Overparenting: What caused it? Consider these 4 factors …

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Overparenting
Cover of How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott Haims

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Overparenting is a recent phenomenon. Baby Boomers were the first generation of overinvolved, overprotective, over-directive parents. There were, of course, many instances of overparenting before this, but Boomers were the first generation to make this a widespread cultural practice.

How did we get there? What caused overparenting?

In her new book How to Raise an Adult, author Julie Lythcott-Haims cites the convergence of four key factors, each of which arose in the 1980s:

1. Stranger danger–Fear of childhood abductions rose with increasing awareness of the possibility of such abductions. A made-for-television movie, Adam, about a horrendous childhood abduction, was watched by millions. Milk cartons featured the faces of missing children. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was created.

2. Academic achievement anxiety–Around the same time, Boomers became concerned that American children were not doing as well in school as schoolchildren in other places. This resulted in more homework, more after school academic programs, more emphasis on achievement on standardized tests, more homework, and a premium on getting excellent grades.

3. The self-esteem movement–More and more, Boomer parents focused on the self-esteem of their children. They encouraged every tiny act and praised every minor achievement. “Participation certificates” boomed—everyone a winner.

4. Play-dates–Play was no longer an unsupervised, unscheduled, spontaneous event. Rather, play was scheduled as dates, and children’s play behavior was observed, directed, and controlled.

Together, these four factors gave birth to the two overparenting styles we discussed yesterday: helicopter parents and Drill Sergeant parents. Often, both parenting styles were used in the same household in an attempt to produce safe, happy, and successful children, adolescents, and eventually adults. But these attempts often failed to produce the intended results.

Do these four factors ring a bell for you?

What parenting style did you use?

What style did your parents use?

Stay tuned this week as we continue to discuss overparenting, and conclude with the advice of experts about good alternatives!

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