Can you be "too good" of a parent?
Reader Katherine W. says she's worried she has been overparenting or pampering her kids. "I tried to do the very best I could," she relays, "taking them to parks and interesting places every weekend, reading to them, working in their classrooms and every school event, supervising homework every night, helping with Girl Scouts, driving them to after-school activities, arranging play dates, making family dinners a priority, and on and on." However, Katherine recently noticed that her child's friend, whose parent was not as involved, has grown into a more confident and self-sufficient person. "Did all that effort even make any difference?"
How do you know if you're turning into an overbearing parent? If, like Katherine, you're wondering if you should be less involved, here we've rounded up readers' advice on signs that you may be overparenting.
1. You Praise Profusely
One of the tell-tale signs that you're being overbearing, instead of balanced, is when you notice yourself giving your child a profuse amount of praise. While children need encouragement, parents can go overboard, for instance, when they have an "unconscious, incessant need to praise and reward their kids," says a reader who calls herself "Chatty." She explains: "I think the only time extra praise is warranted is when children are very young; babies and young toddlers have to learn what is appropriate and what isn't, and praising them in an excitable manner when they master a new skill or act in an appropriate or desirable manner helps them to learn. But, if you're over the top and praise them every single time they do something, especially when it's repeatedly for the same thing they've already mastered and done 1,000 times, it's doing them a huge disservice."
As an example, Chatty says when first potty training her daughter, she and her husband gave her lots of "high-fives" and "good jobs." But once her daughter mastered the toilet, she "opened a dialogue with her about how it made her feel to be able to go to the washroom on her own."
2. You Offer Too Many Material Rewards
Similar to offering an abundance of praise, some parents spoil their children with too many material things. Stephanie Y. came to this realization when one year her 9-year-old son "clearly expressed his utter disappointment in his Christmas gifts. He explained that he didn't get what he really wanted and poo-pooed what he did get," she remembers.
After unsuccessfully trying to impart a lesson about the spirit of Christmas, Stephanie realized she had been giving her children way too much. "I am the mom that would carry my kids' backpack for them, or buy the toy to bribe them to be good in the store! I needed to change, be more of a parent." Vowing that her children would never be ungrateful at Christmas again, she reduced the gifts her children were receiving all year round, and also reduced her children's candy consumption, so that they would learn to appreciate Halloween, too.
Charlotte R. is another mom who believes "kids these days have way too many things. When I was growing up we had one phone for the whole house and we had to limit our time to share with everyone. We never got to just sit on the phone and call our friends all the time, because we had household chores to do and our homework and getting ready for school," she says.
3. You Have Low Expectations
With the rigors of school and extracurricular activities, sometimes parents are hesitant to give their children too many responsibilities. But an ill-fated result of not expecting a lot from your children is that parents might do too much for their kids. Setting low expectations while assuming there will be big rewards is especially a common occurrence in school.
4. You Dole Out Few Responsibilities
Setting expectations for your children includes holding them accountable for age-appropriate responsibilities, members add. From a very young age, Ellen B. says, "many kitchen tasks are fair game," and that kids are capable and often willing to bring their dishes to the sink when done, set the table, take the garbage out, and help cook. "And, yes," she adds, "teach them to clean up their messes." Once parents "get over the perception the only you can get things done on time, you will find training them is a time-saver."
Increasing responsibilities and "doing less for them can give them the best possible chance" at becoming self-sufficient, independent adults, mom Ellen explains. "The more children learn to do tasks and make good decisions on their own, the better odds they have of living a productive life," she says.
When you educate your children about their responsibilities, just be sure they understand that they're not being asked to do things because "'mommy is task master,' but rather [because] 'we live together, and share both the work and the pleasure of having our own home,'" Lisa R. notes.
5. You Repeat Yourself Frequently
Once they assign responsibilities, overbearing parents often make the mistake of repeatedly telling children what to do. But parents are not raising robots that should follow every order, mom Angelique A. says. She admits she is sometimes guilty of this with her 14- and 15-year-olds and finds herself constantly telling her own children "to do this and that." She adds: "I mean when will it register that if you see something that needs to be done, just do it?" Still, Angelique knows she needs to lay off if she wants to raise responsible adults. "I was taught independence at a very young age. When I had to, I knew what to do when my parents were away."
