my kids have unlimited amounts of these things… but where’s the fun if you can’t experience any of these things? most recently, one parent at our Back to School night asked: “can you stop offering the children juice during snack time?” again, I know drinking a ton of juice is bad… but one cup at snack time? especially the way these schools have to save money and dilute the hell out of it? I promise you, these kid who never taste sugar until they are 13 or only get one hour of television a week are going to run buck wild when they leave for college.

  27. crabmommy says:

    No question we’re a bunch of ridiculous moms here in over-educated, materially-pampered , narcissistic, hyper-anxious, safety-obsessed, competitive-mommyland of America (and no doubt the UK too, etc. etc.). This is why I think it’s important to make fun of ourselves as much as we possibly can, and vent to one another as much as we possible can. And to stop trying to make our kids learn ASL, Spanish and whatever-bloody-all trendoid thing is out there right now…just leave them alone to develop at whatever sluggish or rapid speech they will choose of their own volition. And we just MUST work hard to vent, whine, and complain to each other (as I do at Crabmommy) so that we may all feel a little less bad about not being the perfect mother. Thereby making us better mothers in the process.

  28. LouisaAnderson says:

    I agree completely that what we need to get back to is benign neglect. All of this stifling and hovering will lead to a whole generation of psychological disorders that people will be talking about and feeling the repercussions of for decades. I wish I could start a club or even a national network of clubs for parents who believe in giving their kids more freedom so that I don’t have to keep screening parent after parent to set up a playdate where my kid won’t be smothered the whole time. But somehow life takes my family hostage and we must simply hang on for the ride. Except that you aren’t helpless and can always choose to take charge and not go along with this. THIRD I LOVE breastfeeding, cosleeping, and being with my kids. Some would say that enmeshment and a total lack of boundaries with your children is a form of child abuse. Your child is neither a prisoner nor an extension of yourself. S/he is a student of life and you are his/her teacher and trainer. 

  29. jesscdoo says:

    I loved this article and printed it for a friend about to have her first baby.  I have dealt with this attitude from others for years, because it’s permeating our schools.  My kids’ dad and I have often reminded them that they live in a benevolent dictatorship, not a democracy, in our households.  They’re turning out quite well, I think, even though my son ate dried dog poop once because I couldn’t get to him quickly enough to prevent it (and yes, I called the pediatrician who said to watch and see if he got sick before I subjected him to the trauma of a stomach-pumping.  The wisdom of the aged, sigh) and my daughter has a couple of scars on her head due to over-zealous play with friends/brother.  They’re straigh-a students who play guitar, compete in basketball, spelling bees, and attend cotillion, all their own choices. 
     
    For uncon, while divorce is a traumatic, unpleasant event in some children’s lives, sometimes it’s unavoidable and like anything else in life, something they can learn from and deal with.  The most important thing is that their parents don’t put them in the middle, and help them navigate the emotions that accompany it.  It’s like death, and there are stages of grief involved for everyone. And just so you know, I DID leave because of abuse that I hoped would change after 12 years, and I married someone like that in the first place because my childhood sexual abuse and parental neglect set me up to choose an abuser later in life.  I left after 10 years of therapy, when I realized nothing would change and that if I didn’t, I was setting my own kids up to follow in our footsteps.  But thank you for the dose of guilt; it must be nice being perfect, never making mistakes or having to make difficult decisions.  Good luck to you; I hope your kids never go through anything truly life-alteringly-hard, because they’ll be completely unprepared for it. 

  30. rikkicarey says:

    Clap, clap clap! Good job!
     
    I think…. in general… our society likes black and white…. unfortunately everything is some shade of grey….
     
    What is “the best” thing for your infant certainly is NOT the best thing for your preschooler, or your elementary schooler, teenager or young adult…. I think a lot of people get stuck in an age and forget to grow with their children.
     
    Our society is so terrified. We forget  that we as humans are designed to grow under stress… survival of the fitest and all that. We need germs, conflict and stress in order to develop and mature. Over parenting may protect our children from superbugs and bullies while they are children but what about when they (heaven forbid) grow up. How will they appreciate all the shades of grey if all they have ever seen is prestine white and jet black?

  31. mom24wildboys says:

    Love this article! I need to print it for my MIL, who thinks I am not raising her grandsons the right way.   She is the  mom from the 50′s-60′s and nearly kills herself meeting the demands of my FIL, who sits on  the couch watching sports all day long.  I am not perfect and my home might not be perfect every day, but I am doing my best and my boys are very happy and outgoing .  

  32. Camille says:

    I think the author hit the nail right on the head.  It was refreshing to read something so spot on and well articulated. 
     
    As for the arguments about to sleep train or not to sleep train — it depends on the child.  The author said she co-slept with her children when they were young because it worked for their family.  There is such a wide, wide range of normal when it comes to sleep patterns for infants I think everyone has to do what works best for their child and their family.  We could banter back and forth with examples that illustrate how one particular way was the best, but this misses the point.  There is no “one size fits all” solution (for sleep or parenting in general for that matter.)

