Are You “Too Good” a Parent?

21 Aug

Dear Reader:
I encounter many parents and children of various ages in my practice as Marriage and Family Therapist. It is always challenging to discern the dynamics of these relationships when a family comes in for counseling. Often the child is the “identified patient,” although usually in reality there is something wrong with the family system.
Unfortunately there is a relatively small percentage of “functional” families, just as in the business world there are relatively few high-functioning enterprises where emotional intelligence (EQ) is practiced by leaders.
Most families who come for counseling have a family system that is not working, and one of the main culprits I am seeing lately is what I call the “too good” parent.
See if this description fits someone you know: The “too good” parent tries to give their child all the things that they perhaps as a child did not have or get to experience. While it is good to expose your children to all kinds of new and educational experiences, this type of parent is unable to say No to the child’s many requests. Parents of this ilk get into the very dangerous habit of giving in to a child’s every whim. Often they do this because it is the easy way out. To say No becomes harder and harder as the child gets used to having his or her way. These children are rich in things and possibly experiences such as outings, but they lack empathy for others and appreciation of all the privileges granted to them.
Children as young as four or five years old can manipulate parents through whining, temper tantrums, or pouting, while the parents’ sense of guilt adds the impetus to give the child what s/he wants. The guilt may come from the parents’ own difficult upbringing, OR it may come from not having enough TIME to spend with the child because of work or other commitments.
Giving in to your child’s demands is not the answer in this skewed system. Not only does it put the child in control of the situation, it actually undermines the child’s sense of self-worth. The child knows that you are giving him/her a “thing” instead of your time and attention. Giving of yourself to your child is what s/he needs most!
The direction in which this “too good” parenting is going is from entitlement to DESTRUCTIVE entitlement. In other words, YOUR behavior is allowing the child first to feel entitled to certain privileges, such as playing with your cell phone or I-Pad. At first, this giving over of an expensive piece of equipment is just expected by the child. Later, however, when the child is denied something s/he requests — a sweet, a sleep-over, a new toy — s/he may act out against you or another caretaker in destructive ways. S/he may manipulate you into believing something which is untrue (lying!), or s/he may actually destroy some personal property.
My point is that this cycle starts with you as the “too good” parent. Your child is just responding to YOUR behavior in a predictable way — s/he has been taught that whining, temper tantrums, pouting, etc. will yield the result s/he wants.
One of the most difficult situations in which to deal with entitlement and destructive entitlement issues is in the separated or divorced family. It may be that one parent — in order to hold onto the love which s/he feels is slipping away in the direction of the other parent — buys the child’s affection.
We will share more with you how to deal with your own feelings so as not to endanger the well-being of your child through such tactics. Look to our next article on this blog for further discussion. Call us to share your questions or comments: Jean Eva at Beyond the Horizons Consulting can be reached at 505-466-4990 or at e-mail address, jeaneva@comcast.net.

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