Why Children of Overprotective Parents Are Slated to Fail in Life


Grace loves to write commentaries on psycho-cultural and sociocultural dynamics in their myriad forms.

Overprotective parents are only doing a disservice by sheltering their children from life. They are preventing their children from exploring and enjoying the normal things of childhood.

Overprotective parents are only doing a disservice by sheltering their children from life. They are preventing their children from exploring and enjoying the normal things of childhood.

Janko Ferlič

Why Sheltering Children Prevents Them From Coping in the Real World

More and more studies have confirmed that children of overprotective parents are risk-averse, have difficulty making decisions, and lack the wherewithal to become successful in life.

Furthermore, children of overprotective (OP) parents cannot deal adequately with hardships and other frustrations of life. In other words, they have a very low tolerance for frustration and crumble at the first sign of it.

What Is Overprotective Parenting?

  • Sheltering
  • Constant Supervision and Micromanagement
  • Prevention of Taking Responsibility
  • Excessive Catering and Over-Consoling
  • Controlling of the Social Sphere
  • Excessive Caution
  • Creating Dependency
Sheltering children only makes them extremely dependent and unable to cope in the real world.

Sheltering children only makes them extremely dependent and unable to cope in the real world.

Jenna Christina

Protecting Versus Overprotecting Your Child

I remember when I was in eighth grade, there was a boy whose mother took him to school everyday. There was nothing wrong with the boy and he was an honor student. The other pupils in the class found it totally absurd and ludicrous that a mother would take her 13-year-old child to school.

He was constantly derided by the other children, and called a mama’s boy or worse. If his mother did not take him to school, his father did! Even the teachers disrespected him, calling him an infant. When the weather was bad, he stayed home from school.

This boy never participated in school events as many of them were unsupervised. His parents insisted upon being present at his every move. Of course, he never had any friends while in the eighth grade. The other children thought that he was too peculiar and babyish. Some of the other boys consistently bullied him to no end. Everywhere he went was with his parents. This is clearly abnormal for an early adolescent who should be forming some type of friendship and independence.

What Does Helicopter Parenting Mean?

Helicopter parents, cosseting parents, cosseters, bulldozer parents, or lawnmower parents are terms used to describe intrusive parents who are overly involved in their child’s progress in life, especially in education. According to expert Alicia Bradley, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and adjunct professor:

“This term is used a lot with adolescents or even adult children [and refers to] trying to always be involved in every aspect of that child’s life, not just in a supportive way, but in a controlling way. Many times this can be difficult for the child and end up causing stress or tension in the relationship.”

If helicopter parenting is detrimental to children, when and why did it evolve? Former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, Julie Lythcott-Haims, details the events spanning from the 1980s which contributed to the evolution and coining of the term “helicopter parents.” This decade was characterized by an increase in child abductions throughout the U.S. and included the abduction of Adam Walsh which gained national attention and pushed Congress to create the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 1984 later saw an increase in the popularity of the “playdate,” during which kids were no longer left unsupervised by parents. By 1990, child development researchers Foster Cline and Jim Fay formerly coined the term “helicopter parent.”

There are parents who believe that children should never experience frustrations, difficulties, and other perils in life.

There are parents who believe that children should never experience frustrations, difficulties, and other perils in life.

Annie Theby

Actions, Intentions, and Traits of Overprotective Parents


Oftentimes, overprotective parents believe that they are doing the best thing for their children. Parents often shelter their kids from the “harsher,” “more difficult,” and “less desirable” aspects of childhood. According to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in which 190 children were examined for anxiety and co-concurring child behavior symptoms, “Maternal overprotective parenting was significantly higher in the group of children with behavior disorders . . . .” The study suggests that OP parenting styles negatively impact behavior in the long-run, despite the parents’ intention for their children to have the best life that can be offered.

Constant Supervision and Micromanagement

These children are often not free to indulge in unsupervised activities like other children. Their parents are of the school that the best activities are supervised ones. Parents who constantly micromanage deprive their children of free will and prevent them from becoming proactive adults.

Prevention of Taking Responsibility

OP children are not assigned household chores and other responsibilities because their parents contend that these are anathema to a carefree childhood. Children who are not given responsibilities, not asked to pitch in, and not self-reliant, fail to thrive in standards situations.

Excessive Catering and Over-Consoling

Children who are excessively catered to expect everything at the drop of a hat. Patience and resiliency is not something that is learned from over-indulgence. A study published by the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford Univerity found that coping with early life stress expanded regions of the brain that help control resiliency. For instance, a child who is consoled for receiving a bad mark on a paper does not benefit. Instead, the lesson should be character building and further prepare the child for the future. Rejection is a part of a life and offers a good opportunity to teach a child the power of bouncing back.

The Differences in Reported Stress Levels Across Generations

The American Psychological Association commissions an annual study termed Stress in America. 2015 data revealed that younger generations are experiencing more stress than older generations: “On average, Millennials and Gen Xers report higher levels of stress than Boomers and Matures . . . and have done so since 2012.”

Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., explains how secure and relaxed parenting styles help to keep cortisol levels low in children, reduce stress, and encourage the development of self-soothing techniques. Dr. Dewar adds that this style of sensitive, responsive parenting is thought to enhance problem-solving abilities, attention skills, and school readiness.

Reported stress levels are on the rise in younger generations. Parenting styles that reduce stress levels will help prevent children from floundering in the stressors of life.

Reported stress levels are on the rise in younger generations. Parenting styles that reduce stress levels will help prevent children from floundering in the stressors of life.

American Psychology Association

Controlling of Social Sphere

Parents who control their child’s social sphere hinder them from branching out on their own and developing essential social skills that will later serve them in the adult world. By worrying about the influences of other children, parenting styles, and lifestyles, sheltered children miss out on learning how to embrace and adapt to differences in opinions, preferences, and life choices. Underexposing a child makes them maladapted to the real world.

Excessive Caution

When a parent incessantly worries, tracks, or snoops on a child (via cellular devices, social media, or by reading private content such as written diaries), the child loses their sense of individuality and sense of self. The parent tries to pacify their fears by digging into their child’s private life rather than developing a healthy relationship founded on trust and open communication. Parents who worry about catastrophic events and bar their child from living life raise an adult who will be risk-averse later in life.

Creating Dependency

Overprotective parents are invasive in other ways. They solve problems for their children that the latter are often capable of solving themselves. They infantilize their children by making them feel incapable of charting their own course. In fact, these parents are making their children extremely dependent and infantilized past an appropriate age.

The overprotected child will likely not learn the skills needed to form their own identity and learn how to solve problems independently. They will not know how to use critical thinking skills to handle different life situations. Their frustration tolerance can be low and anxiety can be high.

— Alicia Bradley, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

How Overprotecting a Child Affects Them at School

Traits of an OP Child in School:

  • Dependent on Teachers
  • Labeled a Difficult Student
  • Lacking in Maturity
  • Sense of Entitlement
  • Easy Target for Bullies
  • Labeled Misfits
  • Academically Ahead, Socially Behind
  • Lacking in Knowledge of Age-Appropriate Life Situations

Dependent on Teachers

Teachers are not especially pleased with OP children. Teachers often have to assume quasi-parental roles with these kids, doing things such as tying their shoes and performing other tasks that they should be performing themselves. Many teachers voice utter dismay at the backwardness of overprotected children. These are the children who have poor or nonexistent social, emotional, and survival skills.

Labeled a Difficult Student

Furthermore, such children are often the most difficult pupils around. These children often expect teachers to mollycoddle them as their parents have done. They get quite a surprise when teachers treat them like their other students. Oftentimes, these children cannot adjust well to the school environment where some sort of independence is required.

Lacking in Maturity

Children of overprotective parents are often years behind in maturity in comparison to their more free-range peers. Teachers further remark that these kids are highly dependent and insist on being assisted as much as possible. Teachers do not have the time to individually assist each child as there are often many kids in the classroom setting. In other words, overprotected kids are quite problematic for teachers.

Sense of Entitlement

Because of their upbringing, sheltered kids have a sense of entitlement and feel they should have their way. They were not told by their parents that they are not the center of the universe and they must learn to cooperate with others. Because they have a high sense of specialness, they often become quite unhinged when situations are not in their favor.

Easy Target for Bullies

Many such children are often prey for school bullies because they did not develop the social and street savvy needed to survive the school environment. Bullies usually target children who are quite defenseless and extremely vulnerable. In other words, bullies do not attack children who possess self-confidence, social and street savvy, because they know it would be a losing battle. In a study of 197 kindergarteners published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, researchers concluded that:

“Relations between shyness and certain indices of maladjustment were stronger among children with mothers characterized by higher neuroticism, BIS sensitivity, and an overprotective parenting style . . . . “

What Is BIS Sensitivity?

BIS sensitivity or behavioral inhibition sensitivity helps to regulate aversive motives, during which a subject moves away from an undesirable stimulus. OP children of BIS-sensitive parents find it difficult to try new and different situations and they are often risk-aversive themselves. They tend not to be adventurous and are quite timorous regarding life situations.

Labeled Misfits

OP children are often not respected by their peers because of their infantile mannerisms. Their peers consider them utter misfits. Such children do not have the bounce and competitiveness that children from free-range environments often possess. They are often needy and dependent at an age when gradual independence should occur.

Academically Ahead, Socially Behind

Oftentimes, OP children are years behind in development in comparison to their peers. Of course, when parents excessively infantilize their children, it makes them socially, emotionally, and psychological retarded. Even though these children earn high grades, they lack common sense. Other children sense this and these children are often targeted not only by bullies, but other stronger children.

Lacking in Knowledge of Age-Appropriate Life Situations

These kids are sheltered and not aware of age-appropriate life situations. An overprotected 13-year-old often acts as if he or she is several years younger than their actual chronological age. They are also overly dependent upon their parents as they were seldom, if ever, allowed to independently explore their social environment as other children do.

Teachers find that overprotected children tend to be overly dependent and deficient in decision making and judgment skills, and lack accountability and responsibility.

Teachers find that overprotected children tend to be overly dependent and deficient in decision making and judgment skills, and lack accountability and responsibility.

Chen Feng

The Consequences of Treating Teenagers Like Children

Overprotected teenagers are often lost in comparison to their more free-range peers and tend to be:

  • Outcasts and Pariahs
  • Dependent and Risk-Adverse

While their free-range peers are free to explore adolescence in all its intricacies, the overprotected teenager is either kept under a severely tight rein or overly scheduled in activities of their parents’ choosing. They are treated more like children than like the burgeoning independent adults they are becoming.

These teenagers often have quaintly inappropriate curfews for their ages while other peers have more relaxed curfews. Many overprotected teenagers become resigned to their parental influence, just accepting it as their lot in life. Oftentimes, overprotected teenagers accept their overprotective environment as normal. Some are so infantilized and passive that they believe that they can do nothing about it.

Outcasts and Pariahs

Overprotected teenagers are more at a loss in the high school environment than their counterparts in either elementary and junior high school. These teenagers often have nonexistent or extremely poor social skills. This makes them outcasts and pariahs among their peers. Teachers furthermore find such teenagers distressing and disturbing to say the least. These teenagers are emotionally underdeveloped in many ways.

Dependent and Risk-Averse

OP teenagers are the most dependent and risk-averse teens around. Because many of them had no freedom and time to indulge in unsupervised behavior, many of them become quite unhinged when presented with an opportunity to participate in independent behavior. Teenagers who are the wildest and the most rebellious at gatherings are usually the sheltered ones who were kept under a tight watch by their parents.

Overprotected teenagers are on a very tight rein. They have a more restrictive environments than other teenagers.

Overprotected teenagers are on a very tight rein. They have a more restrictive environments than other teenagers.

