Are we American parents over-parenting, over-protecting, and hovering too much over our kids? I just read a particularly snarky review in the Los Angeles Times of Bringing Up Bébé, a new book that examines why French parents are “superior” to American parents.
We American moms get a lot of flack.
We don’t wear skinny jeans.
We feel harried.
Our hair is out of place (no, I won’t post a photo of mine right now.)
We can’t have a grown-up conversation without interruption.
Unlike les Françaises, we don’t even drink our lattes without 2-year-old Johnny dipping his dirty finger into the foam and helping himself.
I read an excerpt from the book in the Wall Street Journal. It seems that one of Pamela Druckerman’s many critiques of her own failings as a mother is that she—like most Americans—is guilty of over-parenting her children.
When our 15-year-old babysitter was running late on Tuesday, she called her mom. Her mom drove to her school, picked her up, and then drove her to our house.
It would have taken the babysitter less than ten minutes to walk, a fraction of the time it took her mother to drive her.
Was her mother helping her?
Or was she teaching her daughter that cultivating time management skills and responsibility are irrelevant because Mommy will always be there to bail her out? Was she over-parenting her in a way that made her less responsible and less confident?
Hard to say.
Both of my parents worked until six o’clock when I was growing up, so I had no choice but to walk everywhere. It was a little sad that I did not see them until after sunset most nights, but like every kid in my neighborhood—whether they had working or stay-at-home parents—I walked to and from school. My parents taught me to ask a grown-up for help crossing Center Street if I was worried about crossing myself.
We don’t do that anymore—teach kids to ask strangers for help, let elementary school kids walk to school by themselves, allow kids to be in challenging situations and work their own way out of them.
Yet one of the many reasons my family lives in a small Oregon town is because it’s a safe place, it’s the kind of place where people make eye contact and say hello, where teenagers are friendly (I love that), and where you’re more apt to run into someone you know than into a Lurking Bad Guy.
By not allowing our kids freedom, we infantilize them, make them overly dependent on us, and unsure of their own abilities.
I know it’s terrifying to let go.
But I think Pamela Druckerman is onto something.
Helicopter parenting doesn’t help our children. Neither does over-parenting them.
I believe in being kind and compassionate, I believe in picking up a baby when she cries. I believe in breastfeeding and lots of hugs and exercise and outdoor time and healthy food and quality family time.
I sometimes fail at being the parent I want to be. I can be impatient. I can tend to get hysterical instead of firm when my kids disobey or don’t listen. I get grumpy when my blood sugar is low, I’m overtired, or on a deadline (so, that would be very often these days).
But I strive to be a loving, steady, and solid presence in my children’s lives.
I also believe that when our children are old enough, we have to give them the tools to be confidence and independent and responsible.
And then we parents need to let them make their own mistakes.
What do you think? Have you read Bringing Up Bébé? Do you want to? Are we Americans doing our children a disservice by over-parenting them?
Last updated: May 25, 2018