I’ll bet you know some parents who are really, really, involved in their children’s lives. They come to school to talk to their child’s friends, confront other parents about their child missing out on party invitations and message their child’s friends on social media. There’s a name of this – hyper parenting.
They think their child is a gifted genius who has special talents which need to be nurtured and admired by others. Oh, and they’re never one who starts the bullying in the playground or the one who spread nits around their classroom – just ask their parents- they’re perfect!
Hyper parenting danger
Dr Judith Locke, a clinical psychologist specialising in parenting and child wellbeing, says such parents want to make sure their kids’ lives are unhindered by unpleasantness.
This may mean completing their homework, providing transport, helping them avoid discipline, or insisting that peers meet their child’s needs”.
I can see how it happens. I know parents of high-school kids who drop off heated-up food at lunchtime, ring or text them repeatedly during the school day and drive them around rather than let them catch public transport. (Confession: I’ve been guilty of all three.)
It’s not good for us, because it’s making us exhausted. And it sure isn’t good for kids, who aren’t allowed to grow up.
Letting kids be kids
We’re working longer hours than ever. When we are at home, we feel compelled to be more invested in our kids’ lives than ever before. It’s not just about protecting kids from unseen and often non-existent dangers, but caring about every grade, interaction and conversation. This means attending every sporting match, manipulating every friendship and orchestrating all aspects of school life.
It’s exhausting, time-consuming and totally unnecessary.
All the meal deliveries, participation medals, and sparkly stars on every crappy piece of homework done by parents is creating a generation of brats who have a highly inflated sense of their self-worth. They think they rule the roost and, in many families, they do.
Not good for us either
All this hyper-parenting has made parents so over-stretched, they don’t have time to live their own lives. One study from the Parenting Research Centre found between a third and a half of all mums and dads struggle to find the time to regularly play with their kids inside or outside.
Parents also say they are too busy to catch up with friends, spend one-on-one time with children, or sit around the dinner table for a home-cooked meal. I often feel the same way.
Swapping hyper parenting for half-arse parenting
Hyper-parenting flies in the face of a mountain of sound research that shows kids do best when they are given freedom and independence, which builds their self-confidence, resilience and problem-solving skills.
This is why we need to stop being hyper-parents, and instead become half-arsed parents. As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, half-arsed parenting is about doing half as much and knowing it is still more than enough. It’s not an invitation to give up and do a bad job across the board. It doesn’t mean giving kids less love, empathy or protection.
It means releasing yourself from other people’s standards, expectations and rules. Unlike hyper parents, half-arsed parents know that when it comes to raising kids, you don’t have to be perfect.
Know your limits and set the bar low enough so you succeed.
Back to basics
Half-arsed parenting is also about getting back to basics. Whatever happened to toasted sandwiches for dinner? Kids sharing bedrooms and bathrooms? Making meals with what you’ve got, not what you buy from the organic market or get delivered via an app?
So, stop trying to be a perfect parent. I gave this up after child one. I had a much more pragmatic ‘she’ll be right’ attitude for child two, and a ‘lucky no one saw me do that’ attitude for child three.
That’s the half- arsed way. And you know what? No one’s died. No one’s psycho (except for me when my kids take my phone charger and don’t return it). And the authorities haven’t visited once.
Dr. Susie O’Brien’s book The Secret of Half-Arsed Parenting is out now. You can get it at Booktopia, Dymocks, Good Reads or Big W.
Check it out on Insta and stay tuned because we’ve got more arse-halfed parenting pearls of wisdom to share every week!