  33. Susan C says:

    I don’t buy it. I just cannot believe that most parents have the time, energy and money to play these sorts of games. It’s the sort of thing you’d see on a TV show, like out-of-work actors living in 2,500 sq. ft. Manhattan apartments. This “trend” has enabled a lot of journalists to get columns in under deadline. But where is this happening in real life? We all read the horror stories in articles like this, but has anyone seen this as the new normal behavior in their community? Maybe one or  two parents (there are always one or two), but not the norm. I think it’s an overblown story to keep everyone agitated.

  34. working mama says:

    Thank you for this article. I have a sister who obsesses over her child and it takes so much of her time. Her son will be sitting in the stroller- the bugaboo no less- totally content and she states ” he not comfortable, maybe I should go get a blanket- do you think he is cold?… I don’t think he is feeling well.” and the questions like this never stop. She is constantly trying to read a 9 month old babies mind. My son is 13 months and I don’t try to read his mind I just try to react to what i think he needs and what will help him. But there is such a pressure from the parenting world to do the right thing from eating organic to playing with wooden toys to your kids wearing the coolest clothes. It is the newest way of keeping up with the Jones’s.

  35. Amyanon says:

    I am a stay at home mother of two young (under 3) children. I read parenting magazines. My house is clean (not because I hire it done, but because I do it). I make meals from scratch (not from boxes or frozen, but from ingredients like “chicken” and “carrots” and “potatoes”) and we eat as a family (Mom, Dad, Grandpa, 2 kids) two, sometimes three meals a day (if it’s only two it’s because Dad is already at work by the time the rest of us get around to eating breakfast. Dad comes home for lunch most days). Most of our meals are made from organic or locally grown/raised ingredients. Our household recycles more than the rest of the neighborhood combined. I work part time outside of my home, at a business that my husband and I own, but my hours are extremely flexible and my children always come first. I had two natural (drug free) childbirths. I did “attachment parenting,” in fact the little one (11 months) still nurses and sleeps in our bed. My oldest nursed until she was 28 months. I tandem nursed. I “babywear.” I read to my children every single day. I limit the amount of television they watch as much as I possibly can without throwing the TV out altogether.I sound, on paper, like the “ubermom” you’re disdaining.However, I honestly do not give a damn what you do with your kids. I am not doing what I’m doing out of a sense of competitiveness. I am raising my children the best way I know how – giving them the things (love, attention, my availability, wholesome nutritious food, exercise, outings, reading to them, educating them, etc. etc.) that I think all children want, need, and deserve. If you choose to not give those things to your children, that is up to you. You are the one who will reap the consequences of it, not me. Because I believe it is best for kids, I would hope that you would strive to do the same things I’m doing, but I’m not doing it this way to “out-parent” you. To say that I’m trying to fill my empty life with falsely constructed competition with other mothers, to say that my motives are anything but the most selfless, loving motives a mother can have cheapens and tarnishes what I am doing. My kids are happy, healthy, extremely bright and well-adjusted. I am happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. My husband is happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. I wish all parents could say the same. If it feels like a competition to you, perhaps it’s because you can’t keep up. Maybe you should turn off the TV, the internet, the friends who take up too much of your energy, and the other things in your life that are draining you and focus on the one thing that actually matters – your family.

  36. FamilyMan says:

    Great article, as a dad with three childern (8, 10, and 13) from a previous marriage, and a new one from my second (and last) marriage I can identify with this. My folks didn’t hover over me or my brothers (in fact benign neglect is a good description of their parenting style) they let us explore and learn on our own…and besides the occassional mishap, cut, scrape, etc. we all turned out successful and (fairly) well adjusted.Side note to BBBGMOM – yes divorce is a horrible thing to do to kids. It affects them and their development…however, I was in a loveless marriage that had no future and was not a relationship I wanted my kids to model (and yes we were in counseling for years, but it never helped) — unless you know my personal story you can step down off your pulpit. Divorce is, and always should be, a last resort.

  37. sweetchuckd says:

    One of the biggest challenges in parenting recently has been tackling the issues that face students in public education. Check out http://detentionslip.org for all the crazy headlines in our schools.

  38. Luvmesomeamy says:

    Gee, Amyanon, you sound like such a fun lady. I think I’d like to have you for my best friend. Except, I didn’t have a drug-free birth with my learning disabled son, so I guess I probably wouldn’t qualify to hang out with you. Maybe I should work harder at things.

