Feeling Overwhelmed and Underappreciated?
by Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)
There's a parenting trap called "Doing Too Much For Your Kids". It's an easy trap to get caught in because it's created slowly and barely noticeable. In fact, you probably won't even know you've been caught in the trap until you're feeling burned out from too much work and getting too little appreciation.
Setting the Trap
When our children are babies we do everything for them. We are their personal assistants because they need our help to do everything from eating to keeping clean. Gradually they start being able to do a little more for themselves.
As toddlers and preschoolers they are often very excited to do things all by themselves. However, young children tend to be slow and make plenty of mistakes. It takes a lot of patience to help them do it rather than just do it for them. When you let your young children do things like dress themselves or get their own drink of water, you are helping them develop skills while also avoiding getting trapped doing too much.
Escaping the Trap
When you find yourself doing many things for your children that they are capable of doing for themselves, you are in the trap! These are some stories of parents who realized they were in the trap and then escaped:
- One mom was helping her 7-year-old son get breakfast. She asked "Would you like cereal?" He responded "No." "How about yogurt? No. Toast? No. Oatmeal? No." At this point she felt like an unappreciated servant!
That evening she told her son that she realized he was old enough to get his own breakfast and from now on he'd have that responsibility. Did he thank her for this new responsibility? No! However, he did learn to decide what he wanted to have for breakfast and get it.
- A dad reported he was packing his 5th grade son's sports bag every evening so his son could just grab it in the morning and go. This dad realized he was doing too much when his son complained that he had not packed the right cleats.
He turned the responsibility over to his son for getting his sports bag packed. His son made a few mistakes but he no longer blamed his dad for missing equipment!
- A mom said she always checked over her daughter's math homework. One day she missed a mistake and the teacher marked the answer as wrong. The daughter stormed home complaining "You made a mistake!" This mom quickly realized that it was time for her daughter to check her own work and stopped doing it for her.
- A mom was frustrated with having to dress her 4-year-old son. If she left the task to him, she'd find him jumping on the bed instead of getting dressed. The other preschool parents told her he most definitely was capable of getting dressed at that age!
This mom solved the problem by giving her son a choice of getting dressed at home or at preschool. It only took one time of getting dressed at preschool before he decided he'd rather get dressed at home.
Once you realize you are in the trap, it's time to find a way to escape!
Benefits of Staying Out of the Trap
The trap hurts you but it also hurts your children. You become overwhelmed and your children don't learn the skills they need to succeed.
One college freshman told of how she was teased by the other college students because she didn't know how to do her laundry. They gave her all sorts of incorrect information about using the washer and dryer. They thought it was hilarious that they could trick her into using the dryer to try to wash her clothes! She found it significantly less amusing.
Rarely do children raise their hands and say "I think I'm ready to do a load of laundry!" or "I can clean the bathroom." However, sometime before they're 18, they'll need to know how to do these tasks plus many more. When you stay out of the trap of doing too much for your children, you both benefit.
About Kathy Slattengren
Parenting expert Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., is dedicated to supporting parents in doing their best parenting. She helps families create
homes where everyone feels accepted, heard, respected and appreciated.
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