Why You Need To Stop Overparenting Your Kids Right Now

overparentingWe all know that mom who think she deserves a medal for revolving her life around her children. You know, the one who brags about never having been away on vacation without the kids (yawn). Or who never seems to shut up about her husband being in an idiot when it comes to, say, changing diapers or feeding the baby. Next time you encounter said Smother Mother, you might want to throw this new study in her face showing that moms who take an “intensive” approach to parenting are pretty much miserable.

Researchers from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia looked at whether intensive parenting specifically as compared with parenting in general was linked to greater levels of stress and depression. They surveyed 181 mothers of children under 5 years old and found that the “intensive” moms are less likely to be satisfied with their lives and more likely to be stressed than their more laid-back counterparts. (Are we surprised?)

To be clear, “intense parenting” is marked the following philosophies:

  • Mothers are the most necessary and capable parent.
  • Parents’ happiness is derived primarily from their children.
  • Parents should always provide their children with stimulating activities that aid in their development.
  • Parenting is more difficult than working.
  • A parent should always sacrifice their needs for the needs of a child.

“Maybe it’s not having a child versus not having a child,” said study researcher Miriam Liss. “Maybe there are certain ways of parenting, like this intensive style of parenting, that is more negative for parents’ mental health.” She explains how there’s little data on whether intensive parenting is good or bad for kids, but there’s lots of research showing that having a stressed or depressed mom is hard on children.

Of course, we’d all like to know why so many women take the intensive approach to mothering when, clearly, it’s not good for anyone. According to the study authors, “[Women] may think that it makes them better mothers, so they are willing to sacrifice their own mental health to enhance their children’s cognitive, social and emotional outcomes. In reality, intensive parenting may have the opposite effect on children from what parents intend.”

That sounds about right to me. The truth is, we all have the best intentions when it comes to our children, regardless of the type of parenting style we choose. That said, results like these should remind us all that it’s actually okay to take that two-hour yoga class in the middle of the day or go on a girls’ weekend or simply read a magazine while your kids play in the yard. Not only will it make you happy but shock of all shocks it will ultimately make your kids happier, too.


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