  39. Amyanon says:

    Luvmesomeamy – Ummmm… I think you missed my entire point. You made the best choice you could for yourself and your child during your labor. I made the best choice I could for myself and my children during mine. I didn’t choose a drug-free birth out of some misguided sense of competition with you or any other mother. It was the choice that I felt was best for me and for my family. I did it entirely without judgment of you.As for your learning disabled son, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that I was a special ed teacher before I had kids. I can say with authority that it is extremely unlikely that your actions caused your son’s learning disability. I am talking about the choices we make as parents, and doing the best we can, not about playing with the cards we are dealt. Not everyone is dealt an easy hand. I get that. Not all of my friends have made the same parenting choices that I’ve made, and that’s fine with me. That’s what makes them interesting! The world would be really boring if we were all the same, and we wouldn’t have anything to talk about. I was simply trying to explain that I’m doing the best I can, making the best choices I can, and I am not doing it competitively. I’m just trying to be the best parent I can be, as you are, as we all are. We need to take the competition out of parenting.By the way, my house is an absolute disaster this week. I’ve been working on other things, and haven’t had any time to clean. :) Amy @ http://prettybabies.blogspot.com

  40. Elaine says:

    I agree with Susan C. This is one of the most ridiculous articles I’ve ever read. There is no “over-parenting crisis”. By calling this a crisis, this author is just trying to scare parents.Perhaps to amp up sales of her forthcoming book? She is one of many authors jumping on the parenting bandwagon trying to make a buck.Elaine B.

  41. AnIslandMom says:

    Over-parenting, sure, but Ms. Granju got it exactly wrong. There is no point of putting your baby in a sack and strapping it to self. Co-”sleeping” leaves the whole family exhausted. So you do have to teach your baby to sleep. I plan on completing potty training by 2 1/2, otherwise otherwise I will fail to properly socialize my toddler. A five year-old has to be able to tie his shoes, because mommy is no shoe-tying slave. A kindergartener is expected to have some sort of table manners. Children need structure, and it’s a parents’ job to provide it. It always had been. And I certainly wouldn’t encourage my kid to play in mud.

  42. Erica says:

    After reading each of the posts, the attachment parents sound angry, accusatory, and unhappy. Those that are a bit more lax have written funny and lighthearted comments. Perhaps it’s because we are getting more sleep! Those of you who attachment-parent, whether you think you do or not, insinuate that by “doing the best for your children” that others are not doing the same because they don’t. Please re-read your comments–you sound pissed!PS–I am going to bed to have sex with my husband because I have no kids in my bed to stop me!

  43. edhmom says:

    It’s enlightening to read an article like this on a day when I’m dealing with strep throat and pink eye – thanks to my 3-year-old! I find myself walking this fine line of “hovering” over my kids and allowing them to explore the world and enjoy a great deal of freedom. There are so many opinions about how you should parent your children, teach them, read to them, play with them, discipline them, expect of them, etc. A polite thank you usually works and then move on.I have to remind myself daily that the only thing I have is my instinct, my sense of humor and sometimes, a good bottle of Chardonnay. I make it up as I go along and my kids are none the worse for the wear. My son is known to eat rocks, race down the street on his balance bike and lick the ground. No major surgeries and only one trip to the ER.

  44. Tired Teacher says:

    “Parents have a huge impact on how their children turn out, and that’s precisely why we need to take a hard look at the obsessive, controlling, perfectionistic parenting culture we’re living in. In fact, facilitating children’s ability to function independently, to figure things out, and to grow into themselves without excessive interference is in itself an essential task of parenting.”I don’t have children of my own yet, but as a teacher I’ve had the opportunity to see many parents who were either amazing with their children or downright ridiculous. Perfect example of psycho overbearing mother:A child in my class accidentally fell onto another during free play by the blocks. He tried to get back up, again accidentally leaning into the other child to do so. There were tears and apologies and it was over. The next day, the mother of the child that was fallen on comes over to one of the teachers and says, dead serious, filled with concern as she glared at the offending child across the room “‘Billy’ said ‘John’ tried to kill him yesterday.” This woman honestly believed that one of her son’s four year old classmates had it out for him. There’s something to be said for taking a four year old’s ‘near death experience’ story with a grain of salt. Clearly, we weren’t capable of protecting her child from baby Hannibal Lector. The worst part: she said all of this right in front of her son. Her overbearing, neurotic responses to minor things are responsible for his for his skewed understanding of the situation.

  45. JRC says:

    “It’s AP] not the same as over-parenting, in which we anticipate, preempt, or take control of our children’s needs and developmental tasks.”Yes! Thank you for putting that thought so concisely.

  46. hzl says:

    Really good article. Since my baby’s birth late last year, I actually find myself worrying about becoming *THAT* mom. I thought I was doing a good job of being a relaxed, natural parent. Then, last week, my husband and I met up with our friends and their week-old baby. We were suddenly making grandiose speeches about all the THINGS they MUST have NOW! As we rolled our son around in his Bugaboo (seriously, those things are amazing) with his bright Baby Einstein elephant (a gift, I swear) I could see that our friends were feeling overwhelmed and inadequate to the task before them. They simply wanted to snuggle and love their newborn, to just BE with him.

  47. that girl says:

    AMEN! Could not agree more!

  48. karenfran says:

    This is a really interesting and important article. The fall-out from bubble-wrapping children goes even further than stated. Excessive safety rules are hazardous themselves because children sometimes know inherently that they are ridiculous and only learn to disregard all rules, even good ones (an argument I lay out much better in this article, http://www.burbia.com/node/1697, on http://www.burbia.com).

