When it comes to indulging your teen, what’s too much?

mom and teenContact Anne Clarkson, (608) 263-2381, myparenthetical@gmail.com


Most of us can remember a friend or classmate who didn’t seem to know the basics of everyday life–things like doing your own laundry or cooking a frozen pizza. Or the guy in high school whose parents bought him a new sports car for his 16th birthday.

“These kids may have had parents who overindulged them,” says Anne Clarkson, outreach specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension. “Overindulging, or providing too much of a good thing–whether it’s over-buying or over-nurturing or over-helping–takes away from a young person’s ability to learn self-reliance and decision-making skills.”

Clarkson says that studies show a strong link between childhood overindulgence and a lack of important life skills. Research suggests that children who are overindulged may be:

–More self-centered and less interested in the good of society; less willing to help people in need; and less inclined to do something without the expectation of something in return.

–Unable to delay gratification. For example, a parent might encourage delayed gratification by telling a child they can play when chores are finished.

–Lacking competency in everyday life skills, self-care skills and skill in relating to others.

“Parents who overindulge often have the best of intentions,” Clarkson says. “They might want to spare their kids discomfort and hurt, help them ‘feel good,’ provide their kids with the best they can, or just give them every opportunity.”

Sometimes parents simply have more material resources to give, or are trying to make up for time spent away from the family. Some parents may fear confrontation, rejection or guilt. Others may have been overindulged themselves as children.

Whatever the reasons may be for overindulging, Clarkson says there are things parents can do to improve the situation. To start, she suggests reading the Iowa State University “Science of Parenting” blog (http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/scienceofparenting/) and asking yourself some questions.

Does my parenting decision interfere with my child’s development? Does it get in the way of opportunities for my child to learn and take responsibility?

Does the decision use too many resources to meet the wants (not the needs) of my child? Are my decisions sometimes based on how I think others might see me rather than what I really believe is best for my child?

–Does my decision harm someone or something? Do I allow my child to back out of commitments when the going gets tough? Will my child miss the opportunity to learn the life skills or self-control that he or she will need to become a healthy adult?

“If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, the parenting decision you are thinking about may be overindulgent,” says Clarkson.

To learn more about parenting preteens and teens, visit UW-Extension’s Parenthetical at http://myparenthetical.com. Parenthetical is an online community where parents can share problems, ask questions and get the most current information about effective parenting and teens. The site is free and accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Or contact your local UW-Extension office. Contact information is available at http://www.uwex.edu/ces/cty/


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