I write often here about the risks and effects of overparenting. When a parent assumes a role that’s part manager, part agent, and part personal assistant on behalf of their kid, the student loses all opportunities to learn by doing and to assume agency for their own life and education. Naturally, most of those posts are pitched with the parental reader in mind, as it’s their behavior I’m trying to prevent or change.
But what if you’re a student who’s being overparented? What can you do to help your parent see the error of their ways, and even to change their behavior?
Before I share my resource, below, I’d like to remind students of two things.
First, as difficult as it might be, try to assume good intent.
If you write off your parent’s behavior to bad character (“My mom is SO controlling!”), or selfish intentions (“My dad doesn’t want me to have my own life!”), you’re assuming a posture that will put even the most well-meaning parent on the defensive. Parenting is one of life’s most difficult (most rewarding, yes, but still difficult) jobs, and there is no instructional manual issued on day #1. I don’t expect most teens to sympathize with that, and it’s not your job to do so. But just trust me when I tell you that you’ll understand if you become a parent one day. Every single parent I have ever met, myself included, has made mistakes. We have weaknesses, insecurities, and other faults that make us human, not unqualified for the job. With rare exception, almost every case of overparenting I’ve seen comes from a good place–a parent who loves their child and wants to see them live a good life. Yes, those intentions can lead some parents wildly astray in their ensuing behavior. But assuming good intent puts you on the same side of the table as the parent you’re trying to change.
And second, please look closely at your own behaviors before asking your parent to change theirs.
The relevancy of that advice varies a lot depending on the student. Some teens proved they could be trusted to manage their own lives around the time they confidently marched ten feet ahead of their parents into the kindergarten classroom. But others have taken a more traditional route through the teenage years, one sprinkled with questionable decisions and occasional bad outcomes. No, those missteps are not proof that you’re immature and unable to direct your college journey. But you can’t expect a parent to ignore them if you won’t even acknowledge them. Digging your heels in and saying, “Why are you making such a big deal about that?!” doesn’t make it go away nearly as quickly as does, “I shouldn’t have done that, and it won’t happen again.”
Claire Lew puts out regular content to help managers do a better job leading their teams. And I was struck by how relevant her recent piece, “How to deal with a micromanaging boss,” might be for teens who are having a similar experience with their own parent. It was almost as if you could replace every use of “boss” with “parent” and transform the article from one written for workers to one written for teens.
Bad behavior–from both parents and teens–often comes from good people with good intentions. If we can identify the good, we’re much closer to changing the bad.