  49. mommyofthree says:

    workingmom, where can I send you your medal?Who gifts a crap about all of this. I think any philosophy you follow is BS. Do what you feel is right and your kids will be fine. As long as you love your kids your kids will be fine. When you walk into a room of kids you cannot point out hte nursed from the bottle fed, the cloth from the disposable, etc. It does not matter. Do what makes your family happy and even this thread shows all the judgement. People trying to present themselves as model parents, THEY know the truth. Every kid is different, every family is different, no so-called parenting expert can tell you how to raise your kid! I am a mother of three and I cannot begin to tell ANYONE how to raise their kid.

  50. Tamar Chansky says:

    Great, great post. As an anxiety specialist who has recently written a book on teaching kids how to overcome failure (Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking: Powerful, Practical Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Resilience, Flexibility and Happiness), I have to say that the we need to treat the overparenting craze as a response to anxiety about the future and failure has become the thing to avoid at all costs, thus overprotecting is the (maladaptive) solution. So, I think that teaching *parents* how to not be afraid of failure is the only way that parents will be able to stop focusing on avoiding it, and instead will give their kids a bit more credit for figuring things out for themselves.Tamar Chansky, Ph.D.www.freeingyourchild.com

  51. tamar Chansky says:

    Katie,Excellent post. Thank you for lending your sanity to this debate! As an author myself, of books on anxiety and negative thinking/depression prevention, it is my goal as well to help parents strike that balance between attentive concern and encouraging of autonomy.Tamar Chansky, Ph.D.www.freeingyourchild.com

  52. mrscrouse says:

    I live in a very middle-class neighborhood and I don’t see many of these overly-involved parents. Yes, there are a few, but I can count them on one hand. We are working, we are worrying about making our mortgage, we don’t have the luxury of obsessing about whether or not little Johnny is eating with a spoon. I’m sure that in the upper-classes, the folks with time on their hands might find time to fret about what stroller they have or if they are beating the milestones. I just don’t buy it that that is reality for the majority of parents. It certainly doesn’t work that way in my house, and it doesn’t work that way in the households of any of my friends.We love our kids. We work in our schools, we root for them at t-ball games and teach them to swing on their own. But we don’t freak out about germs. We teach them to look both ways when they cross the street and we hope they make friends at school. That is what I see most parents doing.

  53. babysitter says:

    I’m a babysitter and have seen this kind of attitude from the mother of the children I look after. Whatever happened to spotaneity? Parents spend half the day reading books about how to raise their children, pretending their child is absolutely perfect and they never actually guide them or let them figure out how to solve their own conflicts. They interfere in their kids games with other children, they call other mothers over children being “mean” and they basically, isolate their child from the rest of the world. The child I take care of is suffering because he doesn’t have the skills to communicate or socialize. His mother is always telling him what not to do and now the poor child reflects his mother’s hysteria, telling other kids what to do or what not to do or what is “correct” according to mommy instead of just being a kid! People! The rest of the world raises their kids without having to consult sleep trainers, psychologists or books and their kids turn out just fine! Let’s stop this nonsense.

  54. bsinglet says:

    I run into this all the time. We live in one of the safest neighborhoods of one of the safest cities in the country and I still have people questioning me about letting my 11 year old daughter walk 3 blocks to school on her own. The number of elementary school kids with cell phones is outrageous, and they all feel that they can’t live without them for the few days of Outdoor school this coming winter. When did we get so scared? There are no more sex offenders around now then when my brothers and I were young, we were just taught to not go into dark places or public bathrooms alone. I loved being able to go into the canyons by my house and build forts, sail paper boats in the rain created streams and pick wild sweet peas and raspberries. My older boys were all raised with benign neglect and learned the consequences for stupid choices. All three have grown up to be good men with lots of common sense.Oh, by the way, I was an attachment parent when my children were small, and grew up with them. As they needed less physical attention they gained more independence. I will never forget my oldest son’s first experience with a lizard. He was about 2 very curious and tried to pick it up!. The look on his face when the lizard bit his finger was priceless. I with I had a camera. He learned to look but not touch and was never bitten again. This all happened in our “protected” back yard.Let’s let kids be kids and develop human skills with our guidance, not our hovering.

  55. justanothermama says:

    I agree that you have to do what works for your particular child/family. But it is scary to think about what will become of the kids who are “trained” not to expect a response to their cries… I’d hate to see another generation of restless, dispassionate adults.Anyway, maybe the silver lining to the recession will be that people have more pressing things to worry about. How are you going to maintain the distance between you and your kids when you can no longer afford that fancy stroller, separate bedroom and baby formula?

