I found myself cringing when I thought of writing about overparenting because I struggle against overparenting on a daily basis. I know that children need freedom to make choices and have experiences so that they can become confident and independent adults. I also know that my daughters are intelligent and thoughtful people. They are very capable of being given age-appropriate freedoms. Even so, I must constantly check my internal desire to control every aspect of their lives. It helps so much that my husband is very natural about giving freedoms and responsibilities to our girls, and he is very encouraging in helping me feel confident about it.
When I find myself wanting to overparent and examine my motivation, I am usually not worried about how my girls will handle responsibilities or danger. I am usually worried about how others will view my parenting. I feel like I will be seen as a bad mother if I give the girls too many freedoms. When I expect my girls to fulfill what I know are maturity-appropriate responsibilities for each of them, I fear that I will be seen by other parents as lazy or uninvolved. Again my husband’s encouragement and leadership is of such value in the daily struggle with this, but it is also a constant exercise of prayer and looking to God’s Word. In the words of my heavenly Father, I find the confidence to give my children freedom.
I can trust God. My children belong to the Lord. They are his. My hope comes from the Lord. My hope for my children is the eternal hope of heaven. This is the crux of my purpose as a parent. I want to share my hope in Christ with my children on a daily basis. What a better way than to live each day with confidence that the same Lord who loved them enough to send his Son to die also has a plan for each of them!
I can foster responsibility. When my girls experience pain and heartache and hard days, I want to jump in and fix things for them. When my girls neglect responsibilities or are just plain sinful, my mother’s heart wants to intervene so that they don’t suffer consequences. A part of me also wants to do it so that I don’t look bad. Yet I know that God will work through my daughters’ natural consequences (and my own discomfort).
How do I know if this a moment that needs intervention or a moment that needs a silent and prayerful mother? When I take a deep breath, talk with my husband, and take some time for prayer, it becomes easier to evaluate the situation. If the issues at stake are not ones that endanger the children’s physical or spiritual safety, we try to let the girls take care of it independently. Sometimes this is painful, but it is equipping our children to handle the ups and downs of life with trust in their God.