6. You Help Without Being Asked
Most parents would help their children at the drop of a hat, but several readers advise that parents would be wise to step back and wait to offer help until children ask for it. As a teacher, Pamela W. says she sees today's parents doing too much for their children when it's not necessary. "I see parents carrying their children's backpacks for them, etc., around the school campuses. I also see far more moms and dads who accompany their children into the classroom at the kindergarten level and spend time before the bell rings," she says.
"It's hard not to helicopter," Shawnn L. admits. But as someone who works at a university, she doesn't support it: "It is extremely frustrating to watch [parents] be overbearing and [make choices] for adult freshman student[s]. It is extremely frustrating to speak to the student and have the parent answer. It is even more frustrating to watch a student make excellent choices with regards to his/her studies, only to see the parent undermine every choice because they either weren't involved enough, or didn't agree."
Lucy L. summarizes: "Don't do something for your child that he or she is capable of doing for themselves."
On the other hand, when parents let children make more decisions and help themselves, they often find that their children are more resourceful than they initially thought. Ann F., for instance, recently encouraged her children to sell their unwanted toys to make some money. "When I checked on them in the playroom, they had a whole pile of toys they wanted to sell and were in the process of lugging them out front." Ann's gut reaction was to stop them, but she had a second thought and asked what they wanted to do with the money they earned. "They said they wanted to donate it to an animal shelter or children's hospital. The whole situation reminded me that sometimes it really is best just to get out of their way, not be overbearing, and when they are making their own fun without any parental involvement, to just let them be," she says.
As a reader who calls herself "Vegemite Cheese" says of parenting, "It's not always what you do for your kids but what you teach your kids to do for themselves."
7. You Try to Prevent All Mistakes
Of course, when making their own decisions, children will make some mistakes, but Lisa B. says it's healthy to let mistakes happen in a safe environment. "Both my kids are extremely careful about touching hot objects and getting their little fingers caught in doors/drawers. That's because I've let them try it when they were 6 months old. As soon as they were able to open and close a drawer, I've allowed them to close it (not too strongly, though), on their own fingers," she says. "Rather than preventing them from doing something dangerous, I let them experience the consequences (provided it isn't health/life-threatening). They know what it's like to touch a hot drink. When they fall, they know they have to get up and dust themselves off, all on their own."
As another example, Lisa adds that her son once had a bad habit of putting his fingers and toys in his mouth. "After reminding him several times that it was dirty, I waited to see what would happen. He caught a very painful mouth sore. But now he knows the consequences of putting dirty objects in his mouth," she says. Of course, she offers the caveat that she always tries to reinforce good behavior.
Ultimately, moms and dads can avoid overparenting by being supportive of their children, but not being overinvolved, Circle of Moms members say. "There is such a thing as being too involved, too loving, too praising, too in-tune with what your kids are doing . . . just as the other extreme suggests an unhealthy relationship with kids (no affection, attention, encouragement, etc.). Balance really is the key component of all facets of humanity," Jamie B. says.
"Being over-protective is an easy and common mistake that parents make," admits mom Riana F., noting she sometimes closes her eyes and says, "World please be gentle with this child of mine." But, she realizes, "The world will never be gentle, it will only ever be real, and if I try to protect my children from its challenges I will also be protecting them from its rewards."
Image Source: Shutterstock
“Their video footage actually contains children that have been recycled in different reports. So you can find a girl named Aya who turns up in a report in say August, and she turns up in the next month in two different locations.”Eva Bartlett, 9 December 2016
Eva Bartlett is a Canadian citizen who describes herself as an “independent writer and rights activist”.
She writes a blog for the state-funded Russian media outlet Russia Today and is candid about her support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting Syrian rebels with Russian and Iranian help.
In a speech organised by the Syrian mission to the UN, Ms Bartlett recently criticised the western “corporate media”, saying journalists were “compromised” and used sources that were “not credible”.