Angelo Mercadante

Overprotected Children Do Not Possess the Life Skills Needed for College

During the college years, many overprotected young adults find it extremely difficult and onerous to adjust to college or university life and are often:

  • Socially Unrelatable
  • Likely to Become Unhinged
  • Incapable of Living Independently
  • Unable to Make Decisions

Alicia Bradley, LCPC and adjunct psychology professor, explains:

“If [a young adult’s] sense of identity is not formed, they may not know how to make some important decisions when they are getting out on their own, such as what field they want to get into, how to manage having a job and being a high-functioning, independent adult.”

This applies especially if they elect to attend a school away from their parents’ domiciles.

Socially Unrelatable

Overprotected college students are often the bane of their more independent peers and roommates. The latter do not understand how the former is oftentimes quite immature and do not possess essential life/survival skills every adult should have.

Likely to Become Unhinged

Many overprotected teenagers are under such extreme restraints that at the first opportunity when they are away from their parents, they become totally unhinged and wild. Bradley adds:

“[OP children] may also hold some resentment towards the parent for not allowing them the ability to grow and develop like their peers. This can cause a strain in the relationship and that child may begin to push back and engage in some risky or undesirable behaviors.”

Incapable of Living Independently

These are the young adults who possess very little or no sort of life skills. They are often a horror to the more responsible roommate who was raised to be independent at an early age. Many OP children, once they reach college age, find it arduous to live on their own without their parents.

Unable to Make Decisions

These young adults are extremely dependent and are unaccustomed to independent behavior and decision making. According to an article on PsychologyToday.com titled, “The Effects of ‘Helicopter Parenting:'”

“College-aged students whose parents are overly involved in their academic lives, or whose parents created rigidly structured childhood environments, are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. They may also experience academic difficulties.”

Many of these students have parents who choose their school and their majors in the hopes that everything will be smooth for them. They also find it onerous to use independent judgment regarding their college courses and in everyday life, however, many of these overprotected students flunk out because they clearly do not possess the prerequisite independence to survive and thrive.

Traits of an Adult-Child

In the workplace, OP children as adults are incapable of using independent and logical judgment regarding their tasks. They are not self-starters and depend on their supervisors or superiors to tell them what to do.

In the workplace, OP children as adults are incapable of using independent and logical judgment regarding their tasks. They are not self-starters and depend on their supervisors or superiors to tell them what to do.

Photo by Stefano Pollio

How Overprotected Children Are Hindered in the Workplace

In the work world, overprotected young adults fare even worse. The signs of an OP potential hire include:

  • Parents Who Attend the Job Interview
  • The Adult-Child Complex
  • Lack of Independent Thinking

Supervisors and superiors are neither going to tolerate nor placate this infantilized adult. Many employers express dismal horror at incoming prospective employees whose overprotective parents come with them during interviews.

Parents Who Attend the Job Interview

This was never done before. It used to be when a prospective employee goes for a job interview, he or she went alone. Nowadays, there is a “new” style of parenting which the parent is very involved in even though that “child” is considered an adult in societal eyes.

The Adult-Child Complex

The OP child’s parents appear at their child’s job interview, informing the interviewer of how special their child is and the skills that can be contributed to the company. Of course, many interviewers are quite nonplussed at this. They figure, and rightly so, that something is quite amiss here. This adult-child is quite immature and would be bad news for the company. The prospect of this adult-child getting a job is now dismal to none.

Lack of Independent Thinking

If an adult-child is hired, they are going to be an immense burden on a modern corporate team. These adult-children make poor employees. They possess no concept of initiative nor independent thinking. They constantly want to be told what to do as befitting their familial environment. These employees are clearly not promotable. On the contrary, these employees are more likely to be fired or serially fired. Overprotected adult-children are more likely to be unemployable than their peers who were raised in a more independent environment.

Overprotected children, as adults, are often the more passive ones in relationships, whether platonic, romantic, or committal. They expect to be taken care of.

Overprotected children, as adults, are often the more passive ones in relationships, whether platonic, romantic, or committal. They expect to be taken care of.

Elvin Ruiz

Overprotected Children Tend to Struggle in Relationships

OP adult-children tend to wind up in defunct relationships, during which the following happens:

  • (The OP Adult-Child) Is Extremely Passive
  • Parental Involvement
  • Imbalanced Dynamics

Extremely Passive

Regarding relationships, these adult-children are often extremely passive in any relationship they go into. Most of the relationships, whether it is platonic or romantic, do not last very long.

Parental Involvement

No person wants to compete with the omnipresence of a parent or parents regarding relationships. People often avoid relationships with such adult-children as the relationship can be called vampiric in more ways than one. These people are viewed as babies and no one wants to babysit an adult.

Imbalanced Dynamics

Many adult-children, because of their lack of savvy or social skills, enter into abusive relationships when their partner is the more dominant and/or parental partner. Even though this relationship is often abusive and unequal, these adult-children reluctantly remain in such relationships because they do not possess the means to dissolve it.

The Consequences of Overprotecting Children

Why OP Children Fail in School

In conclusion, overprotected children are slated for failure in school and in life. These children are so infantilized by their parents that they cannot survive the school environment. Teachers view the child as emotionally, socially, and psychologically backwards even though they can be academically prodigious.

Other children avoid OP children because of their needy and dependent nature. They are often a target for bullies because of their lack of social skills and street smarts.

Why OP Children Struggle With Socializing

Overprotected teenagers do not possess the skills that other teenagers possess. They are often not capable of indulging in independent social activities which is necessary in their development. Many overprotected teenagers are given harsher and stricter curfews than their peers.

Oftentimes, the only non-school activities that OP teenagers indulge in are those mandated by their parents or supervised by adults. Many parents believe that the teenage years are highly vulnerable and it is best that their teenagers be supervised as much as possible in order “to stay out of trouble.”

Why OP Children Drop Out of College

During the college years, many OP children cannot reasonably adjust to the rigors of college life. This is especially true if they elect to attend school away from their parents’ domicile. Because the university is a more independent and unstructured environment than either grade school, junior high, and high school, the typical overprotected student cannot survive, thus they often flunk out.

Why Adult-Children Struggle in the Workplace

In the work world or the “real world,” OP children are quite abysmal failures. They often do not possess the skills necessary to thrive and survive in the workplace. They possess no or low self-confidence, no initiative, and a low tolerance for frustration and hardships which is often commonplace in the work environment.

Furthermore, the supervisor is not their parent but someone who expects them to contribute and pull their weight. Many of these children end up being terminated from their employment—not once but several times. More often they become quite unemployable.

Why Adult-Children Struggle With Relationships

Overprotected children fare worse in relationships where equality is required. They are often at the extreme passive end of relationships as they were raised that way by their parents. Oftentimes, because of their extreme lack of social skills and their passivity, they are drawn into relationships where their partner is more dominant than they are.

Even though these relationships are quite abusive and Svengali-like, they prefer to stay in the “safety” of such relationships than to develop a backbone and have a more fulfilling relationship.

Give your children more time to play and focus on the process of the activity rather than the outcome.

Give your children more time to play and focus on the process of the activity rather than the outcome.

Patricia Prudente

The Importance of Raising Independent, Happy, Successful Children

Overprotected children end up to be failures in life in more ways than one, and OP parents are only damaging their children and either do not or refuse to acknowledge this. Many kids remain in their infantile state until it is quite too late to change! Learn to let go as a parent and let your children grow up. Let us raise our children to be fully functioning and independent adults!

Tips for Raising Independent Children

  • Encourage Trying: Encourage your children to try new things, branch out, and get out of their comfort zone. Celebrate effort independent of outcome. If it’s trying a new sport or a new activity, celebrate the fact your child gave it a try.
  • Encourage Contributions: Invite your children to be part of the team and encourage them to make age-appropriate contributions. Have them help with walking the dog, putting the dishes away, or helping a sibling get to school in the morning. Responsibilities help children learn the value of trust and teamwork.
  • Encourage Problem Solving: Rather than getting involved at the first sign of conflict or challenge, let your child work it out themselves. Don’t always give the answers away. Encourage them to communicate and analyze the situation. What if they are forgetting their soccer shoes on the way to the game? Ask them what they can do to help themselves remember (e.g. leaving the shoes at the front door the night before).
  • Build Confidence: By teaching your kids new tasks every week, you encourage them to develop their repertoire of skills. Learning new skills increases confidence and helps them to take those skills with them into adulthood.
  • Let Them Choose: Rather than arranging everything for them, allow them to make decisions for themselves. For instance, ask them, “Red shoes or black shoes?” or “Orange juice or apple juice?” By encouraging the power of choice, you help them to develop skills as an independent thinker. Independent thinking is another means of helping your child to develop leadership skills.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Any tips on an adult-child where the damage has already been done to reach recovery?

Answer: Seek psychological or psychiatric help regarding the matter.

Question: Why don’t some parents let their children choose what makes them happy?

Answer: Some parents believe that because of their extensive years/experience that THEY know what is BEST for their children. In their purview, they want to protect their children from unseen mistakes/sorrows. They also don’t want their children to fail. They furthermore don’t want their children to experience any unneeded frustrations in life. They want their children to have it better than they(the parents) had it. However, in order for children to be happiest and to reach their furthest potential, children must do what makes them happy as long as it isn’t detrimental.

Question: How to report overprotective parents?

Answer: Unless the parents are physically, verbally, and/or emotional abusive, you really can’t report them. You have to truthfully state that your parents are doing the aforementioned things. Otherwise, discuss the matter with your parents, counselors, or an impartial relative.

© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams


Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on July 10, 2020:

You should discuss this matter w/an impartial relative or better yet, a school counselor. Your parents are doing you a great disservice. They are crippling your life skills.

tate on July 10, 2020:

I just wish there was a way to make my own parents understand that maybe they don’t know what’s best for me, and maybe what they are doing is wrong and doesn’t work. They always become too involved in all aspects of my life. I feel like I have no privacy. They don’t give me the ability to make mistakes. They take away anything that I could possibly do to make a bad decision.

Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on May 31, 2020:

Thank you for your commentary & suggestions. What you have stated is pure genius, thank you!

Camry on May 31, 2020:

Don’t be over protective and learn your kid how to play chess. A child who realizes that one does not always win but also loses, learns humility and respect for other people. I can recommend a very good and briliant book, that can bring you a lot of fun. It’s alll about chess. The rules of chess are very simple and children can learn them already from around the age of three. Not everyone can or wants to become a professional chess player but everyone can use chess for learning. For this purpous I can recommend a book (net-boss.org/chess-puzzles-for-kids-by-maksim-aksanov) with bunch of great exercises, which will help you and your kids to be better in this 🙂

Boris on March 25, 2020:

I kept living my life with guilt thinking it was all my fault. Considering that this is nearly 90% spot on I’m done with that. Thanks.

Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on March 08, 2020:

Speak to an impartial relative or friend about your parents. Arrange to have family counselling as your parents are toxic & are infantilizing you. Your parents are abusive. Your parents are sabotaging you. When you are able, get a job so you can move out & totally disassociate from your parents.