  56. anonymous9 says:

    I totally agree. When I lived in graduate student housing every parent watched over every other kid who was playing. It came out of a mix of necessity and parents that were from cultures where that was accepted. It felt so freeing. I often want to let my daughter play without me, but I feel like it isn’t accepted in today’s society. I use to do it all the time as a kid. The rule was you had to be within shouting distance. This distance has drastically shortened to being within grabbing distance. That means that I am not suppose to let her play in the fenced in backyard and watch her from my kitchen or even let her play in another room in the house or else I might be the mother that has to say, “I just stepped out for a minute”, when something happens. But, how can you be with your kids every minute? How is she suppose to explore and learn?I just think that the trust a child can learn by playing independently and following the rules in invaluable. But, I worry that if she breaks a rule, leaves the yard for instance, a neighbor would yell at me for allowing her to be in the yard by herself instead of stopping and talking to her until I can get there as would have happened in the graduate student housing.

  57. anon10 says:

    I’ve watched my brother and his wife use “benign neglect”, intentionally, to parent their three children (aged 10-20) over the past twenty years. I can tell you that it only leads to ruin and despair. All three children have dealt with feelings that no one is watching, no one cares and, really, feelings of depression. Their behaviors range from trying to ‘drop out’ and become invisible, to behaving wildly to gain attention. My brother and his wife are actually very caring people and are not idiots, so they recently went for family counseling. The counselor’s advice? Be MORE involved in your children’s lives! Know where they are and what they are doing AT ALL TIMES. It makes the children know that someone cares and that they are loved. Sign your children up for organized sports. Be more involved in their school. Keep your house neat and organized because it creates a sense of calm, and not chaos, in the one place where the children should feel the most nurtured.Now that I have young children of my own, you bet that I’m going to err on the side of over-parenting. The effects of over-parenting aren’t nearly as scary as what I’ve seen benign neglect can do to children and a family.

  58. anon87763265 says:

    My mother raised seven children, and I inherited my parenting attitude from her: “Oh, he’s probably fine.” It has served me well.

  59. Bevilacqua says:

    Apparently anon10 doesn’t know what ‘benign’ means. Loved the article. There are a lot of people who fit this description in New York City and Brooklyn. It’s freaky. Also, this comment above was perfect: Some would say that enmeshment and a total lack of boundaries with your children is a form of child abuse. Your child is neither a prisoner nor an extension of yourself. S/he is a student of life and you are his/her teacher and trainer.

  60. Zing says:

    This is a brilliant article! I think you articulate the dichotomy of modern day parenting (between intentional, conscientious parenting and intensive, hyper-parenting) very astutely. Right-on! I write a blog on parenting tips and foresee many quotes by Katie Allison-Granju appearing on it. Thanks for sharing your insights with us, Allison!Emilyhttp://www.childperspective.com

  61. Graphicsfrk says:

    I think there is a big difference between being involved as a parent and OVER-parenting. It’s one thing to show up and be there for them. It’s another to hover, judge, guide, and hen-peck every little thing. There needs to be a little space. I think the spoon example is a good one…there’s a difference between teaching a baby the basics of using a spoon by practicing when the chances arise vs. spending a ton of obsessive time and energy on the issue and beating the experience to death. There’s an air of hysteria around the words “I’ve been working really hard with her on it all week. It’s kept me pretty busy.” Yes, it’s good she’s teaching her child a new skill. Yes, she’s spending quality time with her child. But the language she used paints herself as an obsessed coach. (Reminds me of the tales of a slave-driving gymnastics coach at the Olympics). Is that who she is? Probably not. Who could say. But when the kid is in middle school or high school will they have an anxiety attack if they don’t get an “A+” just to please their mom? Over parenting creates an atmosphere of anxiety and depression when a child can’t rise to every expectation every time.

  62. egilbride says:

    “In fact, a recent study by research group Public Agenda found that
    seventy-six percent of American parents describe raising kids today as
    “much harder” than it was during their own childhoods.”
    How can we judge whether or not it’s more difficult for us to parent than it was for our own parents? Parenting is hard for everyone. Period. Remember that the next time you find yourself comparing your child to someone else’s child, or the next time you’re comparing your parenting skills to someone else’s.

  63. traceyc193 says:

    Wonderful post. Thank you for putting your thoughts so precisely.

    Tracey
    The Novices Guide to Starting a Profitable Internet Business
    http://www.start-an-internet-business.net

  64. RanaAurora says:

    Best article I’ve read in quite awhile.  I especially appreciate the bit about how obsessive parenting is NOT attachment parenting – so many people seem to have that misconception.
    I see so many mothers fretting about “WHEN will by baby do this?” or “WHY can’t they do that?” and I just want to hug them, and tell them to take deep breaths and know their child will do it when they’re ready.  Supporting your child and encouraging them is so much better for them and you than trying to make every tiny thing into a huge battle.

  65. UrbanMomtoThree says:

    As a child who grew up an only child with parents who might be said to have been obsessive controlling, I have to agree with the “enough is enough” statement. It’s one thing to feel attached to your kid, it’s quite another to overmanage their lives. Your kid does NOT need to be enrolled in every sports, summer, music camp ever. They need some time, not doing anything, to just chill out and be a kid. It helps you save money too ;) That’s why, with my toddler and twins now, I have a hands-off, but always there for them kind of approach. My number one priority is to make sure they’re healthy and SAFE, most importantly. The rest, what their interests are, what unique talents they have, it’s all up to them. Time will tell.