She went on to attack the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group funded by a number of western governments including Britain.
Western media outlets – including Channel 4 News – frequently broadcast footage supplied by the White Helmets, which purports to show the aftermath of regime attacks on various rebel-held areas in Syria.
Supporters of the Assad regime have variously accused the White Helmets of being puppets of western powers, peddlers of faked footage or even terrorist fighters posing as humanitarian workers, all of which the organisation vigorously denies.
Ms Bartlett said: “Their video footage actually contains children that have been recycled in different reports; so you can find a girl named Aya who turns up in a report in say August, and she turns up in the next month in two different locations.”
A clip from the press conference has been viewed more than 3 million times on In The NOW, a Facebook page run by Russia Today but not branded as such.
We’ve tried to contact Ms Bartlett without success, so it’s not 100 per cent clear what she means by this, but our best guess is that she is referring to a claim involving a girl called Aya which has been circulated widely on the internet:
The suggestion here is that the White Helmets filmed the same child – presumably some kind of actor – at three different locations, presumably to exaggerate the effects of regime bombing, or to fake attacks altogether.
This is almost certainly nonsense. Here’s why.
The dates mentioned in this photo montage are roughly accurate.
The girl in the top half of the picture was photographed on 27 August by Abdalrhman Ismail, a Reuters photographer who has been working on the front line of the Syrian conflict for three years.
The shots show an unnamed girl and two other children supposedly being rescued from rubble by White Helmets.
Mr Ismail shot the girl alone and with other children, along with many other survivors of two airstrikes that hit the Bab al-Nairab district of Aleppo.
Two barrel bomb strikes on that neighbourhood on that day were very widely reported. The attack that day was notable because it hit a funeral where civilians were mourning deaths from an earlier attack.
Some people commenting online seem to think it sinister that the child was photographed in the arms of three different men, but we have seen plenty of other footage from Syria where rescuers work in a chain and pass children to each other.
The girl in the bottom left photo is hard to see from the still used in the “Al Qaeda/White Helmets” montage. She was the subject of an astonishing piece of video footage that was broadcast around the world in September this year.
Identified in reports as Rawan Alowsh, aged five, the girl was shown buried deep in debris after an airstrike in Aleppo on 23 September this year. The rest of her family – three sisters, parents and baby brother – were reported to have perished.
The long sequence in which rescuers painstakingly clearing rubble away from around the girl suggests that it would have been difficult to fake this footage.
Someone would have had to have buried a screaming child up to their chest in rubble and carefully assembled a large amount of heavy wreckage around and on top of her – an extraordinary logistical challenge and an extraordinary collective act of child abuse.
Judging by some of the online conversation about this, some people don’t believe it’s possible for children to be pulled out of the rubble of collapsed buildings without serious injury, but we know that it can happen.
It happened recently after an earthquake in central Italy. And in other conflict zones, adults and children have been known to emerge unscathed from houses wrecked by bombs.
Indeed, Eva Bartlett herself reported on such a case in Gaza in 2009, telling the story of a Palestinian man called Abu Qusay who was “buried alive” by an Israeli bomb but emerged with “only a mere scar at his left eyebrow”.
The footage was not released to the world’s media by the White Helmets through their usual online channels.
Rawan is later filmed lying on a hospital bed soon afterwards, apparently asleep or unconscious. Her jumper has been removed and her face is more clearly visible:
Some online comments we have seen suggest – without any evidence – that this is not the same girl we see being rescued and carried away. But some of the details of the outfits match, like the two gold bangles the girl is wearing on her left wrist, which is visible in earlier footage too.
A report in the Australian newspaper from a few days later – heavily based on conversations with doctors in rebel-held Aleppo – said of Rawan: “She is being cared for by her grandparents but remains in deep shock, barely able to speak and apparently unable to understand that her parents and siblings are dead.”
This video footage was also very widely circulated. It was first uploaded to YouTube by anti-Assad activists in Talbiseh, a large rebel-held town just north of Homs, and around 100 miles away from Aleppo. Again, it was not released by the White Helmets.