Lauren Rebecca on March 08, 2020:

My parents are making me miserable! I am 20 years old. I am currently a college student who has dealt with my parents for years. I feel like my parents don’t listen to me AT ALL. I have tried, time and time again, to have a talk with them, but have been shut down at every attempt to do so. Failing miserably. Oh, has it been rough. I have been able to make friends, but find it hard to create lasting and less “classroom” friendships. It is hard because when I do attempt to introduce or talk about my friends to my parents, they just right them off as a “bad influence” without getting to know them! If a friend invites me out, I’m given the third degree and a long run around as to why I can’t go. They try to cover it up by saying that they understand, while bashing the person. They same can be said when it comes to dating. I’m scared of someone I like meeting my parents because they put a lot of pressure on people especially when they/I are not at that stage and ready for all of the formalities that comes to meeting someone’s family. I find this ironic because they want me to be able to get married one day. I keep trying to gain my independence by trying to get a job and learning to drive, but they dismiss how I feel and make me feel silly for wanting something. I have lost great opportunities because of my parents’ inability to cooperate. (Example: My dad felt it was burdensome to take me to an interview and then proceeded to bash me to my mother about my birth condition, saying that would be the reason I wouldn’t get the job while I was waiting to leave, I didn’t get it.) There were other situations similar to this one where he would ignore me completely. I try so hard to live by their rules and expectations while I live at home, but it hurts me. I have little to no life skills. I’m unable to express myself because they get angry when I do. This shows up mu other relationships sometimes as well. Then attempt to make me feel bad when they excuse their need to get physical sometimes (my mom). It gets to the point where even when I think I’m doing the right thing for myself, they ALWAYS find a way to rain on my parade. I can’t do anything without asking them. If I did, it would have to fit their life schedule to even attempt to remember (ie. their plans) or acknowledge my own goals. I’m at a loss for what to do?

Patty Poet from Suffolk, VA on February 09, 2020:

This sounds like my family. Even today, I carry the fears that my parents pushed on me when I try to step out on my own and make my own decisions. My brother is 48 years old and my parents still try to steer him and how he raises his own son. Its tough to build your own self confidence when parents treat you as if you can’t make a good decision without them.

jules tea on December 07, 2019:

Retarded? Abysmal? Failure? Misfit? Outcast? Pariah? Slated to fail?

I get it: overprotecting kids is bad.Very bad. Undeniably true. But the author is really laying it on thick here with pathos laden language. Overprotected kids have to fight and struggle harder to prove themselves. From the tone of this article, you’d think that the sheltered child is one step below a psychopath: though nowhere near as cool.

Igor on October 18, 2019:

Based on most of the comments here it appears that the parents are greatly responsible for why their children have a hard time growing up.

Sylvia Davis on June 13, 2019:

I am a overprotective child. I am 23 now and everything that i read is exactly whats happening now to me!! Nobody has no idea how hard it isbto have an overprotective parent!!! Its not easy and life is soooo difficult for me because all i know is whats going on at home. I also can’t seem to do anything without askin my parents first. My relationships don’t last long at all, i had to dump couple of guys because im worried of what my parents will think of me having a boyfriend. I also hang around children and i got fired at a daycare because i was involving with kids like im a child. I got fired at a nursing home because the workplace seem to be much different than home or school. I am going through a lot! I am so far behind! I don’t even think like a 23 year old. Im glad i read this article..maybe i can talk to a counselor about this! So plz parents, dont be afraid to let your kids grow up!! I can teach other kids n parents about what im going through so that they can do better than me! Thanks.

kaleb on May 22, 2019:


DrySeasons on May 07, 2019:

Sadly,wether one like it not, what is said mostly covers, what myown like has been / or goes through – because of how my parents were – NOT GOOD PARENTS ! The more Ithinkof in all ways things did go wrong – and how all of this hurt and destroyd my youth,young years and middle age – in different ways – I CANT BUT HATE THEM AND LOATH THEM !

When growing up – Ilived just for them – to please them – nomatter what. In the years I was supposed to be with friends,running around,and learning bout life,girls and having fun – they isolated me from them. And as i did notparticipate in the youth groups parties,dates, get togethers,and things – they letme forever be,and as I got obsolete I got always dumped as I must never has fitted in (wish I at that point in time,just partly started to sense – but not fully ).

My parents was to afraid for me hooking up on drugs – butin our tiny town,that was hardly great dealin the 1980s,andmost youth in that era in my area,was just into stealing beer, wine or some Vodka !

Later – i Was forever crushed byt their kind terror and need of controle – having been put down and all alreaddy when younger.

I fear – thier way of rising me, and all depressions that my isolation putme through – has created a Bordeline – and Its just yet more saddening. My current fear is – that asimin many ways not a full person – and Imyself has been growing upthis way, it will negatively impact my ownparenting ofmy daughter, though I try not to repeat my own parents mistakes with me,by trying thinking of things.

I feel wery angry, sad,empty and filld of all loss of the life others had but i never had – Its so unfair !

Nature Lover77 on April 24, 2019:

This article covers the subject very well. This sentence, “This boy never participated in school events as many of them were unsupervised” brings up additional issues. I think also that many overprotected kids don’t participate in school events because they’re afraid their parents will get overly involved in the event or get overly chummy with their sons or daughters friends because 1.) they’re possessive and are threatened by their child having friends so they want to muscle in on their kid’s friendship and/or 2.) the OP parents don’t have friends their own age.

I think #2, the parents not having friends their own age is often an elephant in the room. There is often a lot of embarrassing behavior associated with parents who never had friends of their own.

Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on March 27, 2019:

Also you are of legal age; however, in your current state, you aren’t equipped to take care of yourself. You need to seek counselling which will help you develop the skills to eventually move out & be on your own.

Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on March 27, 2019:

Both of you should seek psychological counselling. What your dad did was to cripple you- please seek counselling.

Shyla Wickens on March 27, 2019:

I am a 17 year old girl and I’ll be 18 in a few months. while growing up with my dad, i was very lonely and isolated as an only because my dad didn’t want me and allow me to make friends with kids growing up due to the fact that he attempted to protect me from bad people and influences. this backfired and caused me to lack basic social skills and i developed extreme social anxiety. I couldn’t go out, couldn’t make friends, I lived in a shell and I didn’t know what to do with myself. with me being 17, studying hard in school, working part time, having a car and only recently being able to overcome my anxiety and make friends, its hard for my Dad to adapt to. growing up, he picked and chose my friends. Whenever im out, he texts me and phones me every 30 minutes to see where I’m at. he uses a phone tracker to track me. now that I’ve been making friends as of recently, he has to set up an interview with my friend and the parents to make sure they’re a good fit for me. my Dad tells me I’m NOT allowed to move out at 18. he makes all my decisions for me and does everything for me because he doesn’t trust my ability to do things myself. this has caused me to sit back and think “where’s my dad? I need his help.” when accomplishing the simplest of tasks. I feel like a little kid that constantly needs her dad there to do everything for her. i am a great kid. I don’t drink or smoke, I work and study hard. but this has honestly killed my self esteem. I feel like I can’t do anything for myself. I feel like they don’t trust me. people are always like “just talk to your dad” well it doesn’t work that way. My dad has ALWAYS been in control of my life and no matter what I say, my opinion doesn’t matter. he doesn’t trust me to make friends and do things myself. I feel like I’m just going to stop seeing my friends as there’s really no point on trying anymore. I need help. I feel so miserable living at home and I wish I could just branch out and gain independence. I’m afraid that I won’t even know how to take care of myself when I hit the real world. what do I do? do you think if I just leave at my age of majority then that will damage our relationship?

Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on March 23, 2019:

The whole family needs counselling, especially your mother.

Mark Thatum on March 23, 2019:

Hi! This article was extremely helpful, insightful, and relatable. I dealt with a lot of this growing up, and in many respects feeling the collateral effects of having been brought up this way by a controlling parent. Despite my having been brought up in a two-parent household, my mother was the one who kept a very tight leash on me, as my stepfather was often very detached. I had many conflicts with my parents, especially my mother, growing up and, thus, harbored many resentments towards her for a good chunk of my adolescence, and early 20s (I’m now 28).

She still attempts to be very controlling but I have learned to stave off many of her toxic behaviors. I no longer harbor any resentment and understand that we’re all different.

Now my fear is regarding my two younger siblings, a brother of 19 and sister of 13. I fear my brother’s lot the most because he is at university. He was never as robust and as independently minded as I was, and fears going against my mom very much. He’s 19, stays at home as his college is not far, my mother, for all intents and purposes, forbids him to have many friends, leave the house for extended periods of time, doesn’t allow him to cook for himself, he has no college friends, and is being inculcated with the notion that his education should be his only friend. He called me two days ago and told me something that hurt and disturbed me very much in that he was forbidden to go to his cousin’s wedding in Michigan because of the distance (they live in Delaware…i currently reside in France), and due to issues our mom has with that side of the family as she and my stepfather have divorced.

My brother was very vexed and I felt very sad. And also, my brother is very emotionally handicapped as he acts, expresses, and carries himself much in the manner a 13 year old would. He tells me he wants to transfer to another 4 year institution that way he could reside in the dorms but I told him he knows our mother, who has expressed that she doesn’t want him to move away from home until he has his degree. And also, were or should he move, I know he would have a strenuous time as he has been kept from experiencing the real world. Often isolated and alone with my mom hovering over him.

Long story short, I don’t know what to do, and I want to help and am in dire need of advice as I know this is a ticking time bomb.



Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on March 05, 2019:

Jim, this is a dilemma. Your wife needs psychological counselling. She is crippling the daughter, making her immature as well as fearful. I suggest psychological counselling immediately!

Jim Avitable on March 05, 2019:

My wife does not allow our daughter to walk to school as she is afraid that someone will kidnap her. Also she does not trust our daughter to be alone at home after school as she is afraid she will go out with or invite boys.

Andrea on December 31, 2018:

I am honestly screwed as a person now because of the controlling hovering helicopter parent who has raised me as a 12 year old for 7 years I am 19 living with my parents I don’t know how to make a freaking phone call, don’t have a drivers license been working on that for a while. don’t know how to even really do college and now she wants me to get my license and go out in the world (basically kind of kicking me out soon) I have no idea how I am supposed to live I feel like I am 12.

Teacher on December 14, 2018:

This is spot on!! I’ve taught pre-K through 6th grade for over 30 years and there is a literal epidemic of these children. And the parents are absolutely clueless!! These parents are THE most defensive people, and really believe they’re the best parents. They actually look down on others and criticize THEM. This will be the reason I retire. These clueless parents and their dependent, draining, immature, anxiety ridden children. The parents take up more of my time, the children take up more of everyone’s time. There is them – and then there is the class. An absolute stick in the wheel of progress to everyone around them. These parents hurt everyone, not just their child.

Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on November 04, 2018:

Thank you for your response. There are ALWAYS two sides of the argument. I totally agree w/your premise. What you are mentioning is normal parent protection.

Angigi on November 04, 2018:

This reads like an opinion piece and a one sided one at best. Maybe it is more of a personal scorn with her own parents.

I remember admiring my friend for being such open parent and gave so much freedom to her kids. She wasn’t neglectful, She just believed that her kids should be allowed to fall and learn from their mistakes. After all, she turned out fine. Lofty idea. I couldn’t do it. I set bright line boundaries. I took a proactive but approach teach them time management, prioritization, decision making skills. I helped them choose friends. I teach them good study habits. I teach them values and long term thinking about what’s important in life. All the things author described as overprotection. But Kids don’t just turn 10 and magically know all these things. Adults are still learning all of that as evidenced by many business books teaching those skills in the market. What’s wrong with learning it younger and from your parents? My kids have many friends and are active in school with leadership positions. I see no issue with my overprotective style of parenting. We have great relationships and talk openly about all topics including sex and drugs.

My open parenting style friend’s kids did do what she wanted – experimented freely- but seem not to have learned from any of the falls. Instead they turned bitter for the lack of guidance and now blamed her for their failures in life. One lives with her and watches TV all day, refusing to work. One just had a miscarriage with a baby she didn’t want anyway, after being assaulted by her jail bound boyfriend, both high when police arrived.

