Parenting Priorities

Making sacrifices for your kids is a core component of being a parent, but it can cross the line and actually be detrimental. Current research shows that in an effort to become the best parent that one can be, parents have tipped the scale and are now actually over-parenting. What we have come to know as helicopter parenting: the kind of parenting that is over-involved, overly controlling at times, and is the kind that runs the interference for children rather than letting children learn how to navigate the good and the bad, has been shown to be detrimental to children’s development. This type of parenting may lead children to be more dependent, more neurotic and less open to new ideas or opportunities. Helicopter parenting may be a component of what extends adolescence, as teens leaving for college are often ill-prepared to handle the freedom they have. This information has been circulating for a while.

What is being realized even more these days is that this type of parenting doesn’t solely impact children. It also can have a negative effect on a marriage or partnership. Being an over-involved parent can create many problems within a marriage. Often, jobs and children are the top priorities, pushing marriage to the bottom of the top ten list. In fact, research shows that, especially for women, who seem to be the helicopter parent more often, working a demanding job and being an overly attentive parent leaves little time left over to attend to one’s marriage. The same research also shows that women who have MBAs get divorced/separated more often than women who solely have BAs. Additionally, women with law and medical degrees have a greater likelihood to divorce or separate than their male counterparts.

Despite this information, many people don’t want to hear that their children should not be their number one priority. If the children are not number one, often people are confused as to where they should be ranked. It is hard to imagine not always putting your children first, and it’s important to take a step back and think it through, especially in relation to your marriage or partnership. On a list of ten things, our relationship with our partner may be 9 or 10. Unfortunately once it gets below 3 or 4, it doesn’t get the attention it needs and can be irreparably harmed. When the relationship is ignored, often one partner may give up trying, as each time they do, they are shoved aside. You can only try so much before you feel like giving up. Kids need to be at the top of the list, but maybe two or three with your relationship with your spouse and with yourself ranking toward the top.

In this economy, there are often dual income families, making it even more difficult to make one’s relationship a priority. It is a real struggle, but, as we have highlighted, it really is an important priority. Here are three potential ideas:

  1. Have date night. Make sure to create time just for you. Talk about things other than your kids.
  2. Talk to one another: Set aside time to talk about what’s happening in each other’s days. Take the time to really listen to one another.
  3. Share responsibilities: Trust in one another and encourage each other to have positive relationships with the kids. If one person undermines the other constantly, your relationship will suffer.

Single parents have to take care of themselves too. Often, guilt is a significant factor that makes it hard for single parents to take care of themselves. It’s equally important for single parents to find time for friends, dating and self care. If you are not taking care of yourself, you aren’t going to be able to take care of your children to the best of your ability.

Thinking back to the children, though, it’s important to model how to care for themselves and figure out how to help them understand that they cannot be in charge all the time. Setting these limits is not an easy task, and teaching them how to prioritize important things, especially relationships, will help them throughout their lifetimes.

Below are some tips to help you navigate these difficult waters:

  1. Recognize your own feelings: Guilt plays a big role in our need to put our kids first. We are out working all day, and then feel badly about going out. Validate those feelings but don’t let them run your life.
  2. Stand your ground: The best you can give to your kids is the best you. If you known that going to the gym is important for your mental health, get there.
  3. Demonstrate positive behaviors: You are teaching your kids to take care of themselves by demonstrating how to do it. They need to learn that they can’t get all they want.

Figuring out how to find the balance in your life is always difficult. Finding the middle ground between your relationship with your partner, your children, and yourself is always tough. How are you managing it?

Here’s the clip from my discussion with Erica Hill on The Early Show:
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7363101n&tag=mncol;lst;5

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