  66. apmomof3 says:

    I agree and disagree with your views on parents being overprotective.  While I agree there needs to be a balance in allowing your child to explore and not be too paranoid evil is lurking around every corner,  what about parents that home school their children?  In your mind, would these parents be considered ‘overprotective’ or just looking our for the welfare of their child  — that being protection from ideologies they don’t agree with and giving their child a fighting chance at a better-than-average education?  After all, though these children are mostly under the influence of their parents (appropriate, I think), they still have to ‘live and breathe’ in this world.  In other words, they aren’t isolated.  They’re affected by plenty of ‘outside’ influence in the form of movies, television and internet, and let’s not forget their friends that go to a brick and mortar school.  Just curious how you feel about home education.

  67. gardenmama says:

    Great article.
    I think that the class differences hinted at in a few of the postings are also absolutely true – though it isn’t just an issue of income. The circle of parents I know range in income from low-middle to high-middle but they are all very educated. There are definitely a few who obsess about doing everything right.
    I found some of the judgemental statements in these posts a bit sad. Even some of the people who claim not to be judgemental have subtle jabs included in their comments. Not that I am judging anyone who judges others….
    Let’s all admit parenting is hard, we all have different ways to deal with it, and we are all seeking more information to… enhance our instincts.

  68. mamazee73 says:

    as a mom to seven kids, i think the helicopter parenting thing is unavoidable, and even desirable.. hear me out :) was the spoon mom a mom of one? I think most of us freak out most with our first – it’s so important to get it perfectly right, because we are going to the be the most perfectest mom in the world and never make any of the mistakes our mom made, and we’ll show the world how it’s done.I think that desire to *excel* is a healthy thing. A little neurosis pushes us to change into the woman we need to be to be a good mother.But as we grow and so does our brood, we find we already are the kind of mother we are going to be – we get more laid back about things that don’t matter, we pick our battles, we let our kids pick their own clothes… but here’s the thing. By then, we already *are* the mom. We’ve got experience, we’ve faced certain situations, decided how we would do it, then waded in and cleaned up the poop,the vomit, licked sand out of baby’s eye (did you know that actually works great?) – we’ve found those resources we needed, and we’ve got them. So less agony about being perfect – we know we’re good enough :)

  69. SCMom says:

    Bravo!!!  I say, as I sit here listening to our 3yo boy downstairs, outside by himself, banging sticks, falling down, dusting himself off and just generally having a great time with his dog (gasp – unsupervised!).  We are first time parents, but I still believe it’s important for our boy to experience much of life for himself.  I know those scratches will heal and the occasional bruise will fade.  There are times where we have to be helicopter parents, but at times where we don’t, I let him be.
    I love the term “benign neglect”.  I’ve been applying that phrase to how I treat our animals, too.  Trying to encourage some of my clients (I trim horse feet for a living) to just try it out where they can.  Do the best you can with what you’ve got…focus on important things like nutrition, offering good mental stimulation, lots of love & unconditional acceptance.  The rest, all the gadgets, videos, fancy, expensive toys…those are all pseudo-replacements for the things that really matter. 

  70. SCMom says:

    I wanted to add to my prior comment that we practice AP.  Our son has slept with us since birth and still nurses some.  He was carried in a wrap or Ergo all of his infancy and a lot of his toddlerhood – we went with what he seemed to need at each stage.  So, yes, AP & over-parenting have nothing to do with each other.  In fact, the other AP parents I know are usually the most hands-off in other areas *until* their kid needs/requests parental involvement, and they’re there in a flash.  It’s the anti-AP parents I know that tend to be the most controlling over their lives, yet seemingly often unresponsive to emotional needs.

  71. AnonaMom says:

    Way to put it, Mama of 7. When we know we are good enough, we get the chance to stop judging others and just parent our kids, and that’s good for everyone, including our children.I love all the comments about “AP parents are this” and “non-AP parents are that.” I know great and rotten parents on both sides of the spectrum. Rigid adherence to parenting “principles,” no matter how good the principles may be, does no one any good. We need to meet our kids where they are at, then move on when they do. I have found that in our family, AP principles have worked great with out infants, who needed intensive attention and care. We breastfed, coslept and carried our babies in slings because it made life EASIER and made our babies HAPPIER, not because it made me feel like the best mom in my playgroup. For out preschooler, the hands-off approach is becoming more the norm. It’s a joy to see her independence and curiousity guiding her learning. As SCMom said, “We went with what he seemed to need at each stage.”

  72. mama rachel says:

    Bravo! Although I may quibble with you about the co-sleeping thing, the parenting world would do well to heed your warning.
    Less is more, moms and dads, unless you want a future packing up their briefcases everyday as they go off to jobs that you got for them.