Kids need boundaries. Over and over again I see the kids from the hands off parents not living up to their potential. One friend’s two kids got kicked out from Christian school for underage drinking, another for posting semi nude photos on IG underage. Both were very smart and talented in sports. They dropped out of sports now.

If over protection means 100% dictatorship and restriction of all school and sports activities, prohibition from leaving the house and all social interaction outside the home, then yes, that would be very harmful, but I wouldn’t characterize that as over protection but borderline unlawful detentment or child abuse. But that is not the sense I get from author’s description of overprotection.

Truth is, every child is different and there is no one formula for every kid. Some kids thrive with boundaries and some rebel. I disagree with author’s assertion that overprotection would always 100% lead to all those problems cited from her observation as a child many years ago.

Finally, most 13 year olds are dropped off by their parents to school at our middle school. No one picks on them. I don’t know what kind of school author went to.

CJ on October 15, 2018:

I am goin through this and im over 20 its not nice idk how to live true this

TJ on October 01, 2018:

I know and love children set up for this painful end. You cannot avoid the trials of childhood. They just come out later. My only solution is to not let it happen to my kids. I have fought battles against this method of parenting and endured judgement, but my kids are turning out perfectly, surpassing those that judged me. My children are a pleasure to have around and sustain their behavior without me. They are surpassing all the milestones and choose to behave out of their own free will, nurtured and disciplined with boundaries and rules.

This whole culture of pushing off the lessons of childhood to appear to be a nicer parent is revolting. What happens when these kids hit the real world? They will be lambs for the slaughter.

Removing children from the processes of life robs them of the products. An untempered sword shatters. How do you convince a parent that difficulty is good? That the mess is more constructive than their perfection? That temporary conflict is actually better while the consequences of mistakes are small rather than putting those lessons off until the consequences are far more damaging in adulthood.

Who came up with this horrible model for parenthood? It is so unwise…

It is all about the results. I will endure whatever it takes to keep my children out of this strange infantilization culture. My gift to them is when they spread their wings they will fly.

My heart still aches for those who simply have no foresight.

Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on September 11, 2018:

You have made an eloquent response to the hub, thank you for responding.

Lisa on September 11, 2018:

There are several issues with this piece. First, it places all the blame on the parents, dismissing the responsibility that children have for their own lives. Second, it makes illogical sweeping claims and leaps about the development of children, deeming them failures from the outset. On what terms? Third, it inaccurately implies that parenting style is the sole factor in the success of children. Often, many children grow to realize that they have to take responsibility for their own lives, and they have a CHOICE on how they want to live. It’s counterproductive to just sit there and complain about how their parents were overprotective.

What this article fails to account for is that many children, who lived with this ‘overprotective parenting style,’ have grown up to become fully functioning members of society, as opposed to the incompetent burdens that this article paints them out to be. They can work. They can contribute. They have GRIT to get through the bad stuff.

Moreover, social teasing and bullying are just natural phenomena. It’s possible for them to learn to cope. They can disabuse themselves of the notion that the world is a rosy place full of rainbows and butterflies from an early age. Yet this article depicts such children as incapable of dealing with the real world. On the contrary, they can get a clearer look at the true nature of certain social interactions, enhancing their alertness as they get older.

Further, it is understandable that parents want to ensure the safety of their kids, since they bear the primary role in taking care of their well-being. It’s costly financially to raise children, so it’s conceivable thay parents would take more precautionary measures in caring for them. Enough shaming already. Let parents choose how they want to parent. After all, they were the ones who gave life to their children.

Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on August 29, 2018:

Have a mature discussion w/your dad. Delineate your concerns.

Lucine Rawiya from S- on July 13, 2018:

My parents are paranoid to the extreme. I’m never allowed to even hang out with my friends (without one of them tagging along) and I’m 17 in a month. I realised there’s no arguing with them so now when I want to do something I just do it behind their backs or without permission. I’m going to have to move out just to be able to get a job. It’s completely ridiculous and it’s preventing me from developing basic life skills. Hopefully I can get out of this situation when I am 18.

Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on July 01, 2018:

In this case, your father isn’t being overprotective. He is simply looking out for you. Your father cares, he isn’t being overprotective.

Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on June 29, 2018:

Keep telling them that they are psychologically, even psychically undermining their daughter by their remarks. Recommend counsellng for the entire family.

Alan on June 29, 2018:

I’m trying to help a couple break this habit. They are having a hard time because their daughter is an adult now.

Their protection takes the form of reminders. “Don’t forget to take the car to the DMV… pay your bills… your boyfriend doesn’t respect you…”

They’re afraid of her being hurt. Especially by other men. I’m trying to help them equip her. I think their reminders are telling her “You can’t handle it… we’re responsible for you…”

Any suggestions?

Liisabjork on June 25, 2018:

My fiances son is 13 and is being raised just like this. It came down to now that his mother said he is not allowed here at his father’s house anymore because the son feels awkward and uncomfortable because of me. (I maintained my ground and most likely he felt intimidated by me) which is not my problem. I had a responsibility to have the boys best interest. But I was seen as crazy and stern. The mother allows him to sleep with her still. She dressed him and cuts his food. I get sick thinking about it. But needless to say I did all I could to stand by my morals . Like I said the son does not visit his father anymore. But, I feel and know the son was trying to get his way and constantly went home telling his mom how he doesn’t feel safe or comfortable. He was trying to manipulate his way to see only his father in some way or form. Also to get attention at home from his mother. He had a motive . we had told him to keep our life business out of his mother’s ears. But he chose to go back home to his mother’s and tell her things by exaggerating . I see it that he is old enough to know how to choose his words and what to say to try to have an outcome in his favor. After the last incident I had enough! His actions had consequences. We were not going to drop everything and take time out of day to fall for his schemes. His father told him that he chose this . He CHOSE to be not allowed here. So that his father would have to drive all over creation so he can be with him. I put my foot down and refused to fall into the boys agenda because he wasn’t getting his way here and. Because he didn’t he coddled by his father anymore and he wasnt waited on anymore or babied. The boy chose to disclose and act the way he did when he went back home to his mother’s. The information he disclosed to his mom was utterly disrespectful to me . His exaggerated stories and fantasiful tantrums was the last straw. Sometimes the only thing you can do is give tough love and difficulty stand up for ethics. This kid is doomed but at least I can say to myself I alw

8 Boundaries Stepparents Shouldn’t Cross


Becoming a stepparent? Read these 8 important stepparenting no-no’s and how to solve sticky situations.

By Kate Bayless,   January 12, 2014

Credit: Fancy Photography/ Veer

A stepfamily offers a new chance at love and family life, but it is also an attempt to bring together various parents and problems, different spouses and siblings. “A stepfamily is a fundamentally different structure and it makes a different foundation for relationships than a first-time family,” says psychologist Patricia Papernow, Ed.D., a member of the National Stepfamily Resource Center’s expert council and author of Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships: What Works and What Doesn’t. One of these differences is that in a stepfamily, the spouses do not have an equal relationship to the children or in the parenting process. This dynamic sets up a web of boundaries that stepparents are wise not to cross. Here we tackle eight common slip-ups to avoid and how stepparents can handle these situations.

1. Trying to take the place of the mother or father. Whether the new marriage is a result of divorce or death, you can never take the place of the other biological parent and should not attempt to. “These children are not yours,” says Derek Randel, parenting expert and certified stepfamily coach through the Step-Family Foundation in New York City. “No matter what the biological ex-spouse has done, respect the child’s need to love that parent.” The same goes for requiring that the stepkids call you “Mom” or “Dad.” Don’t ever demand it or even ask for it.

Instead: Be clear with yourself and the stepchild about your role in the family. “A stepparent can become a loved, respected mentor to the child while realizing that he can’t reconstitute the biological family,” Randel says. Remember that a stepchild can develop feelings of love and respect for you without using the term “Mom” or “Dad.” And if the kids do decide, on their own, to use that term for you, demonstrate a quiet gratitude and a responsibility to live up to the label.

2. Spanking your stepkids. Even if you believe in spanking, a stepparent should never cross the line of administering physical consequences to a child. “Always refrain from losing your cool and hitting, swearing or ‘losing it’ with your stepchildren,” says JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies to Help Children Thrive Through Divorce. “It’s hard enough when tempers get out of control between children and their own parents. The incident and the painful memories of [physical discipline from a stepparent] can last a lifetime and take a toll on any chance of building trust and respect in the new family.”

Instead: Remove yourself from the situation if you feel yourself getting overly worked up and report any misbehavior to the biological parent to determine if consequences are necessary.

3. Assuming a position of authority. Young children, under the age of 5 or 6, may be more willing accept a stepparent’s authority in the new family, but school-age children and teens will often rebuff a stepparent’s attempts at automatic authority.

Instead: “For new stepparents, it is best to proceed slowly–not as a disciplinarian, but as a supportive friend to the child and a supportive resource to your partner,” Dr. Pedro-Carroll suggests. You may have won the heart of your new spouse, but if he or she is a package deal with kids in tow, you’ll need to earn the love and respect of your new stepchildren too. Basic respect is a must, but you’ll need to put time and effort into the relationship with your stepchildren if you want more.

4. Getting involved in parenting discussions between your partner and the ex. It can be tempting to weigh in on a parenting discussion between your spouse and his or her ex–but don’t. “The ex didn’t agree to coparent with you and will likely feel ganged up on if you give unsolicited advice,” explains Jenna Korf, a certified stepfamily foundation coach at Stepmomhelp.com and co-author of Skirts At War: Beyond Divorced Mom/Stepmom Conflict. “Exes who are still holding on to anger or hurt from the divorce can cause a world of pain for you and your spouse, so try to avoid inserting yourself into their discussions.”

Instead: Although stepparents can certainly provide their input into a parenting situation, this should be done privately with the spouse, not during the conversation with the ex. “Any decisions or information should then be shared with the ex by the biological parent,” Korf says. Make a concerted effort to build a positive relationship with your spouse’s ex so that your interactions and input can be well received.

Getting involved in parenting discussions between your partner and the ex.

4. Getting involved in parenting discussions between your partner and the ex. It can be tempting to weigh in on a parenting discussion between your spouse and his or her ex–but don’t. “The ex didn’t agree to coparent with you and will likely feel ganged up on if you give unsolicited advice,” explains Jenna Korf, a certified stepfamily foundation coach at Stepmomhelp.com and co-author of Skirts At War: Beyond Divorced Mom/Stepmom Conflict. “Exes who are still holding on to anger or hurt from the divorce can cause a world of pain for you and your spouse, so try to avoid inserting yourself into their discussions.”

Instead: Although stepparents can certainly provide their input into a parenting situation, this should be done privately with the spouse, not during the conversation with the ex. “Any decisions or information should then be shared with the ex by the biological parent,” Korf says. Make a concerted effort to build a positive relationship with your spouse’s ex so that your interactions and input can be well received.

5. Getting involved in arguments between your stepchild and your spouse. “If you want to preserve your relationship with your stepchildren and partner, it’s best to let them work conflict out on their own,” Korf says. “Unless the stepparent and child are well bonded, the child will likely feel that the stepparent is butting into their business, and this can cause the child to feel resentful of their stepparent.” Even if you have the best intentions, Korf says, your interference can prevent your spouse and your stepchild from learning how to resolve problems on their own and can have a negative impact on your marriage. “For stepmoms, if you swoop in and try to fix everything for your husband, he may feel emasculated and view your action as a belief that you don’t think he can handle his own child. This will surely cause some tension in your marriage.”

Instead: Be your partner’s support system, Korf suggests, giving him feedback only if and when he asks for it. If he doesn’t come to you for help, then assume he’s got it covered.

