Parenting: How to Avoid Over-Parenting When Kids Go Back to School

giveaways!parentingages and stages

This just in: Parenting is hard. We all just want to be involved in our kids’ lives and make sure our kids are responsible and  successful. Is that such a crime? Apparently, intense involvement in our children’s lives may actually be hindering their growth. It’s important to know when to let your kids fly free and allow them to make their own mistakes. Find the line between good parenting and over parenting.

Kid doing homework in the light

How to Avoid Over-Parenting When Kids Go Back to School

Here are some things to be aware of in order to keep your parenting in check as you send the kiddos back to school:

Praise Effort

Praise is a good thing. You want your child to be confident and feel good about themselves. Here’s the trick: Praise effort, not intelligence or talent.

What happens when you praise your child’s intelligence or talent?

  • Your child will develop an aversion of trying difficult things because they are unsure of how far their talent will take them.
  • Your child will doubt themselves if anything goes wrong or they make a mistake.

What happens when you praise your child’s effort?

  • Your child will learn to enjoy challenges and exerting effort toward a goal.
  • Your child will look forward to the growth-oriented process.
  • Your child will not feel judged by praise. (Dweck, 2006)

Let me explain my last point. By only praising your child’s talents or intelligence, they will interpret their success or failure as a reflection of who they are. So if they get an “A” on a test and you say, “You’re a genius!” they will understand the opposite to be true, as well. So when they get a “C” on a test, they will hear, “I’m not smart,” and feel judged even though that was not your intention when you told them they were a genius.

Boy in a hat standing with hands on hips

Here are examples of praising talent and intelligence and how your child interprets it:

  1. You are a prodigy! You are so good at the piano without even practicing!
    I better not practice because if I'm not good when I practice, they’ll see I’m not a prodigy.
  2. You are brilliant! You learned that so quickly!
    If I don’t learn something quickly, I’m not brilliant.

Here are some examples of praising effort and the growth process:

  • You studied so hard for that test and your improvement shows it!
  • I’m so glad you took on that challenging science project. You’re going to learn so many great things!

Here are some examples of how to react when your child doesn't do well:

  • Everyone learns differently. Let’s try some different ways to see what works best for you.
  • You put in so much effort on this assignment. Let’s work together and find out what part you don’t understand.

For more information about parenting and praise, check out Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

Making Mistakes

Mistakes are good. Despite how much you want to prevent them, protecting your children from failure is not a good thing. Can you imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t have to overcome challenges and deal with failures? I’m guessing your life would be pretty boring and you would have missed out on defining points in your life.

Mom holding a sad boy In many cases, kids need to go through failure to be reassured that the world won’t come to an end when they make a mistake. (Gibbs)

How to help your child deal with their mistakes:

  • Sympathize with your child
  • Be honest
  • Teach them how to learn from their failures
  • Teach them how to succeed in the future

This is easier said than done. Just make sure your don’t give your child a phony boost to help them feel better in the moment (ex. “Well, I thought you were the best.”) They will see right through insincerity and it will only lead to further disappointment. (Dweck, 2006)

Constructive Criticism

Going back to praising, make sure you don’t make your child feel judged by attacking their intelligence or character. You want to make sure they know you are trying to help them, that you want them to learn as much as possible, and learn good study skills.

For more information about parenting and constructive criticism, check out Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

Simplify Their Schedule

While you want your children to be well rounded, it may be detrimental to have your child in soccer, karate, piano, and ballet all at the same time. Keep it simple.

Little girl in tutu knealing on the ground

Having your kid involved in so many different activities can become a source of stress. “Now, a certain amount of stress can be a good thing. The occasional surge of cortisol and adrenaline, the chemicals the body produces in response to stress, can give kids an extra push to master physical challenges and new skills. But living in a constant state of tension is a major health problem.” (Kiger)

Help your children reduce everyday stress by helping them simplify their lives. Here are some ways you can help them simplify:

  1. Make a list of essential activities (school, sleep, etc.)
  2. List their other activities in order enjoyment (piano lessons, dance, sports, etc.)
  3. Eliminate activities low in enjoyment
  4. Help them set aside free time for themselves (reading for fun, hanging out with friends, playing, etc.)

You can also help your kids simplify and de-stress their lives by being an example of how to de-stress. They are looking to you to determine how they should live their lives; make sure you make time to spend with them and take time for yourself.

Encourage Free Play

Let your kids be kids. This goes along with helping your children simplify their lives. Make sure they have time to be silly and explore and discover the world for themselves.

Carl Honoré, author of Under Pressure, writes and lectures about the importance of slowing down. He often cites research that suggests a relaxed brain is more creative, more able to make connections, and better at problem-solving.

"With children," Honoré argues, "they need that space not to be entertained or distracted. What boredom does is take away the noise ... and leave them with space to think deeply, invent their own game, create their own distraction. It's a useful trampoline for children to learn how to get by."Kids laughing on a merry-go-round

Other research suggests that play is essential for a child’s emotional diet; it helps build leadership skills, sociability, flexibility, and resilience. (Gibbs)

Free playtime can be especially effective if your child is having a hard time solving a problem or understanding a concept. Sometimes their mind just needs to relax in order digest and solve problems.

Make sure you help your kids set aside time to let their mind relax. Whether it’s riding their bike, playing a game, coloring, or playing with toys, this time is essential for their emotional and social development.


Remember, these are your kids. You know them better than anyone else and know what they need better than anyone else. They are your responsibility. If you have more than one child, you know that every child is different and needs to be parented differently (as if it’s not difficult enough already).

If you're trying to decide how to parent, sometimes you need to cut out all the noise of the media and know-it-all moms and just listen to your instincts and do what you know is best for your child’s development. Take the good advice and weed out the bad.

Happy parenting!

 How do you help your kids establish a good, well rounded routine?

1. Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
2. Kiger, Patrick.
3. Gibbs, Nancy.,9171,1940697,00.html#ixzz25AAi1rUR

Cari Thompson Cari Thompson—the artist formerly known as Cari Stewart—is a wife, copywriter, online marketer, and blogger. She currently lives in the mommy blogger space as an editor, SEO specialist, and account manager. Her three greatest accomplishments: beating Super Mario 3 in one night without a whistle, drumming for tens of people, and licking an ice sculpture at the Versace Mansion. Check her out at,, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.
Overhead photo of boy courtesy of Flickr.
Sad boy photo courtesy of Flickr.
Ballet girl photo courtesy of Flickr.
Kids playing photo courtesy of Flickr.
The following two tabs change content below.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Web Statistics