When Mothering Becomes Smothering

We all want to be the best mothers we can but there are times when we must step aside and allow our children some independence. When we continuously hover and insert ourselves to every aspect of our children’s lives, we are no longer mothering, we are smothering. A very big of your child becoming a responsible and capable adult is in his/her learning the ability to make decisions effectively. If you do not allow your child the space he/she needs, then you are hindering your child from learning this important lesson. Sometimes it is very hard to distinguish the line we cross from mothering to smothering. For this reason we must take a very good look at our interaction with our child and assess whether or not we can take a step back and allow some breathing room. There are many examples smothering rather than mothering and knowing what they are is a vital part of discontinuing that behavior.

Mother to the Rescue

Almost all of us have seen that mother who is ultra present at all times. She is there to defend her child whether it is on the playground, at school or anywhere else for that matter. This mother never misses a beat and is always there, no matter what the situation is. She cannot stand to see her child upset for any reason and will always be on the defense, whether her child is right or wrong. As a result, her child will quickly learn not to be accountable for any of his/her actions in any situation. This is smothering at its worst. One of the most important life lessons that children can learn is how to solve conflicts and get through sticky situations without mom or dad running to the rescue. Unfortunately, a child who has a smothering mother will never truly learn this lesson. If you find that you fit the description of the smothering mother, there are certain things you can do to eliminate these behaviors and allow your child some space.

Sit on Your Hands

This is figuratively speaking and simply means that you must resist the urge to intervene in situations that do not call for your help. If your child is having trouble with classmates, rather than approach the classmates your self, a better solution would be to talk with your child and help him/her deal with it independently. You can offer advice but you simply cannot handle things on your own. Your job is to arm your child as much information as you can so as to help him/her sort through situations and work them out. You are doing your child a disservice every time you run to the rescue. Obviously, this does not mean situations will not arise in which you must act. However, the important thing is that you learn which situations you must insert yourself into, at which situations you must allow your child to handle alone. You must remember that you will not always be there for your child to pick him/her up and dust him/her off. For this reason you want to make sure that you have raised a capable and independent child, who is able to work through difficult situations without holding your hand.

Quietly Listen to Your Child

Sometimes it is best to quietly sit and just listen as your child offers details about his/her day. Even when the urge to interject and offer advice strikes you, you must try and resist. Learn to determine when your child is actually asking for advice and when he/she is just looking for someone to listen. Many times if you allow your child to express his/her feelings without forcing your views down his/her throat, will be amazed at your child’s ability to come to a conclusion independently. When you do speak, make sure that you choose your words wisely. Remember that you are not trying to fix everything but rather offering suggestions that your child can use to problem solve on his/her own. Independent thinking and problem solving are extremely important lessons for your child to learn. This is why you must take a step back and allow this process to occur.

Teach Your Child Cause and Effect

Rather than being there to rescue your child in every situation that arises, it is better to teach him/her that there are consequences for everything in life, both good and bad. Teach your child that it is not necessarily the emotion he/she feels in any given situation but the way he/she reacts to that emotion. In other words, it is okay to become angry, but it is not okay to strike someone or to do something malicious as a result. This will teach your child how to discern right action from wrong action, with very little intervention from you. A smothering mother will not allow situations to play out without jumping in. As a result, she will end up with a child, who becomes an adult but does not know how to appropriately handle life situations.

Being a good parent entails a lot more than just providing food and shelter to a child. As a parent, you are responsible for whether or not your child grows into a well rounded adult, who is capable of dealing with all sorts of things without feeling the need to lean on someone else. At the end of the day, no one is responsible for us but us, and making sure your child understands this early on is one of the greatest gifts you can give. A vital part of being a good parent is being able to discern when to step in and when to step aside. If you are a parent who has been smothering, making these changes may take some time. Take baby steps and do not beat yourself up you don’t get it right away. Remember that everything in life takes practice to perfect and parenting is no different.

1 Comment

  1. Johnny Walker Read

    Bravo, well said Colleen. This is a huge problem today and I only see it getting worse. Thanks for trying to get the message out that “mother smother” does no child any good and only leads to a generation of babies that never learn the important life lessons it takes to become a well rounded functional adult.

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