6. Ignoring or countering the wishes of the ex. If your stepchild’s mom has forbidden dyeing her hair, midriff-baring shirts, or dating before she’s 16, it’s not your place to override her wishes. “Realize that there are no ex-parents, just ex-spouses,” Randel says. Your new spouse may no longer be married to the ex, but the ex still gets a say in parenting their children.

Instead: “Your spouse needs to coparent with the ex. The more helpful and understanding you are, the easier it will be for the entire family,” Randel says. If you have serious concerns about the stepchild’s health, wellness, or safety because of the ex-spouse’s rules, talk with your spouse about it. If you just don’t like the rules the ex-spouse has made for the child, step back and realize you don’t get to control everything.

7. Bad-mouthing the ex. As tempting as this may be, talking poorly about the ex-spouse is always no-no–even if the stepkids are doing it. “It is important for a stepparent to listen with empathy and kindness but not put down the parent to the child or allow the child to hear negative comments about their parent,” Dr. Pedro-Carroll says. “After all, the child is 50 percent of that person, and they may experience negative comments as an attack on their very own DNA. Children can be damaged by exposure to ongoing conflict and repeated negative messages that put them in the middle of conflict.”

Instead: Be a sounding board if your spouse or stepchild needs to vent, but don’t contribute to the bad-mouthing. When possible, contribute to the quality of family life by helping to contain any conflict between your partner and their ex. “You can be a tremendous support to your partner and your stepchildren when you maintain some objectivity and do not enter into every conflict,” Dr. Pedro-Carroll says.

8. Pressuring your new partner to always put you first or seeing your stepchild’s need for one-on-one time with his parent as a threat to your marriage. Children often worry that a parent’s love for a new spouse will mean less love for the child. “This fear may cause children to behave with anger and resentment that seems unjustified,” Dr. Pedro-Carroll explains. If a stepparent does not understand the need for a child to have a deeply connected bond to his biological parent, problems in the family and the marriage can arise.

Instead: First, understand the importance of a strong parent-child relationship and have confidence that their relationship does not undermine your relationship with your spouse. A jealous attitude towards your stepchild will negatively affect your marriage. “Because parents have strong bonds with their own children, they instinctively protect them against harm,” Dr. Pedro-Carroll says. “Thus, hurt feelings or problems between a stepparent and stepchild can easily undermine a remarriage. Stepparents and stepchildren developing positive relationships is critical to the new family’s success.”

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

7 problematic things parents do


7 problematic things parents do that can make their children insecure, withdrawn, drug-dependent, or otherwise worse off as they grow up

child sad parents fighting
If your parents were always stressed, you may have a harder time opening up emotionally.
djedzura/Getty Images
  • Parenting behaviors — from being over-involved to constantly stressed out to emotionally abusive— can have lasting impacts from childhood all the way up to adulthood.
  • Abusive parenting during childhood may lead to a greater likelihood of developing age-related diseases.
  • Over-involved parenting also may lead to feelings of entitlement and less self-efficacy when you get older.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For better or worse, how your parents behaved when you grew up has had — and likely will have — a lasting impact on who you are today.

Clinical and research psychologists have studied how adults suffered from poor parenting for decades. Whether your mom or dad was over-involved in your life or neglectful, there are negative consequences to certain types of parental behavior.

While young children emulate their parents early on, adolescents and adults who recognize negative behavior can manage the influence parents have on them, said Carl Pickhardt, a psychologist and the author of “Who Stole My Child?: Parenting through the Four Stages of Adolescence.”

“Parents are hugely influential for who [their children] are and how they act,” Pickhardt told Business Insider. “However, what mediates that effect is the decision by the child to want to decide to follow that example or to differentiate from that.”

Here are seven ways your parents’ behavior growing up may have had a negative impact on who you are today.

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If your parent was drug-dependent, you may have ended up having to take care of them as a child — which can cause problems with having fun as an adult.

If a parent is drug dependent, a child may take on a caretaker role early on.

Growing up with alcohol or drug dependent parents can lead children to take on the caretaking role early in life, Mark Borg, Jr., a NYC-based clinical psychologist and a psychoanalyst, told Business Insider.

In turn, kids may lose out on a childhood to take care of their parents. As they themselves get older, this could lead to trouble having fun or letting their guard down, according to Portland Lifestyle Counseling.

Or, depressed parents may lead children to act like they’re happy. This can lead to a hesitation to open up emotionally in adulthood.

depression anxiety mental health
If children know their parents are depressed, they may act in a certain way to try to cheer them up.

If children recognize their parents are unhappy, they start performing in a way they know can cheer their mom or dad up, Borg said. Children grow up being used to taking care of their parents by performing behaviors they know will please them, but might not be what they want.

In adulthood, these children continue performing for other people instead of being vulnerable and open with their emotions.

“You’re basically preforming to make your parents feel better so they can be more active and parent you,” Borg said. “What they wind up doing inadvertently as adults is they wind up being unable to take in what other people have to offer. The caretaking works against being vulnerable.”



Over-involved “helicopter” parenting during childhood has been linked to anxiety problems in adolescence — and even the abuse of pain pills.

Prescription drugs pain medication
Children of “helicopter parents” may be more likely to develop depression and anxiety.

“Helicopter” parenting describes adults who take an over-active role in their child’s lives through not allowing them to play unsupervised and spending too much time with them.

After growing up, children of helicopter parents have a higher likelihood of developing depression and anxiety, as well as recreationally using prescription pain pills. The results come from a 2011 study which sampled 317 college students on the impact their parents had on their mental health.

Researchers also found adult children of helicopter parents may be more self conscious and less open to new ideas.

Over-involved parenting also may lead to feelings of entitlement and less self-efficacy when you get older.

parent teacher conference
If parents have open communication and adequately set rules, young adults feel higher levels of family satisfaction.
Associated Press

In a 2012 study of 339 groups of parents and their young adult children, researchers looked at causes of self-efficacy — or confidence you can do something — and entitlement.

Researchers found that if parents emphasized control when their children grew up, young adults reported having lower levels of self-efficacy, yet greater feelings of entitlement.

When parents had open communication and adequately set rules, young adults felt higher levels of family satisfaction than those with controlling parents.

Stressed out or emotionally abusive parents lead to children with higher levels of “defenses” to shield themselves from experiencing pain. These traits carry on into adulthood and lead to trouble nurturing their own children.

stressed out parent
Stressed out parents can scare their children.
Getty Images

Stressed parents who lash out can scare their children. To cope, kids develop “defenses” against strong feelings of fear or sadness to adapt to their environment, according to Lisa Firestone, a psychologist and author of “Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice: A Revolutionary Program to Counter Negative Thoughts and Live Free from Imagined Limitations.”

While these defenses work as emotional barriers to feeling pain when you’re young, they can lead to trouble opening up emotionally with others — including your own kids — into adulthood.

“These early adaptations may have served us well when we were young, but they can hurt us as adults, particularly as parents,” Firestone wrote in Psychology Today.

“Snowplow parents” could unknowingly transmit anxiety onto their children.

Snowplow parents may not be adequately preparing their children for the challenges of adulthood.

While “snowplow parents,” or mothers and fathers who bulldoze obstacles out of their children’s path as they grow, may think they are helping their children avoid challenges, they are actually doing the opposite.

Unlike helicopter parents who hover, snowplow parents “smash down” obstacles usually by using their wealth, status, and sense of privilege, wrote Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College, in a blog post on Psychology Today.

These parents place great value on the outward appearance of success, and, snowplow parenting, at it’s most extreme, comes at the price tag of tens of thousands of dollars, Gray wrote.

But snowplow parenting doesn’t adequately prepare kids for adulthood and could ultimately backfire by transmitting feelings of anxiety onto a child, Graham Davey, a professor of Psychology at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, wrote in a blog on Psychology Today.

“Given that genetic inheritance is not an overwhelming contributor to the variance in our anxiety levels, this strongly suggests that anxiety may somehow be socially ‘transmitted’ within the family,” Davey wrote, although the transmission may go both ways, also from child to parent.

SEE ALSO:10 ways your parents’ behaviors shaped who you are today

9 Ways to Set Boundaries with Difficult Family Members

difficult family members

Sometimes, the people that it is the most difficult to set boundaries with are the people to whom you are the closest. Even if your family is relatively happy and functional, there might still be members of that family that routinely cross the line or that simply treat you in a way that you would prefer not to be treated. Many people will play the role of the people pleaser with their families, but if there are members of your family that are being difficult and that are cutting into your happiness, it’s time set boundaries for those difficult family members. Here are nine ways to do exactly that:

1. Understand that your needs are important.

Often, people will avoid building boundaries because they are afraid about hurting the other person, despite the fact that the other person does not appear to grant them the same courtesy. This is especially true of difficult family members, but it is important to keep in mind that your needs are just as important as that person’s needs. This is a kind of manipulation, to make you feel as though you can’t set up boundaries because their needs are more important than yours.

2. Seek out people who value you.

If there are members of your family that do genuinely value you, seek them out and use them to help you set boundaries with the family members that don’t seem to value you. If there are not members of your family who can help you with this, find people outside the circle of your family. Your friend group is a good place to start. You are bound to have at least one friend that can help you start to build the boundaries that you need.

3. Be firm, but kind.

Setting boundaries doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be callous. In fact, when you build your boundaries with those difficult family members, it can actually be more effective to do it with kindness. Anger or defensiveness will only rile them up and cause them to lash out at you. Kindness, however, leads to a greater likelihood of a calm exchange.

4. Keep your expectations realistic.

For example, it is not realistic to agree to attend Thanksgiving at that family member’s house, when you know that they are going to belittle you the entire time that you are there. Giving in and attending family events or actively seeking out situations in which you and that person are together is the opposite of setting and keeping boundaries. Be realistic with yourself about how much time feels tolerable to you with that difficult family member and in what situations you are willing to see that person.

5. Be willing to walk away.

Something that most people forget is that if someone is being toxic, you do have the option to get up and leave the situation. You might feel like you want to defend yourself, but if your difficult family members are experts at making you look like the bad guy or making you feel bad for blowing up after the have been toxic to you for hours, the best thing to do is simply leave. Just get up and go. You don’t have to explain yourself, you don’t have to apologize.

6. Keep in mind that you are in charge of what you do.

No one else can make you do or feel anything. You are in charge of whether or not you maintain your boundaries. For example, say that you are at a family gathering and your difficult uncle says something derogatory about your job. When you tell him to stop making fun of you, he says something about how you’ve never been good at taking a joke. Right now, you have two choices. You can either pretend that everything is fine or you can say something like, “That crosses the line. If you’re going to continue, I’m just going to leave.” This establishes what is and what is not okay and puts the consequences of the action back on the difficult family member.

7. Be direct.

Dropping hints or being passive aggressive about your boundaries is the worst way to make sure that anyone understands what they are, especially because many difficult family members are difficult expressly because they are careless. Being very explicit about what is okay and what is not okay is the only way you can make sure that they understand what your boundaries are.

8. Seek to take care of yourself.

When you take care of yourself, you are very willing to set up and stick to your boundaries. Self-care can help you understand the importance of your own boundaries and can also help to motivate you to make sure your boundaries are defined and that they are being observed. While putting yourself first all the time isn’t healthy, occasionally taking the time to care about yourself first and foremost, especially when dealing with difficult family members is very important.

9. Learn to be assertive.

Many difficult people get away with being difficult because no one stands up to them. Whether your father seems to enjoy cutting you down or your cousins’ teasing often crosses a line and goes too far, simply being assertive and telling people what you need and what you want can be enough to set the boundaries you need. If you are assertive, you become someone that people do not trifle with, someone that is respected, rather than ridiculed. Stand up for yourself!

