Eight ways to step back from being a pushy parent

Jane Chelliah with daughter, Maelo, aged 21

Parenting is challenging, even if you’ve enjoyed raising a few kids already. Each child brings new challenges, and it can be difficult for you to navigate these challenges, especially if you do not feel prepared. 

One particular challenge that some parents can face is being too pushy. You know the type of person. One who is involved in everything their child does and seems to live vicariously through their successes, feeling both the highs and lows just as much as the kid.

I was once that parent and now am fighting a constant instinctual urge to keep ‘guiding’ my daughter in her life. I term the urge ‘instinctual’ because it is extremely difficult to grow out of the habit of telling them what to do when you have been doing it since they were born. My daughter maybe 21 but I still have to consciously stop myself from offering advice.

While it’s good for parents to support their kids and show interest in what they do, there is a fine line between this and being too pushy, which is what you need to check yourself before taking things too far. 

Let Them Make Their Own Decisions 

One thing that pushy parents will always do is try to make decisions for their kids. It’s understandable why they do this. Parents are older, they have more life experience, and they should know better. It makes sense, right? 

Well, yes and no. Although the parent might have more experience, they can also be blinded with their expectations of their child, and this means that they don’t always listen to them or see the signs that individual decisions are not right for them. 

Instead of making every decision for them, allow them to make decisions by themselves, as this can help them learn more about who they are and what they enjoy doing, rather than being forced into anything. 

But Don’t Give Them Too Much Control 

At the same time, kids will be kids, and giving them too much control over their decisions will mean that they end up doing nothing at all. If they have shown a talent for something, then encourage them to persevere, even on those days where they don’t feel like doing something. 

Allowing them to quit early means they will believe they never need to commit to something, and this can severely affect who they become later in life. While being a pushy parent can have serious ramifications, allowing them to do whatever they like can be equally damaging. 

You need to find a way to balance this, so while you shouldn’t force them to go to ballet practice, you should also remind them about the potential success they could experience, without making it sound like you’re bribing them and getting their hopes up. 

Don’t Involve Yourself in Their Relationships 

Besides talents and their vocational activities, you also need to make sure you do not involve yourself in their relationships, both personal and professional. If you pry too hard, you will end up cementing any potential door into their life permanently shut, which is not what you want to do. 

Understandably, you want to be a grandparent, at least this is something most people look forward to, but you must allow them to meet someone and start a family in their own time. The world is not the same as when you were growing up, which means relationships are not the same, and many will focus on their career first so they can become financially comfortable. 

When the time comes, you can provide all the advice you want about feeding, getting the kids to sleep, and which Kids beds are the safest for them. However, until then, you must exercise patience. 

Give Them Time to Unwind 

Everyone knows that you need time to unwind after work, school, or practice. But, too many pushy parents will drive their kids from one activity to the other with no opportunity for them to chill out after working hard. 

This can cause several problems for them. There’s a severe risk of burnout and anxiety that comes from consistently high expectations and a lack of sleep. It also means that with such issues, they will not perform to their best ability, which could knock their confidence. 

It’s vital, then, that you give them the chance to unwind after an activity, whether this is playing video games, watching TV, reading, or just hanging around with the dog. 

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice… 

This is a phrase that every parent all over the world has uttered to their child before. However, it works both ways, and this is something that pushy parents never seem to get. 

While it’s useful to provide feedback about a child’s performance, there is no need to be abjectly cruel to them, regardless of whether they meet your expectations following a routine. For many pushy parents, such nastiness comes from perceived failure and the inability to live out their dreams through the child vicariously. 

You don’t need reminding that this is unfair to the kids, so try to provide positive and constructive criticism. If not, 

Encourage, But Don’t Force 

Everyone needs encouragement, but there is a difference between encouraging your kids and forcing them to do something they do not want to do. This is one area that can affect their passion for their talent, and it might make them resent it faster than you would expect. 

Such an approach is useful when it comes to trying something new. Your child might be excited about it at first, but this can change after a few weeks. Despite this, they might demonstrate some talent for it, so you can encourage them to continue, and they might learn to love it. 

They also might not, however, but they will continue to go because they believe you want them to. This can affect their mental wellbeing, so make it clear that they can take a break or stop doing it if they are not feeling it, make sure they give it a chance first. 

Remember Success is Not a Given 

Once pushy parents find out their child is a maestro at a sport or subject, they see the stars. They can envisage the multiple awards that the child will receive, and they might dream of retiring early. 

Unfortunately, this is not the case, and for every gifted child that makes it big, there are hundreds more who do not. The fact is that such success comes with massive competitiveness, and this means that it is never a given. 

By keeping this in your mind, you will find that you don’t push your kids as much as you might typically do, and this is usually what’s right. You want your child to enjoy their hobby. You do not want them to burn out.

Remind Yourself They Need to Enjoy Life, Too

As much as you want them to enjoy playing sports, writing, or performing, they also need to enjoy life, too, and you need to let them do so. Allow them time to hang out with friends and have a social life. Otherwise, the only other person they come into contact with will be you, and that isn’t good for a child. 

Too many gifted kids end up being sheltered from social situations, and this makes it difficult for them to make friends when they are unable to break into professional success. You can nip this potential problem in the bud by encouraging them to spend time with friends and not be too strict on when they should come home. If they want to succeed while also being sociable, they will need to learn when to call it a night themselves. 

Pushing Back 

Many aspects of parenting will come to you naturally. Still, while this can make you more confident in your parenting skills, it also means you could fail to recognise when you are overstepping your boundaries. By being able to understand when you are taking it too far, you can stop yourself in your tracks before you affect your relationship with your children, which is the last thing you would want to do, anyway.


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