We see a girl with blood apparently pouring from a wound on the bridge of her nose, in some distress, after an airstrike on Talbiseh on 10 October. She is calling for her father in Arabic:
The girl then gives her name as Aya. She was reported to be eight years old. Reports from the time suggested that Aya’s parents and three siblings all survived the attack and she was reunited with them later.
Again, judging from comments, some people believe that this footage is staged, that the girl is acting and the blood on her face is fake.
Whatever this video does and doesn’t show, it lets us have a good look at Aya’s face, so we can compare the three girls side by side.
It seems pretty obvious that these are three different children, with quite different facial features:
We can also clearly see throughout the footage that, despite some superficial similarities in the girls’ outfits, they are not wearing the same clothes.
Aya is wearing a sleeveless turquoise top, while Rawan is wearing a jumper in a similar colour and the unnamed girl photographed by Abdulrhman Ismail is wearing a turquoise top with a distinctively different design.
Like Rawan, this girl wears gold bracelets, but they are on her right wrist. And unlike Rawan, her jeans are studded with sequins.
Timing of the attacks
Another thing we can check is whether there are independent accounts of attacks taking place at times and places that fit these incidents.
In the case of the unnamed first child, the attack in August was described by the Reuters photographer who took the picture, and there are numerous other press reports of a double airstrike in the same neighbourhood of Aleppo on that day.
Rawan was purportedly rescued from rubble on 23 September, a day when anti-government activists in Aleppo, local medical staff, journalists on the ground, the UN agency Unicef, Human Rights Watch, the Violations Documentation Center and others all reported heavy airstrikes on the city.
Indeed, the Syrian Army announced it was about to launch an operation to retake rebel-held districts of east Aleppo, including airstrikes, shortly before the incident.
In the case of “Aya”, footage uploaded by the same activist group in Talbiseh on the same day shows the aftermath of bombing on the town. Videos of victims, including crying infants and the dead body of an elderly man, were posted on the same day, apparently without attracting disbelief.
The attack took place a week after a wave of airstrikes in the area, after Russian officers were quoted as saying they were intensifying the air campaign in rebel-held areas.
It’s hard to prove something like this absolutely, but we think it is beyond reasonable doubt that the three little girls in these pictures are different people.
We would suggest that if you choose different still images and compare them with each other, the girls don’t really bear a very strong facial resemblance to each other at all.
The most striking similarity is their outfits – turquoise tops and jeans. But that raises an obvious question: if you really were using a child actor to fake three different incidents, why would you dress them in similar clothes? Logically, if anything, wouldn’t you make an effort to make them look as different as possible?
Add to that the other circumstantial evidence: the White Helmets – supposedly the instigators of all this “fakery” – did not actually release the footage of any of these rescues via their usual channels.
It’s not clear whether critics of the White Helmets believe that all the videos the group posts of people being rescued from bombed-out houses are fake. There are dozens listed on the group’s YouTube page in the last six months alone.
In the case of all of these three girls, we have footage of other injured children from around the same time as the attacks took place, which no one has suggested was staged. Why use fake victims when there were other real people to film and photograph?
And we have a Reuters photographer on the ground at one of the incidents, who was satisfied that the events he was recording were genuine.
Finally, we can verify from other sources that the airstrikes that led to these pictures really happened, and judging from the time they were first uploaded, we know that the pictures were taken very soon after bombs fell in the vicinity.
So to believe that these images are really of the same child actor, you would have to believe that a little girl was on standby somewhere in Syria, waiting to be rushed to different locations – crossing several front lines in the process – as soon as there was news of a regime airstrike.
Perhaps the simpler explanation is the more likely one: children really are being orphaned in Syria, or left wounded and distressed, and those children are now being wrongly accused of involvement in an elaborate conspiracy.
We ought to say that there is the possibility that Eva Bartlett had something else in mind entirely from this montage of pictures. We’ve tried to contact her for clarification but haven’t received a reply yet. We will update the blog if she gets back to us.