10 responses to “9 Ways to Set Boundaries with Difficult Family Members”

  1. […] And yet I started to realize that I didn’t always stand up for

       Such an important piece of work. And it seems to apply to us adults in     doing the work of re-parenting ourselves too!



Karen Hayes | Twenty20

As a psychotherapist, one of the most common questions parents ask me is: What are the key strengths I should be teaching my kids?

There are several, but the type that will really help them become their best selves and get through life’s toughest challenges is mental strength.

Mental strength requires you to pay attention to three things: the way you think, feel and act. Thinking big, feeling good and acting brave helps us grow our mental muscles. Of course, it takes practice, patience and constant reinforcement to get to a point where you’ll do these things naturally.

But I’ve seen many young people successfully achieve it over time. Here are seven things mentally strong kids always do, and how to help your kids get there if they haven’t already:

1. They empower themselves

If your kid says, “My friend got a higher score on the quiz, which makes me feel bad about myself,” they’re essentially giving someone else power over their emotions.

But kids who feel empowered don’t depend on other people to feel good. They choose, for example, to be in a bright mood even when someone else is having a bad day or tries to take their anger out on them.

Create catchphrases: Work with your kid to come up with phrases that they can repeat to themselves. Use words that show they are in charge of how they think, feel and behave — regardless of how those around them are doing.

This will help drown out the negative voices in their head that try to convince them they lack the potential to succeed. The most effective catchphrases are short and easy to remember:

  • “All I can do is try my best.”
  • “Act confident.”
  • “I’m good enough.”
  • “I choose to be happy today.”

2. They adapt to change

Whether it’s moving to a new school or not being able to play with friends during the pandemic, change is tough. Your kid might miss the way things used to be or worry that what’s happening might make their life worse.

But mentally strong kids understand that change can help them grow into an even stronger person, even though it might not feel that way at first.

Name your emotions: Change feels uncomfortable. But just putting a name to your feelings can lessen the sting of these emotions.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t spend enough time thinking about how we feel. In fact, even as adults, we tend to put more energy into fighting our emotions.

So when your kid is faced with a major change, have them talk elaborately about how they’re feeling. More importantly, help them find — and define — the right words to describe it (e.g., sad, happy, frustrated, nervous, eager).

3. They know when to say no

Everyone struggles to speak up, say no, or express their feelings once in a while. But depending on the situation, choosing not to say yes makes you stronger.

Kids often struggle to say no because it can feel awkward and weird. By finding the courage to do it more often, however, they’ll find that it gets easier over time. It also reduces the stress of having to commit to things they don’t want to do.

Try the “give up” test: When your kid is faced with a decision to say yes or no, ask them what they will have to give up if they say yes. For example, saying yes to a playdate at a friend’s house might mean giving up time spent with siblings.

Ask them: “Are you willing to give that thing up?” If they decide they don’t want to, then say no. If they decide they don’t mind, then they can go ahead and say yes.

Help them find the courage to say no by coming up with polite ways to turn someone down:

  • “No, I’m not able to.” (You don’t always need to offer a reason.)
  • “Thank you so much for inviting me, but I’ve got other plans.”
  • “I’ll have to check and get back to you.” (Use this if they need some time to think about it.)
  • “I don’t really feel like doing that today, but I appreciate you asking.”

4. They own their mistakes

Kids are often tempted to hide their mistakes because they don’t want to get in trouble. Maybe they forgot to do their homework or accidentally broke an expensive vase.

Owning your mistakes helps you build character. Kids who are brave enough to practice this recognize what they did wrong, and mentally prepare themselves to fully admit to what they did.

They also apologize and find ways to avoid making the same mistake again.

Create an environment for success: If your kid is disorganized, they probably have a hard time remembering all their assignments. Or if their room is filled with tons of treats, they might not be able to resist eating too much sugar.

When your kid makes a mistake, remind them that they can change their environment in a way that will prevent them from making the same mistake twice.

For example, they can write down assignments as soon as they receive them, or remove all unhealthy snacks so they’re not within easy reach.

5. They celebrate other people’s successes

It’s normal for kids to feel jealous when their friends get a new toy, for example, or when the other team wins another game.

But feeling negatively towards other people only hurts them, and not the other party. Encourage your kid to cheer people on when they do a good job.

Mentally strong kids are supportive of their peers, and they focus on performing their best without worrying about how everyone else is doing.

Act like the person you want to be: Have your kid come up with a list of traits they admire. Maybe they want to be more confident like their sister, or optimistic like their teacher. Encourage them to act as if they already possess those traits.

This doesn’t mean they should be someone they’re not. It simply means putting their best foot forward. When we feel good about ourselves, it’s easier to celebrate other people’s successes.

6. They fail … and try again

Failure hurts — it can feel embarrassing, disappointing and frustrating. But the most accomplished people reached their goals by failing along the way.

Kids who do well later in life focus their attention on what went wrong and how they could fix it. They have growth mindsets that help them turn failures into positive learning experiences.

Remember successful people who failed: Experts have found that kids actually perform better when they learn that many success stories began with failure.

The next time your kid feels down because they feel they’ve failed at something, educate them about people who made similar mistakes, like Thomas Edison. Edison helped invent the lightbulb, in addition to many other great things. But he also had more than 1,000 inventions that didn’t work.

This will give your kid confidence, and they’ll know that one poor grade, for example, doesn’t mean they’re bad at science.

7. They persist

When it takes a while to reach a goal, or when you don’t feel like putting in the hard work to succeed, your brain might try to convince you to give up.

Mentally strong kids who persist will continue to work hard even when they don’t feel like it. Often, they eventually succeed and discover that they’re stronger than they initially thought.

Write a letter: Have your kid write a letter — filled with words of kindness and encouragement — to themselves.

It can be a long note, or a short and simple one that says: “I know things are tough, but you can do this because you’ve achieved challenging goals before. And you can do it again.”

Each time they feel tempted to give up, tell them to go back to that letter. It will motivate them to push forward and persist.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, editor-in-chief of Verywell Mind, and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She is the author of the best-selling book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” and the upcoming book “13 Things Strong Kids Do: Think Big, Feel Good, Act Brave.” Her TEDx talk “The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong” is one of the most viewed talks of all time.

15 Positive Parenting Affirmations for Moms

15 Positive Parenting Affirmations for Moms

Do you have any positive parenting affirmations?! Do you wonder why you would need them?

Well, are you familiar with those days when the floors are sticky, the kids are fighting, and your to-do list seems never-ending?

It never fails that on days like these, I’m a breath away from yelling or losing my cool. It’s hard to use positive parenting strategies when you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, isn’t it?

It’s easy for our minds to get stuck in the rut of negative self-talk. That’s why positive affirmations are so important!

A wonderful way to stay focused on your goal of being a positive parent, is to have a handful of affirmations to encourage and bolster your confidence when you’re feeling worn down.

Need some encouragement? Here are 15 positive parenting affirmations for moms. #positiveparenting #parenting Click To Tweet


Here are 15 positive parenting affirmations to encourage you, even on the roughest days.

1 – I’m the best mom for my children.

You are. No one else can be a better mom to your little ones than you!

2 – I’m the calm in the chaos.

When the house is a disaster, and the phone is ringing off the hook, and your children are fighting with one another, and the dog has peed on the floor (again), there is one thing you can control… YOU! Be the calm in the chaos and the rainbow in the storm.

3 – This too will pass.

I don’t know where this phrase originated, but it’s one of my favourite affirmations. Many times I’ve encountered a challenge or a frustration, only to discover that while in the moment, it felt huge, but when it passes, it seems small in retrospect.

4 – Love. Love. And Love Some More.

Love is the key to keeping calm with my children. It’s hard to get angry or frustrated with a child snuggled on my lap, or while locked in an embrace .

5 – I love being a mom. 

Yes, there are challenging times, but when you tell yourself over and over how much you love motherhood, how can you NOT love it?!

6 – I will fully embrace today.

Do you torment yourself over what happened yesterday and worry over what will happen tomorrow? Embrace today… the here and now. You’ll be happier if you do.

7 – I will do what I can. No one expects me to do it all. 

How often do we need this reminder to only do what we can?! Overextending ourselves leads to frustration and discontentment.

8 – It’s okay to take care of me.

Self-care is critical for moms. Make sure to remind yourself that it’s okay to take care of yourself.

A wonderful way to stay focused on your goal of being a positive parent, is to have a handful of affirmations to encourage and bolster your confidence when you're feeling worn down. Here are 15 positive parenting affirmations for moms! These affirmations were collected to encourage you, even on the roughest of days. #positiveparenting #parentingaffirmations #affirmationsformoms

9 – Good moms have bad days too.

I recite this one often. I tend to default to thinking that having a bad day means I’m a bad mom.

It’s not true. We all have bad days… and that’s okay!

10 – It’s okay to ask for help.

Sometimes we need help. It’s okay to ask for it.

11 – I might not see it now, but the time I’m investing does matter. 

It’s hard to envision that the board game we played, or the extra book we read at bedtime will have any impact… but the time we invest in our children will add up to a treasure chest full of positive memories.

12 – My children don’t want perfect, they want me.

I often get caught up in the “perfect” mom trap. My kids don’t want or need perfect. They just want me. They want their mom to love them and hug them and let them know how special they are.

13 – I will treasure my children as the unique individuals they are.

I always want to remember that my children are their own people. I never want to expect them to be anyone other than themselves and I want to cherish their uniqueness.

14 – I am building a legacy of love.

My heart’s desire is for my children to always know that they are loved. My daily actions may seem small, but over time, they accumulate into a legacy of love.

15 – Our home is a safe and peaceful haven.

While it’s unrealistic to expect all the moments to be peaceful, I want my children to felt that our home is a safe and peaceful haven for them.

There are plenty of challenges in motherhood, but with these positive parenting affirmations for moms, we can cling to the truths that our journey is an important one.

So what about you? Do you have any positive affirmations that you rely on? Which of these speak to you the most?

Psst – Check out the Becoming a Deliberate Mom – Reflective Workbook if this is the sort of thing you need to focus on. Parenting is important. We need to do it like we mean it.

Growing Up with Parental Narcissism | Psychology Today

Source: Growing Up with Parental Narcissism | Psychology Today

How to deal with with emotional flashbacks as an adult

Pixabay free image/DarkmoonArt_de
Source: Pixabay free image/DarkmoonArt_de

Our last blog post discussed “Why Do I Feel Like I’m Never Enough?” People who grew up with narcissistic parenting, often lack emotional confidence and security. Parental narcissism can create profound insecurities by them preempting your needs with theirs. You learn to swallow your feelings which fester deep down inside.

Severe Narcissism in even one parent can result in Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or CPTSD.  CPTSD has five symptoms.  This post discusses its most noticeable symptom, emotional flashbacks.

What are emotional flashbacks?

Many people don’t realize what’s happening during an emotional flashback due to the lack of a visual component.

Often, an event happens resulting in a very overwhelming but vague residual emotion.  There is no visual component to define it as a past event from childhood. You are left in a state of illusive disquiet.

Suddenly, you feel hyper-aroused by a non-visual memory. Your fight-or-flight system kicks in. You are feeling overwhelmed with intense emotions that are far deeper than the current situation warrants.

Emotional flashbacks vary in intensity and the emotions they provoke.

pixabay free images/johnhain
Source: pixabay free images/johnhain

Fear. If fear is provoked, you may become overwhelmed, anxious, and panicky without understanding why. You know that the panic is excessive. You feel helpless and succumb.

Despair. If despair is triggered, you might suddenly dissociate and not understand why you feel so numb and detached.

Pain. In pain, you may protectively overreact with extreme anger and self-recrimination.

