Have you seen parents around you that seem to be on over-drive? They're constantly doing everything for their children. We call this the "Martyr Mom Syndrome." This mom does everything for her children. They are the center of her universe. Sometimes a dad will fall into this category as well. These parents lavish so much nurturing that their kids are drowning in it.

What's interesting is that they often get no respect from their children and the parent walks around with simmering resentment. You ask them why they are parenting this way and they say, "But I love my children. I want them to be happy." Those are dangerous parenting words. You're thinking, "What? Isn't that how we're all supposed to feel?" Please read on.

Let me share a story of my friend whom I will call "Rose." I have four sons and so did Rose but hers were about 15 years older than mine. She was an amazing woman - the ultimate homemaker. She used to brag that she taught her sons to make their bed when they left to go to college. This used to make me absolutely cringe, as you can imagine. Her nurturing ways were in absolute hyperdrive.

So one day we're having a meeting at my home because I had little ones. We're sitting around the kitchen table. (Did I mention that the other woman at the meeting was also an incredible homemaker? I used to refer to them as Martha Stewart I and Martha Stewart II.)

Anyway, we're sitting there and in walks my youngest son, Tanner. Tanner was about 3 or so. He goes over to the pantry and gets out the peanut butter, jelly, and the bread. Then he very carefully lays the bread out on the floor and proceeds to make himself a sandwich. I can see him out of the corner of my eye and I don't do a thing. I can also see the other women, Martha Stewarts I and II, developing serious facial twitches and jumping about in their chairs.

Finally Rose can't stand it and says, "Merrilee! Your son is making a sandwich on the bare floor!" I respond, "I know. Isn't that fantastic! He just learned how to make sandwiches this week." And I turned to Tanner and with a big smile I say, "Tanner, I am SO proud of you. What a yummy sandwich you've made!" He was positively beaming with pride and joy and walked out with his sandwich. I think the poor women aged several years on the spot.

Parents who use too much nurture convey messages to their children: "You can't do this because-

  • you're not smart enough.

  • you're not reliable enough. you're not old enough.

  • you're not responsible enough.

  • you're just a child.

  • I don't trust you.

  • I don't believe in you.

  • you're not capable of taking care of yourself.

  • the quality of your work is inadequate.

  • working is bad.

  • only women do these kinds of things. (and other sexist stereotypes)

  • mom's (i.e., women) do all the dirty work. (Conveying a serious lack of respect for women.)

  • only men do these kinds of things."

Parents, and especially mothers, who continue to insist on doing everything past the time their child is capable of doing it on their own, convey these messages constantly.They are well-intentioned and think they are showing love and caring, but they are damaging their children in the process because they are not looking at the big picture.

So ask yourself, "Can my child do this on their own?" And then let them!

That is truly wonderful, loving parenting.

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