There’s been a bit of media this week about ‘over-parenting.’ Are we over-protecting our children and not building resilience, responsibility and respect in them, therefore not allowing them to grow into capable, responsible adults?
I’ve made my comments in the newspapers, as I have strong views on this issue. As parents, we are our children’s ‘guides’ into life. We show them, guide them, nurture them, educate them and raise them to fly solo when their time is right. For some, they feel invincible at the age of sixteen, ready to take on the world… and that’s ok, but for others, they can’t stand the thought of leaving home at the age of thirty. Unless there is some physical or mental disability of the thirty year old, the parent has failed at being a parent to that child.
You look at the animal kingdom… dogs, cats, lions, birds, fish, monkeys… they all nurture their offspring and guide them by showing them how to hunt for food, stay away from predators, get their rest, be active and build a nest. Then they let them go and fend for themselves. Humans nurture, feed, protect and hold onto their children, to various degrees, but with the over-abundance of media broadcasts about drug abuse, kidnapping, sexual predators and child abusers, parents find it harder and harder to let their children fly.
And this is not a new thing. My ex-husband is a perfect example of having his wings clipped as a teenager and now struggles to survive and bear the responsibilities on his own. At the age of 16, he was allowed to ride his bike for 10 minutes before he had to report back home. He would ride as far and as fast as he could for 4 minutes, then leisurely cycle back in the 6 minutes. That was the only ‘me’ time he was allowed, and he was lucky if he had it once a week. He was one of seven children and their upbringing was quite strict. When I first met him at the age of 27, he worked in his mother’s cafe and lived rent-free at the back of the cafe while she was paying off his $10,000 credit card debt. When we got hitched, he was more interested in his pipe dream businesses than actually providing an income to look after his family. Now at the age of 47, after we split, he still depends on borrowing his boss or his mother’s car when he needs transport, hasn’t provided an opportunity for our son’s to sleep at his place and doesn’t contribute to their financial needs to cover their costs.
He would be a rarity from his generation, but with the post Gen-Y generation, the odds are looking that most the generation will be heavily dependent on their parents for the remainder of their lives.
And you can see that it will be unfair for them. Mortgages will be unattainable as the cost of living sky-rockets, lifestyle becomes more important than saving for our retirement (the ‘live everyday like it’s your last’ attitude), the cost of housing in Australia is currently eleven times that of the average wage, where when our parents were saving for a house, it was only four times the average wage, and the media constantly pushes designer wares, acceptable things to be outraged about, needing therapy and changing careers, so our children are over-exposed to an array of different wants and desires, they can’t focus on any goals and stick to them.
So what do we do? We all want the best for our children, and there will be a point that we do have to let them go. It’s all about giving them measured steps… measured steps in learning, and measured steps in releasing the hold. But if we know in our heart that we have given them the right tools to know what’s right from wrong, how to buy a bus ticket, how to stick to a budget, how to find their way home, how to save for what’s important and how to work to make it all happen, then we should have the confidence to set them free.