CPTSD doesn’t go away until you do the work necessary to resolve past issues.

The first step in recovery from narcissistic abuse or neglect is acceptance. Next is grieving what you missed as the child of narcissistic parents.

Gaining self awareness increases self confidence. Acceptance of yourself with strengths and vulnerabilities helps make emotional flashbacks occur less frequently.

Overwhelming feelings of rejection (especially self-rejection) may be an emotional flashback to previous childhood experiences of rejection and abandonment, which created profound sadness and anxiety. These overwhelmed you as a child. The child inside you, still needs your love and support.

Pixabay free image/EliasSch
Source: Pixabay free image/EliasSch

Acknowledging flashbacks helps you validate your emotions and reminds you that your past is gone and can’t hurt you now.

Dealing with Emotional Flashbacks

Caroline Foster in “Mothers: How to Handle a Narcissistic Parent and Recover from CPTSD” said.

1. Save yourself

  • Emotional flashbacks take you to a timeless part of the psyche that feels helpless, hopeless, and surrounded by danger as you were in childhood.
  • The feelings and sensations you’re experiencing are memories that cannot hurt you. They remind you that you still feel afraid, but you are not in danger and are safe in the present.

2. Have boundaries

  •  If someone is currently provoking these feelings, remind yourself that you don’t have to accept mistreatment.
  • I  would add, “You’re always free to leave uncomfortable, emotionally “disenfranchising” situations.

3. Speak Reassuringly to Your Inner Child

  •  Children need to know that you love them unconditionally and that you will comfort and protect them.
  • Parent yourself.

4. Remind Yourself that You’re an Adult with More Resources to Protect Yourself

5. Ease Back Into Your Body

  • Fears and insecurities can cause us to numb and dissociate.
  • Try de-stress breathing, exercise, eating nutritiously, adequate sleep, and fun.
  • Find your passions and purpose.
  • I encourage practicing moderating your Fight, Flight, Fawn, and Freeze responses.

6.  Resist the Inner Critics

  • Say No to your mental critics.
  • Replace negative thinking with a prepared list of your qualities and accomplishments.

7.  Allow Yourself to Grieve

  • Flashbacks are opportunities to release those unexpressed feelings of fear, hurt, and abandonment.
  • Seek professional help to face your fears or join a CPTSD-informed support group.

8.  Cultivate Safe Relationships and Supports

  • Take alone time as needed without isolating yourself.
  • Remember feelings aren’t facts and don’t define who you are. They’re just feelings—representations of how you are processing something.
  • Shame doesn’t mean you’re shameful.
  • Fear doesn’t mean you’re not brave. Brave is being afraid and doing it anyway with tools and supports.
  • Educate your closest friends about flashbacks. Ask and accept their support as you talk and feel your way through them.

9. Identify Types of Things that Trigger You and Lead to Flashbacks

10. Determine What You are Flashing Back To

  • View flashbacks as opportunities to discover and validate the experiences you need to heal from the past that led to feeling “not good enough”. Flashbacks also point to your current unmet needs and can provide you with motivation to finally get them met. Accept no substitutes for what will meet your needs.
  • Start researching the developmental milestones of children at the ages you identify these unhappy events occurring at, and consider working to enhance your acquisition of these.

11. Be Patient

  • Recovery takes the time it takes.

Do You Have Narcissistic Parents? How to Tell

Source: Do You Have Narcissistic Parents? How to Tell

Alyssa Sybertz

Many parents would no doubt say that their lives changed entirely when they had or adopted their first child. They learned to put someone else’s well-being before their own, to anticipate the wants and needs of another person. In other words, many people go through a transformation that people often describe as simply “becoming a parent.”

But not everyone changes or feels the same way when they hold their child for the first time. While a lot of people take time to adjust to the idea of parenthood, some continue to struggle long after that baby grows up. They have a hard time putting themselves in a position that isn’t No. 1

And at the top of this list are people with narcissistic tendencies and those with narcissistic personality disorder.

“Narcissistic parents will struggle to empathize with their children if they, themselves, are not under threat,” says Mike Gallagher, licensed professional clinical counselor and clinical director at the Shoreline Recovery Center in Encinitas, California.

This lack of empathy, a hallmark of narcissism, makes it difficult for narcissists to parent traditionally and can lead to the development of hostile or damaging environments for their children. Other telling signs of narcissism in parents and non-parents alike include manipulation, an aversion to criticism, and insecurity. Narcissistic parents may be neglectful of the child and focus on their own self-absorbing interests instead.

Different types of narcissists include the closet narcissist, exhibitionist narcissist, failed narcissist, and malignant narcissist. Here are four different ways that parents may reveal these narcissistic tendencies and the effects they can yield on children’s development. (And here is how to tell if you have a narcissistic mother.)

a group of people standing in the grass © skynesher/Getty Images

The “we are great” family

“In this instance, the whole family has narcissistic values,” explains Elinor Greenberg, PhD, a licensed psychologist and author of Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration, and Safety. “Children are rewarded for bringing glory to the family name, for being great and doing things the family respects.”

If they can fit into this mold and follow through, children in these families will grow up in a relatively high functioning way—to a point.

“These kids know how to achieve, but their personal relationships are very primitive,” says Greenberg. “Their relationships with their parents were entirely transactional, not based on love.” As a result, they will struggle to form loving, intimate relationships as adults.

(Here are signs you might be dating a narcissist.)

But children who aren’t able to follow the family way? These kids struggle in a “we are great” family, since narcissistic parents treat them like outsiders or failures. “They won’t feel nurtured or nourished,” adds Greenberg. “Since they don’t have the same qualities as their brothers and sisters, they feel very fragile, insecure, bitter, and paranoid.”

Forced to face the world and find a path independently without support, these children tend to struggle to find their footing and go through life constantly seeking external validation for their actions.

The helicopter parent

“Helicopter parents who always hover around their kids and demand attention could be classic vulnerable narcissists,” says W. Keith Campbell, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia and author of The New Science of Narcissism. “Although the line between a supportive parent and a needy parent can blur, you know the ones who live vicariously through their children, demand special exceptions, and require affirmation as the ‘best’ parent that can be.”

Unlike grandiose or exhibitionist narcissists, these parents seek to express their superiority in quieter ways. “They express antagonism but in a subtle form with a sense of entitlement and suspicion of others, alongside insecurity and fragility,” says Campbell.

These parents may also use their children as the vehicle that brings their family to greatness. “This parent wants to be an exhibitionist narcissist but doesn’t have the nerve,” says Greenberg. “Instead, they choose a child to worship and prop up. Like stage mothers who wanted to be but were never great themselves.”

As a result, a child may grow up with a false sense of entitlement or a distorted view of their place in the world, which can lead to a rude awakening as an adult. (Here are the signs of narcissistic abuse.)

The parent with separation anxiety

Separation anxiety disorder is a condition most often diagnosed in children who grow anxious and uneasy when separated from their parents. But if you reverse the roles, you may have a case of narcissistic parents.

“Parents may reveal themselves to be narcissists as the child begins to separate physically and emotionally from the parent,” explains Gallagher. “Narcissistic parents find their value in maintaining superiority in the parent-child relationship. Once a child starts to develop a greater sense of independence, the narcissistic parent will feel threatened and attempt to manipulate the child to a more dependent state.”

Keeping their children in the more dependent role ensures that they will be unable to establish superiority in the relationship. Thus, the narcissist will remain in that position, potentially damaging the child’s self-esteem and belief in their own abilities.

“Signs of narcissistic parents are those with enmeshed boundaries who seem to struggle most when their children are finding their own hobbies and interests,” adds Gallagher. Think about a parent who volunteers to chaperone their teenager’s school dance, then proceeds to take over the dance floor. Actions like these serve as a reminder to the child of their subservient place in the relationship.

The alpha narcissist parent

Growing up with a parent who is an alpha exhibitionist narcissist means growing up in an incredibly tense and stressful environment, says Greenberg. “Often, in this case, the kids are split and set to be competitive with each other. This way, nobody can challenge the head narcissist because they are too busy competing with each other for attention.”

And the other parent, if one is present, typically can’t provide much help. “The alpha narcissist often marries someone who is subservient or willing to be devalued,” explains Greenberg. “In this household, ‘don’t do or say that because Mommy or Daddy (whoever the narcissist is) will get mad’ becomes the punchline of everything. But it’s an impossible endeavor because they will be mad about something eventually.”

The result: Children are forced to be secretive and walk on eggshells in their own homes. They grow up feeling inferior and like their wants and needs play second fiddle to those of their narcissistic parent. The alpha narcissist parent may resort to manipulation or gaslighting to promote this fear.

Dealing with narcissistic parents

It is difficult to identify these conditions during childhood, especially those like the “we are great” family and the helicopter parent in which the child may see it as a positive experience.

But therapy can help children with narcissistic parents work through the ideals they learned and help them create a more realistic view of the world and their place in it.

Next, read these narcissist quotes that can help you deal with a narcissist in your life.

The post Do You Have Narcissistic Parents? How to Tell appeared first on The Healthy.

Tips for Comforting a Nervous Child | Child Development

Good advice for us all.


Source: Tips for Comforting a Nervous Child | Child Development

No parent wants to see their child upset, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to react when your child is nervous or afraid. Do you hug them? Do you let them cry it out? There’s so much conflicting advice out there! Next time you’re faced with reacting to your nervous or fearful child, try these tried and true tips.

Young girl at school looking bored and sad

Do Be There
For many children, your presence will help calm them. Hug them or hold them on your lap. Even holding their hand can help give them a sense of security and comfort.

Don’t Be Too Involved
By telling your child exactly what to do or even what to say in stressful and challenging situations, they are not able to solve problems on their own or learn ways to cope by themselves. This doesn’t mean they’ll never need help, but you should let them try to problem solve first before offering a helpful hand.

Do Get Moving
Physical activity can be calming during times of high stress. Running, doing cartwheels, or playing a game involving gross motor movements can help distract them from their worry or fear.

Don’t Avoid Activities
When children constantly avoid situations that make them afraid or uncomfortable, their fears never go away. Try easing them into activities that make them nervous. You don’t want to expect too much at once because it can take them a while to conquer a fear. For example, if your child has a difficult time playing with other children at school, set up a playdate at home so they can focus on feeling comfortable around one child before being surrounded by all of their peers on the playground. By slowly helping them adapt, you can ease their fear and prepare them to cope on their own when they’re older.

mom helping daughter with homework

Do Talk It Out
Having the opportunity to express what you’re feeling is important, especially for children. Give them some one-on-one time and listen without judging or discounting their anxiety. The best time to talk it out is when they are feeling calm because they are able to listen to you more easily.

Don’t Overly Reassure
Telling your child that “everything will be okay,” might actually confirm to your child that there is something to fear. While it’s hard to resist the instinct to reassure your child that everything will be okay, it might be best in the long run.

Do Allow For Expression, Even If They Can’t Explain Their Worries
If your child has trouble talking about why they are nervous, there are other ways to start the conversation. Ask them to draw a picture or act out what they are afraid of with a doll, puppet, or stuffed animal.

Don’t Get Impatient
Not knowing how to help can be hard and frustrating for parents, but don’t let those emotions show. Your child can sense how you’re feeling. Revealing your emotions could make your child feel like they’ve upset you, increase their nervousness, and make communicating more difficult. Try to set an example of how to react calmly to help your child feel calmer, as well.

family picnic

Do Empathize
Even if what they are afraid of seems silly to you, it’s important to show your child that you understand. Although they may not truly have anything to be fearful of, the emotions they are feeling are very real.

