Carina has been typing on the internets before there was a www in front of everything. This is why she’s cranky and wants to know when you’ll get off her lawn. She resides in a hopelessly outdated home in the Mountain West with a mathematician and three children hell-bent on destruction. Her laundry is not done, but her Twitter is totally up to date. Carina does not have a Tumblr, because get serious.

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You’re Doing Too Much

…And is it screwing up your kids?


I just finished reading an article called “How to Land Your Kids in Therapy” by Lori Gottlieb at The Atlantic. A mom and psychotherapist, Ms. Gottlieb was seeing more and more patients who were unhappy and didn’t know why–for absolutely no reason. They had all the love, support, and advantage their parents could have given them, but were adrift in their young adulthoods.

Ms. Gottlieb contends that our very preoccupation with keeping our children happy at all times is turning them into unhappy adults.

I don’t mean trying to make your children well-adjusted and happy, it’s beyond that; parenting that’s creating an artificially happy world for children. Think about basketball games without scores. Telling your child they’re great every time they tie their shoes. Calling another parent if your child doesn’t get that birthday party invitation. Jumping in the instant a child skins a knee. It’s parents that are doing TOO MUCH. Gottlieb asks an interesting question, “Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness at children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?”

It looks like the answer is, yes.

I remember once being on an outing to a park, my son fell down and started crying. I didn’t react right away. In fact, I felt almost pressured to react by the way the other moms were looking at me. Wasn’t I going to immediately rush to his side? Wasn’t I going to hold him until he stopped crying? The seconds ticked by like bombs as I slowly walked to his side, did the mini-inspection, and sanctioning him continuing to play. I admit, I probably wouldn’t have walked over there at all if all the other moms weren’t staring at me. You know when your kid is really hurt, and when they just got a bump.

Of course my heart breaks a little with every tear they shed, but sometimes, my kid simply did something stupid. He tried something physically advanced, stretched his wings, ran on the side of the pool, tried a stupid move. Maybe he should get hurt so he understands his limitations. Maybe the next time he tries he won’t get hurt. I’m not going to sweat it.

The truth is, when my kid grows up and tries something advanced at work and it crashes all around him, I won’t be there to pick up the pieces. He’s going to have to find it inside himself to learn the lesson and keep going. No one is going to lavish praise on my 30-year-old son for making his bed in the morning, or matching his socks. I can’t call up an ex-girlfriend and demand that she get back together with my precious angel. And all the games are going to have scores.

Are you guilty of doing too much?

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Comments (18)

  1. Oh I love this article. As a mother of two kids this has been one of the hardest things. I agree totally we are raising a bunch of wimps if we don’t wake up. It is very frustrating today being a parent. I am totally pulling back and letting my kids start failing. My daughter wanted to go to camp this year after her great experience last year. As the date got closer to go this year she started saying she did not want to go and was having fits. It was too late to get our money back and we only signed her up because she wanted it. My husband and I agreed she had to go. Life lesson. When you sign up for things you need to follow through.
    I think as parents we get mixed signals and everyone is in a panic about there kids being successful. On one hand we hear American kids are lacking behind the rest of the world. On the next hand we hear we are pushing them too much.
    We need to use common sense. I think kids need to be kids and play with each other and figure things out. Not have there day scheduled away.

  2. Madame Dentelle 07/10/2011 at 4:04 am

    I guess here in France we’re not quite there yet. Here there are grades in preschool and my 7 year old son’s soccer matches definitely have scores.

    I personnally think competition is good for you, but not right away, not for small kids. Giving kids lots of positive attention is important and i think here we focus too much on what they did wrong instead of focusing on what they did right. For example, in France, 14/20 is a very good grade. You seldom get 20/20 on the pretext that nothing is ever perfect and that you could have done better.

    Of course you could have done “better” ! On can always do better. But it’s also good to know that you did “good” and that sometimes good is ok and no need to be perfect.

    Anyways, that is MY pet peeve ! 🙂 And one of the reasons why i love the american way to look at all this : positive praise is all over.

