Are We Overparenting?
Joan Acocella writes a comprehensive and fascinating review of the popular literature on whether we are over-parenting our children. (see Acocella Review. She begins by discussing whether we’re spoiling them by placing inordinate value on every thought that crosses their minds, and putting every scribble on the refrigerator. What used to be called spoiling is now called over-parenting. But over-parenting includes a new factor: parental anxiety. Did the death of their hamster scar them for life?
Then she discusses such concepts and events as the self-esteem boom, which is largely believed to have been a failure, and the plasticity research, which showed that the brain is constantly developing until age 25, but that the early years are an especially important period for stimulating the developing brain. It is important to us that the nannies we place are attentive, present, engaged, and understand the importance of plenty of verbal interaction. However, the plasticity research spawned the Baby Einstein craze (developed and marketed by Disney), which various authorities have deemed a waste of time and one calls a “scandal”.
I found it especially noteworthy that the more recent plasticity research suggests that ‘self-stimulation’ and the child’s experience of trial-and-error sprout new dendrites in the developing brain that ultimately give the child more resilience and ability to cope constructively with life. This makes so much sense. It’s important that parents and caregivers give a child some time to explore and play on the own as well as interact in stimulating activities with the nanny. I remember watching my 2 year old daughter repeatedly try to jam large toys into the window of her small Barbie camper. She would squeal in frustration as she tried again and again, sometimes for hours. (Very few fit, but she didn’t give up). She was 100% engaged mentally as she methodically tried each one out of a literal mountain of toys. I’m sure she was learning plenty about shapes, textures, the “in-plasticity” of most objects, and her own tenacity and frustration tolerance.
The article also explores academic pressure and ‘boomerang children’ (55% of American men ages 18-24 live at home). Are these kids over-parented and prefer the comforts of living at home with mom and dad to the harsh realities of life? Or is this phenomenon largely the result of factors such as the high cost of housing, stiff competition for good jobs, and the heavy burden of repaying college loans?
I read this well-researched article and felt primarily deep empathy for all of us parents who are simply trying our best to raise healthy, happy, competent adults who are able to make a stable living, (hopefully at something they enjoy and are good at), form and maintain satisfying relationships, and fulfill their potential in ways that bring happiness and meaning to their lives. How can we avoid anxiety? We’re bombarded with research and expert opinions; the world is undoubtedly more competitive, many of us are in two career families working hard. We’re simply doing our very best for the children we love and believe in. Who knew it would be so complicated? I think we need to stick with our instincts. Our children need stability, warmth, predictability, and caring interaction. What do we all need more of? Calm.
To get more tips on child development, parenting and hiring and retaining a nanny go to: www.safeandsoundnannies.com
Dr. Ann Wycoff is founder of Safe and Sound Nannies, a full service agency.