Am I over-parenting?

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Dr Judith Locke, acclaimed psychologist and author of “The Bonsai Child” was the third presenter in our “All about Girls” Welcome Nights.  Judith takes a refreshing and challenging look at 21st Century parenting. She strips away all the “reach for the stars fluff” that we are constantly exposed to through social media and unpacks some of the reasons why she believed we are “over-parenting”.

As both a parent and teacher, I attended with an open mind and below share my top 7 reflections:

  • As parents, we need to “step-back in order for our children to step-up”.
  • Create a technology free afternoon at home every weekend. Keep technology out of children’s bedrooms, especially at night.
  • We should have a “communication blackout” with our children during the day. Give students the space to learn and grow at school without constant parental re-assurance.
  • Encourage children to take responsibility for cleaning of their uniforms, packing lunches and transport to and from school. By the time they turn 18, they should be ready to “pull their weight” at home, as an adult.
  • Create opportunities to build conversational and storytelling skills. Ask open-ended questions and encourage them to reciprocate.
  • Expect more from our children. Avoid fake goal-posts such as trying to always keep our teenagers happy.
  • Experiencing difficulty within a safe and nurturing environment will lead to positive character growth and the formation of strong independent young adults.

Judith walked us expertly and entertainingly through a range of practical strategies using evidence that she had accrued from private practice and her doctoral research.

Her premise was clearly that the current model of parenting isn’t working and our children risk not gaining the essential independent skills necessary for success not only at university but also in future life.  Knowing that independence or self-reliance is developed by being placed in challenging situations, Judith advocated a “communication blackout” from parents during the school day.  She suggested giving students the space to learn and grow at school without constant parental re-assurance. When our children can’t rely on their parents as counsel during the school day, they start to create friendships and strategies to work through day-to-day challenges.

There was immediate agreement with Judith’s stance on limiting technology and social media access at home, by having a technology free afternoon at home every weekend, keeping technology out of student’s bedrooms (especially at night) and encouraging our students to earn their “device time” through contributions to the running of the household. She believed that if they were using their smartphones as a social device, then they should be paying their way for the privilege of use; be that in money or chores.

Judith’s mantra was for “parents to step-back in order for our girls to step-up”.  Somewhat radically, she argued that children ought to be encouraged to take responsibility for the cleaning of their uniforms, packing of lunches and transport to and from school. Judith stressed that by the time our kids turn 18 they should be ready to “pull their weight” at home, as an adult.

One practice to avoid – and here I felt a guilty chord -  is that of interrogating our children when we see them at the end of the school day. Rather Judith advocated open ended questions, allowing opportunities to build conversational and storytelling skills as our children talk about their experiences. We ought to focus on encouraging them to reciprocate with questions about our day, so that we are respected as more than merely an “under-paid domestic slave or uber driver”!

It was an attentive audience, grateful for the opportunity to consider strategies for this different world of parenting from such an expert.  Judith identified fake parenting goal-posts, such as keeping our kids happy, and clearly encouraged parents to expect more from our children.  With “our arms wide open” we can feel confident in knowing that experiencing difficulty within a safe and nurturing environment will lead to positive character growth and the formation therefore of strong independent young adults.

Margaret Lawson

STEAM Coordinator and Learning Commons Staff Member