Last month I wrote about the idea that as adults we need to define ourselves as more than just what we do for work. This means it’s also important to think about how we talk about self-image with our kids. That makes me think of a theme that keeps coming up in my coaching when it comes to parenting; the risk of raising kids who are so over-parented that they grow up unready to face the world.

These kids are known as “tea cup kids,” – a label that can be found in popular parenting literature. Over the last several years I have seen a trend where adults are hiring me to work with their children, who are often in their 20’s. The most common denominator I find is that well intended parents are doing too much and not allowing their kids to figure out how to navigate the world, also known as “helicopter parenting.” I find myself teaching life management skills to these young adults that they should have learned a decade earlier. Most of them do not know how to handle personal responsibility, deal with rejection, deal with and learn from failure. They lack the strong sense of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth that prepares them to deal with criticism, bullying, hardship and a life filled with unknowns.

I can see the temptation. People know the struggles they went through and they want to protect their kids from the same pain. I coach my clients that their greatest priority needs to be to let their children learn from mistakes early on, when the stakes are low and the support around them is high. I stress the value of teaching kids to think for themselves and to make their own decisions, by learning to evaluate situations and weigh risks. I teach parents to allow kids the space to learn from the consequences of their choices. It is far better to let an 8 year-old learn the pitfalls of procrastinating on a school project, instead of a 29 year-old who does the same with a critical assignment at work. Rather than risk a bad grade or a sleepless night, many parents jump in, stay up late to help or even DO their eight-year old’s project instead of letting them suffer from waiting until the last minute.

A great example of this would be my client Margo. Her mother hired me when she was in her late 20’s. Margo struggled with motivation, decision-making, and follow-through.  She was not happy, and suffered from depression. Her mother had spent her life stepping in and protecting Margo from reality. She would help complete homework and make decisions. She would not give Margo age appropriate chores, or hold her accountable to consequences that were threatened if she was disrespectful or had bad behavior. As we worked together to help her build these basic skills we made progress. I must admit, it was hard to overcome her deep-seated beliefs that everything in life comes easily without much work and that if something was wrong, it was everyone else’s fault.

I realize that I have a variety of readers who see my newsletter and blog posts. Whether you have no kids, young kids, or grown kids, for me this issue is so pervasive in our young people that I am asking everyone to consider what they can do to help our youth grow into better adults.

Take Action:

  1. For those with young children – give your kids age appropriate chores and follow-through on consequences. It is key that your children see you keep your word.
  2. For those of you with older kids – let them think for themselves and allow them to make decisions. And, allow them to fail. Empower them to act so they can learn and grow, ultimately being able to stand on their own two feet.
  3. For those without kids or with grown kids – share this post with someone you know who has children.
  4. For more reading on the subject, check out the book How to Raise An Adult

Parenting is one of the many issues where having the outside perspective of a life coach who can tailor their feedback to your particular family situation is key.   If you’d like to know more about how I work with clients on these and other issues, schedule a complimentary coaching session.