  73. hellothere says:

    That’s kind of how I feel about parenting in general. Everything is a competition. It probably always was, though, to some degree. I felt SO much pressure to breast-feed, and I really had so much difficulty with it. I saw lactation consultants–you name it–and ended up pumping for 9 months, waking up to pump when I fed my baby. In short, I was cranky and emotional and sleep-deprived, and it was all self-inflicted, because I felt like I was a bad parent if I didn’t really try to breast feed my child. If I had it to do all over again, I would probably pump and do equal amounts formula, and I would not wake up in the night, and I’d probably be much nicer.
    (Although it does piss me off no end that formula packaging has BPA in it. Bastards.)

  74. Raising Amazing Daughters says:

    This is so on the money. We’re raising way too many children to believe they are the center of the universe and, not only is that bad for the kids, what are the parents to do when those kids grow up? What is a parent when his or her “universe” has flown the coop? My grown daughters and I blog together and just wrote a post on this very thing. (Okay, full disclosure, it was also about fecal matter on shopping carts but that’s a whole other issue.) I invite you to check us out at http://raisingamazingdaughters.wordpress.com.

  75. concerned says:

    why do you have kids and not children ?

  76. Kimra Luna Diggs says:

    I’ve recently been reading Alfie Kohn books on parenting and it really opened my eyes to how obsessed people are with CONTROLLING their children. It’s quite sad that people want to control every aspect of their children’s life because kids can’t just be kids any more. There are these extremely high expectations put at them, expectations that I will not put on my children.

  77. Anonymous says:

    I just love this article! These are points I have seen over and over again at the playground. Seriosly how bad is it that I let my kids figure out how to dress themselves or how to play?

  78. Anonymous Daddy says:

    “Talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol. Talk some more. Do it today. Dig deeper. Look more closely. Trust your gut no matter what your teenager is telling you. Err on the side of doing too much rather than not doing enough. Please. I dont want Hs injuries to be for nothing. I want other people to learn from our familys experience.” – Katie Alison Granju
    SO, look, life is CRAZY — we think we have things figured out and then the out-of-control reality just hits us with a tidal wave.
    Part of KAG’s lessons to us through her son’s tragedy is clearly that there is a developmental stage when parenting styles would do well to shift from “benign neglect” to something more like “benevolent intrusion.” I for one, can say I wish my parents had been more intrusive. I always knew they loved me deeply, but I also knew they were so wrapped up in themselves that they didn’t really care what I was doing. They just kept their heads in the sand and hoped for the best. And they got lucky. The night I drove home sh#tfaced from a party in HS, I fell asleep at a green light for a couple minutes, woke up, scared myself silly, and got home safe. The experimenting I did with snorting ritalin never led to coke, and when I binged on ecstasy, I did it with peaceful friends and said, “no more.” But I saw other people’s lives destroyed doing the same things – taking the same risks I did. There’s no rhyme or reason for it, there’s no real justice in this world. Some things have clear limits, some things seem black and white. But why do some children make it to a conscientious adulthood and others don’t? Only the Great Mystery can answer that.
    SO, yes, let’s be the best parents we can be. And then we must, like it or not, surrender the destiny of everyone, including ourselves, to the Mystery of Life. There is peace beyond that surrender, but the struggling with it is pure existential soul-pain. And the only cure for the pain and the only way through the struggle is Love.
    SO, my fellow caring parents…let’s just keep coming back to that big L Love. May we all stay connected to Love.

  79. Anonymous says:

    Wow. This article made me laugh out loud, both at myself for having been guilty of this when my first was young, and at the general societal trend. I was raised by a single mother and had way too much time alone. So I over compensated with my first child. It’s not all or nothing. You can be invested and present in your child’s life yet allow them the freedom of age appropriate exploration and independence. I turned out to be a great problem solver and very savvy about strangers and difficult situations. I want my kids to live and learn to navigate themselves. In my experience, kids with over protective parents don’t have great problem solving skills, but do have a driving need to shake their parents and their values off. Or, they’re timid, scared and need mom or dad to be there to make a decision.

    I’ve also noticed a disturbing trend of over sympathizing with childrens’s feelings. It’s important to sympathize and acknowlege, but making a child feel like he/she has been horribly wronged by a minor act of inconsideration only results in a self centered (obsessed) child who is too full of her own gloominess to continue on to have a good day or make good friend choices. I really think it’s ok and constructive to inform our kids that it’s a normal part of life to have your feelings hurt. It happens all of the time, not the end of the world, use your problem solving skills to figure out what to do about the situation.

    Good luck to all! Our kids WILL be themselves and make mistakes. It’s part of normal development. Unconditional love and good heartfelt advice will go a long way.

  80. Anonymous says:

    I have been guilty of overparenting and my daughter is definitly about to pay for it. I took off of work for the first year of her life and now she talks to no one, wants no one, and screams uncontrollably if anyone other than me or my husband picks her up. I go back to work next month and she will have to go to daycare. If I had not spent a year spending every little second with her and doing things like spending weeks at a time teaching her to use a spoon maybe she would just be a normal toddler and not someone who cant leave her mothers side. Ive been guilty of charging up credit cards to buy all of the latest name brand baby gear. Now that shes a year old I laugh and see how silly it all was. I didnt really need that stuff but when youre having your first child it seems like the more you spend the better prepared you think youll be. If I have another child I will certainly let the grand parents babysit every once in a while, not spend a fortune on the first birthday party, and I may even use the dreaded Graco stroller and not care so much what the other mothers in the neighborhood are doing with their babies.