    Thanks for this post. It makes me think a little about how much is too much. Maybe i’m going overboard trying to compensate the outside world… I’ll have to think on that for a little while 🙂

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  4. Emily 07/08/2011 at 6:25 pm

    Sing it, sista.

    Also – the trophy for showing up doesn’t exist as an adult.

  5. Caro 07/01/2011 at 2:34 pm

    I agree with this on all respects and I’m glad to see from the comments and this article that I’m not the only mom who feels this way.

    Btw, I also noticed something else when I was reading through the comments – the only people who’re commenting (and they’re all positive comments at the time I’m writing this) are those who agree with this. Are we the only ones who read it as well?

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  7. emily green 06/26/2011 at 5:26 pm

    this resonates so much for me! it is literally *right on time*; this is a discussion i’ve been having w/hubby and definitely a challenging area for me. i tend to, too often, pursue and prioritize happiness/pleasure for our daughter. thank you for this articulate reminder.
    glad to have found your blog!! 🙂

  8. Holly Hare 06/24/2011 at 3:00 pm

    Yes..I see this so often in sports and at school these days. It really is awful to watch these parents do this to their kids. Awards ceremony at school takes forever now because every child has to receive some type of award. Can’t leave anybody out. Good luck with that when they try to find a job. Same with sports….I hear parents telling their kids after a play on the field, “great job” even if they miss the ball entirely or if they loose the game they also come up with an excuse for their children…”oh, the umps were awful, the other team was older than you, the coaches made a bad call.” When really, No you lost because the other team was better than you. This is one of my biggest PET PEEVES EVER!!! I wish I could print this and pass it around to a few parents I know. Oh, the looks I would get;)

  9. Katie Neuman 06/22/2011 at 9:17 pm

    This was great. And wouldn’t it be even better if mama’s could support one another instead of giving the stinkeye?!

  10. Marie 06/22/2011 at 2:02 pm

    You know, I read that article yesterday and was about to blog about it as well. I’m the parent who doesn’t initially jump out and caudle my child when he/she gets hurt. I let them learn from their mistakes and then offer guidance when needed. I believe that there are a lot of kids nowadays that are just caudled and believe that mommy and daddy are always there to help out. When I was searching for a sports organization for my son to play football, I saw that there was a lot of teams that emphasized the “Everyone wins” slogan and I found it to be quite annoying cause in real life, not everyone wins. There are winners and there are losers. What’s wrong with competition? So what if the child’s feelings gets hurt if they get beat 10-1 in a game? It’s a part of life, buddy. It sounds harsh, but it pushes our children to practice and do better next time. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have a softer approach to it, but kids need to realize that not everyone wins.

  11. Skinnyjeansmom 06/22/2011 at 1:50 pm

    So glad you posted this! So many times as parents, particularly moms we’re riddled with guilt that we don’t do enough, and its that very guilt that drives moms and their kids crazy. I know that I even begin to feel guilty when I let my husband be the one to give our son a bath; instead of enjoying 15minutes of kid-free time, I’m wondering if I’m a good mom or not since I’m the one to”supposed to do that”. I felt like I needed to be there, by his side constantly, to prove to him how much I love him.I realize this is silly; my kid will know I love him no matter if I bathe him every single night or my husband does.

  12. Laura--The Sushi Snob 06/22/2011 at 1:46 pm

    Well, it’s good to make sure no serious harm has been done, but you’re not doing the child a service by coddling them for every fall.

  13. Raejean Roberts 06/22/2011 at 9:56 am

    This ranks right up there with giving our kids the gift of responsibility and disciple. It’s all preparing them for the real world.

  14. Erica Fehrman 06/22/2011 at 7:40 am

    Amen. I love this list of things kids won’t learn in school. It’s also a good reminder of how we, as parents, need to prepare our kids for the real world.

  15. Erin Oltmanns 06/22/2011 at 7:12 am

    This makes me feel better. Sometimes I feel guilty because I’m too willing to let my girl be upset. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ALL ABOUT giving cuddles and kisses when the issue is real and needs a tender touch, but she’s at the age where getting a cup of milk instead of juice sends can send her into a tailspin.

    It’s hard to know what is right, eh? I guess we go with our gut, judgement from other moms be dammed! 😉