Are you an over-indulgent parent?

Parenting is a tough job, on any given day. There is no right and wrong way to parent, but a few generally accepted modes of good parenting do exist. If you can figure out what type of parent you are, it makes the task of parenting trouble-free for you and your child.

For starters, try answering the following questions:

  1. Your child says he/she wants to take a holiday from school tomorrow, because he/she’s bored with school. Do you agree without much argument?
  2. Your child wants to stay up late watching a TV show. Tomorrow is a school day. Would you allow it?
  3. Your child wants to wear a sleeveless dress for a school function. But it’s cold and a sleeveless dress may not protect against the cold. Your child insists on wearing this dress and argues about how pretty it is. Will you insist she change clothes?
  4. You want your child to clean his/her room. He/she refuses to do so. Will you offer a toy or outing if he/she cleans the room?
  5. Your child wants a very expensive toy for his birthday. You can afford it, but the toy is not appropriate for his age. Your child says all his friends have this toy so you must buy it for him. Your child says he will be very angry with you if you don’t buy it for him. Would you agree to buy it?

Do these situations sound familiar? As a parent you’ll often find yourself in such dilemmas. If you answered ‘yes’ to most of the above questions, chances are that you are an over indulgent parent! An over indulgent or permissive parent is one who readily gives in to to his/her child’s demands and avoids sticky, fight-like, unpleasant situations. There could be many reasons for this type of parenting. It’s possible that you wish to avoid conflict or fights with your child or you wish to be a friend to your child.

The up-side of being an over indulgent parent

Such parenting has a good side, because it you definitely want to be a part of your child’s life and are an involved parent. You want your child to be happy and are responsive to his/her needs.

The down side of being an over indulgent parent

Unfortunately, there are serious problems associated with being an over indulgent parent. Sometimes, it’s easy to give in to a child’s demands, especially when you are exhausted or stressed. However, over a period of time, permissive parenting can lead to behaviour problems in your child. This is because a child gets used to having his/her way, in all situations, all times.
A child needs a clear set of rules and understanding of those rules, to develop a healthy sense of right and wrong. If you give in to a child’s demands for fear of a tantrum or fear of losing your child’s good humor, the child does not develop a sense of consequences. For example, if there is a set time till which he/she may watch TV on a school day, it is important to adhere to it. This can be explained to the child that less sleep will result in him/her being tired and sleepy during school. The child will be unhappy at first, but will gradually adapt to the rules.

If a child’s inappropriate behaviour is not questioned and corrected gently and firmly, you are actually doing your child more harm than good.

What can you do to improve your parenting?

There are a few simple ways by which you can modify your over indulgent behaviour. This will be highly beneficial to you and your child in the long run. Here are a few ways by which you can achieve this:

1. Develop reasonable rules.

Children need a structured environment to grow up in. This involves developing a set of rules about everyday activities such as how long can your child watch night-time TV, how late can your child stay out with friends, how much pocket money is permissible, and so on. These rules can be made with the help of your child, through discussion.

2. Follow through with the rules.

As important it may be to set rules, it is equally necessary to follow them through. Your child must understand that the rules are there for a reason, and you will not agree to break them, despite tantrums or argument.

3. Be the bad guy sometimes.

Nobody wants an unpleasant situation with your child. But, sometimes, to emphasize the importance of appropriate behaviour, a parent must ‘be the bad guy’ and enforce the rules through firm discussion. This is to ensure that the rules are taken seriously, since they benefit your child’s safety and health. For example, playing with dangerous items such as a scissors for small children or alcohol/ smoking in teenagers is an absolute ‘no’ and you have to ensure that.

4. Be a parent, not just a friend.

A parent basically has to perform multiple roles, slipping in and out of them as easily as a chameleon changes colors. Your child needs you to be a listening ear sometimes, but not always. It is important to establish your role as a parent so that you may provide your child with the benefit of an adult perspective on what is right for him/her and what is not.

5. Do not fear conflict!

It is inevitable that your child and you will not see eye to eye on every issue. There will be fights and tension, as you enforce rules. This conflict is usually transient and it is important to brave through it, and not give in easily to inappropriate demands or behavior of your child.

Enjoy being a parent! Each day brings new challenges and new joys, savor each experience.

The author of this article is Dr. Preetika Chandna. She is a psychologist, pediatric dentist and freelance writer running her counseling centre since 2012. She firmly believes that ‘The Best Day to Change is… Today!’ and her faith in the intrinsic ability of each individual to change gave rise to her clinic aptly named the Change Counselling Centre.

She completed her Masters in Pediatric Dentistry from renowned Christian Dental College in 2007 and went on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Applied Psychology from Bharathiar University, Coimbatore in 2011. She is also a certified counsellor trained at IICP, Pune. She is a Life Member of the National Academy of Psychology.

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