  81. Virginia Barrett says:

    This one is for Anna….

  82. Linda Morin says:

    I don’t normally post stuff on here, but I feel strongly about this. Overparenting in the U.S. drives me up the wall and creates more stress to the already stressed out parent than there needs to be.

  83. Kendra Jones says:

    Hi all,

    If you are interested in being part of a research study about parenting, please follow the link. Your participation is very appreciated!

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/7BJ63BB

  84. Becca O says:

    Amen sister, I am the product of benign neglect and I am raising my kids in the same fashion.

  85. Over protected high schooler says:

    I am over protected and I hate it. My parents go through my contacts on my phone and only my email. Nothing is private anymore. They don’t let me have accounts on any websites. It’s driving me crazy! I see a therapist but she’s terrible at her job cuz she laughed and made jokes about people who cut. I was and because she had just found out for the first/last time. I can’t have a facebook or snything.
    Even YouTube is blocked because apparently it distracts me from my homework. Ugh. I feel trapped because I can’t try new things because it’s all blocked in my world. Ugh. I need help with this. They need to back off a little.

  86. whatever says:

    Children need physical play, to eat well, and enough sleep. Period. If you are providing these, then you’re doing great and don’t need to sweat the other stuff. If not, you should start sweating because you are disabling your child.

  87. alesialongo says:

    I am in the same situation you are. Ive tried everything, even the buying. But my son is ten, honor role and all of the sudden he wanted to sleep in our bed again. Noone was getting sleep. Now its got to the point that he wants me in the room with him at all times, im so tired, i have no more ideas, any advise if you overcame it please email me at alesia.longo@yahoo.com thanks

  88. Lauren Reed Ryburn says:

    This just let me off the hook for “sippy cup boot camp” this week…

  89. Kacey Bollrud says:

    “facilitating children’s ability to function independently, to figure things out, and to grow into themselves without excessive interference is in itself an essential task of parenting.” I LOVE this article!

  90. modifiedbeauty says:

    I for one cannot stand when people see attachment parenting as the “end all, be all” of parenting and that anyone who doesn’t completely follow AP is “detached.” I really love this article, it reminds people that we all parent differently and we have the RIGHT and the NEED to do so. What works for one does not always work for all! I’ve seen so much harassment from the AP community when it comes to moms who do not subscribe to their beliefs and it sickens me.

    Overparenting is an epidemic in this country right now. :(

  91. Mandy Megrew Williams says:

    AMEN!

  92. gabrielle5 says:

    Wow that was refreshing to read. I love the smell the roses technique and remember when life was so simple. I think the pace that the parents have to go at now adays has a lot to do with it. That combined with a lack of prioritizing. We have access to anything and everything we could ever want but what really matters is the simple stuff.

  93. Maria Slonimer says:

    Love this article! Relaxed Attachment Parenting is working for me so far! Everyone tells me they’ve never seen a better behaved, happier baby. Sure he may have the occasional tantrum when I’m strapping him into a car seat, stroller or carrier, but who wouldn’t complain when being tied up? He calms down anyways as soon as we start moving. He’s been walking since before 9 months. He never gets sick, and when he falls down, I give him a hug, and he carries on. Never a bump or a bruise on him.

  94. Terri Renaud says:

    Love this!

  95. Jaimie Seither Gabelman says:

    Great Article.

  96. Guggie Daly says:

    YES. This. I am so tired of being lumped in with helicopter parents. Why is it so hard for people to get this. Whether through the dehumanizing effort of branding them to “look like us” or washing away the boundary of personhood through overinvolved parenting, they both end the same: the child is treated as an extension of the parent, a being less than human.

    It is “FEAR” driving this epidemic. GERMS GERMS GERMS! DEATH DEATH DEATH! Coming to get youuuuu!

    Poooolio! Sleepless nights! A toddler who can’t count to 20! The apocalypse!!!

  97. Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy says:

    It seems to me that people have forgotten that the GOAL of parenting is to teach one’s children to LEAVE you and function on their own. It certainly doesn’t do them, or the parents’ any good, if the child cannot exist without the parent holding their hand, nor does it leave the parent with much of an idenity of their own to fall back on when the kids do get out!
    Sign me..
    a lousy parent by today’s standards and PROUD of it!

  98. Anonymous says:

    i love this article so true! i have freinds that children when the were young if they got just a little sprinkle rain water and they were sick the next day ! always way too covered up! and my daughter not so we would sing in the rain and splash puddles waddle waddle with her her rain boots not so much as a sniffle! life is dirty lighten up and have fun!

  99. Kristi Munro McCullough says:

    Great Article!!

  100. Paula says:

    And how did that “benign neglect” work out? Granju must be so embarrassed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

Previous Post Next Post