Don’t Wait Until They Are 100% Anxiety Free to Reward Their Behavior
Encourage and praise small accomplishments. Being brave while facing things they are afraid of or are feeling nervous about is something to celebrate!

Listen to Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents Audiobook by Lindsay C. Gibson, PsyD and Marguerite Gavin

Source: Listen to Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents Audiobook by Lindsay C. Gibson, PsyD and Marguerite Gavin

Book Information

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-involved Parents

Written by Lindsay C. Gibson, PsyD

Narrated by Marguerite Gavin

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars5/5 (111 ratings)
6 hours


In this breakthrough book, clinical psychologist Lindsay Gibson exposes the destructive nature of parents who are emotionally immature or unavailable. You will see how these parents create a sense of neglect, and discover ways to heal from the pain and confusion caused by your childhood. By freeing yourself from your parents’ emotional immaturity, you can recover your true nature, control how you react to them, and avoid disappointment. Finally, you’ll learn how to create positive, new relationships so you can build a better life.
  • Psychology
  • Personal Growth
  • All categories

Parents, this burnout is real. Give yourself grace (opinion) – CNN

Many parents are being asked to do the impossible, says Lynn Smith – raising kids in a crisis while continuing to work. There is no end in sight and we are not okay, says Smith, who urges all parents and caregivers to children to give themselves grace .

Source: Parents, this burnout is real. Give yourself grace (opinion) – CNN

“No, This Isn’t Okay Anymore:” How I Finally Set Boundaries With My Abusive Dad

“No, This Isn’t Okay Anymore:” How I Finally Set Boundaries With My Abusive Dad

The last time my father hit me was seven years ago. I was in my late twenties, living in Vancouver and visiting my family in Alberta. My dad was drinking a little bit, and my sister and I got into a pretty big fight about our extended family. I was upstairs and I could hear my dad telling my mom that he was annoyed with me. My sister ran out of the house after our fight—and then, I heard my dad coming upstairs so I hid in a closet. Eventually, he found me. When my dad was mad at me, he’d often tell me to go kill myself. That day, he told me that when I got back to Vancouver I should jump off a bridge because I’m someone who just causes problems. After repeating that for a good 15 minutes, he took a knife and put it in my hands.

That was it. I started screaming at the top of my lungs because I just couldn’t handle repeatedly being told to kill myself. When I start yelling, he hit me because he thought I was going to get him in trouble with his neighbours. After he punched me in the face three times, I stopped screaming. Then he sat next to me on the bed, petting my head. It was fucking uncomfortable. I wanted to get away from him but after he hit me, I wasn’t about to move. My mom was there too, sitting on the other side of me. She had tried to intervene, tried to pull him off of me when he was hitting me, but it didn’t make a difference.

Growing up, my dad was the person I was closest to in my family

After that episode, my dad didn’t talk to me for three months. I think it’s because he felt shame and guilt. I don’t think my dad’s a bad person. He just hasn’t been taught how to handle his anger.

My dad came from India to Canada when he was in his 20s, and then re-educated himself in computer science. Growing up, he was the person that I was closest to in my family. When I was a kid, he would drive me to school every day, listening to my opinions on what I was being taught or what was happening in the news. When I was older, I didn’t hide much from him. He’d be the one to pick me up at 1 a.m. from a party so I would have a safe ride home.

He didn’t abuse my mom or my younger sister physically (or emotionally, that I’m aware of). It was just me. My sister wasn’t any more obedient than me—she was just a better liar. She would tell my parents she was studying at school for hours instead of saying she was out with friends. She never understood why I told them the truth, especially since that’s what often landed me in trouble.

My parents were pretty liberal compared to my extended family and some of the larger Punjabi community in my hometown. But I still struggled to conform to their expectations of being Indian—being accomplished at school, things like that. And when I didn’t conform, it caused problems.

When I was in grade five, I showed up crying at school one day and said, “I got in trouble with my dad.” My teacher brought me to the school counselor and I really underplayed what had happened. I don’t even remember what the root of the conflict was on that particular day, it was just that the kinds of questions my teacher was asking me made it seem like my dad was bad. I didn’t think my dad was bad. In fact, I thought I was the bad one and blamed myself for the abuse.

I’m just not a good kid. I’m the one that challenged him. I knew that would make him mad. I would never think, He was wrong.

The abuse would happen when I questioned him, asking things like “Why can’t I take band?” or, “Why can’t I go hang out with my friends at the mall?” I was never a rebellious kid by Western standards—I didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs. I just wasn’t willing to listen to someone telling me what to do. I wanted to know why I couldn’t do that thing, because if there was no reasonable explanation, well, then I was going to do what I wanted to do. But questions like these sent my dad into a rage—his violence was an immediate reaction to them.

I only started thinking he was the one who was wrong as a teenager, but I still didn’t seek help, until that very last time he beat me up. I’ve gone to counsellors over the years, but I felt like I was just being talked to as a diagnosis, not a person. Then I tried a life coach and her approach was very different. She helped me discover answers on my own and make me reflect on my life and circumstances in a way that felt transformative. I work with one now who specializes in childhood trauma.

I’ve always kept in touch with my dad no matter what

I’ve been living away from home for ten years, but I’ve always kept in touch with my dad no matter what was going on in our relationship. I could cut myself off from him, but that would also mean cutting myself off from the rest of my family, my mom and my sister, because they are all so close. My mother has never really acknowledged the abuse, other than advising me that I have just move on and let it go. She never let me process it. It’s impacted our relationship—there’s no depth to it. And I never even thought about talking to my sister about what was going on. She’s four and half years younger, and growing up she just seemed like a baby to me. But two years ago, when she was pregnant with her first child, she told me she talked to my dad about it. She told him that if he had ever done what he did to me, they wouldn’t have a relationship. I was shocked. That night, I cried in bed because it was the first time someone in my family had even acknowledged what I had been through.

Even though my parents have hurt me, I don’t feel like their intention is to hurt me. I have a deep respect for them regardless of the shit that I’ve been through. It’s my responsibility to work on my shit, not for me to change them. And while the physical abuse has stopped, the emotional abuse hasn’t.

But my perspective has shifted. My work with my life coach has helped me realize I was living for my dad’s approval all the time. Now, if I don’t get it, I realize it doesn’t mean anything about me. I do my best and if I don’t receive his approval or acceptance, I can’t do anything about that. This has helped set a boundary with my father for the first time in my life.

I finally realized, No, this isn’t okay anymore

A few months ago, my dad and I were talking on the phone, and he was demeaning me about where my life is at—that I wasn’t far enough professionally, that I’m well into my thirties and not married. My initial reaction to that was to apologize, to say, “Yes, you’re right.” When we talked later that week, he blew up again. He said the problem with me is that I’m not the type of person who lets things go. Something clicked in me that day. Something that was just like, No, this is not okay. So I got off the phone, and I didn’t call him back right away to smooth things over as I would usually do.

Exactly a month later, he called me. After we talked for a while, I asked, “Hey, Dad. Did you want to talk about why I haven’t talked to you in a month?” He apprehensively agreed. Then I said, “I appreciate your concern for me, but maybe you could consider a different approach.” He told me to shut up and that he’ll never be sorry for being a concerned parent, but that he is sorry I’m unsuccessful in life, and then he hung up on me.

We didn’t speak for nearly four months—the longest I’ve gone not talking to my father. I didn’t really have the desire to call him. Before this, I would have just picked up the phone. This was the first time I ever called him out on his behaviour, and I was willing and open to talk about it. But he wasn’t. There wasn’t much else for me to do. Something changed in me during that conversation. Finally setting a boundary with my dad meant not actually standing up to him as much as it was standing up for myself. The decision to do this was a culmination of everything else that was going on in my life—my work stress was reaching a breaking point and I took a sick leave shortly after, and I was also having trouble with some key friendships. It was me finally realizing, No, this isn’t okay anymore. A parent can be worried about you, but they don’t have the right to verbally abuse you.

When he finally called me months later, he apologized. He acknowledged his behaviour, but still hasn’t acknowledged the physical abuse. He said, “I’m getting older and what will I do if I don’t have a relationship with my family?” I responded that that can’t be the only reason we have a relationship. We had a good conversation, but this time away has helped me reset how I interact with him. I’m being more cautious now—I don’t think someone changes after one conversation. I talked to him significantly less that I used to. Before this fight, I would call him out of habit. Now, I call him once every two or three weeks.

Looking back, my relationship with my dad has always been about trying to prove to him that I was valuable, that the warmth I bring to the world is meaningful even if I’m not achieving all the milestones he wants for me. I’ve done a lot of work on myself to know my worth—and now I know it doesn’t come from his approval.

Call 911 if you’re in immediate danger from abuse. If you’re in a abusive relationship—or want to help a friend who is—call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 1-866-863-0511 for support; crisis counselling is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For additional, cross-Canada resources, check out this directory from the Ending Violence Association of Canada.

Games People Play when there was Abuse or a Narcissist in their Midst

 This is a great blog with many articles on family dynamics and the games people play when there is a narcissist in their midst. Many articles available at this link.

Content focussed on identifying, taking corrective steps and recovery from toxic and abusive relationships in our life. Here are a few of the links pasted in below.


Best wishes,

Emotionally Immature Parents and how they affect you as a child…

Emotionally Immature Parents and how they affect you as a child and your adult relationships
Emotionally immature parents and how they affect you as a child and your adult relationships.

Family Ties – When to Let Go

Family Ties - When to Let Go
It is often challenging to make the decision to let go of abusive family relationships. This article is about when to make that decision.

Anxiety Disorders Could Be Caused By Being Exposed To Narcissistic Abuse

Anxiety Disorders Could Be Caused By Being Exposed To Narcissistic Abuse
People Who Believe In The Good Nature Of Others, Are Highly Sensitive Or Emotionally Intelligent, Are The Most Common Targets For Narcissistic Abuse.

Narcissists And Their 7 Deadly Sins

Narcissists And Their 7 Deadly Sins
Narcissists And Their 7 Deadly Sins

3 Mental States That Narcissists and Sociopaths Manipulate in Others

3 Mental States That Narcissists and Sociopaths Manipulate in Others
Narcissists are skilled at analyzing what others are going through and using that knowledge to manipulate them till they can bring them completely under their control.

5 Types of Narcissistic Blame Shifting

5 Types of Narcissistic Blame Shifting
Individuals with Cluster-B disorders regularly use blame-shifting to manipulate conflicts, because admitting fault is not an option to them (unless it’s a false apology used to lure you back in).

7 Consequences of Having an Emotionally Detached Parent | Caregivers, Family & Friends

Source: 7 Consequences of Having an Emotionally Detached Parent | Caregivers, Family & Friends

Do you know an emotionally avoidant and detached parent/guardian? If so, what makes that person so emotionally unavailable? Is it a mental illness, personality disorder, or something else such as a job, career goal, or educational endeavor? Whatever it is, having an emotionally unavailable parent or guardian can lead to a lifelong journey of unstable or failed relationships, emotional neediness, empty voids, identity confusion, poor attachment to others,  low self-esteem and self-efficacy (the feeling of mastery), etc. Research has identified the importance of all infants and developing children having an appropriate, warm, and loving attachment to a mother figure during the developmental years. Without an appropriate, warm, and loving parental figure, children are likely to develop multiple personality, emotional, and psychological difficulties. For many of my clients, the absence of a loving parental figure has resulted in an increase in psychiatric symptoms, school and academic difficulties, fear of abandonment, and many other challenges. This article will discuss the aftereffects or consequences of growing up without an emotionally available parent. 

Parents who are emotionally unavailable are often immature and psychologically affected themselves. As difficult as it is to believe, emotionally unavailable parents have a host of their own problems that might go back as far as their own childhood. There is often a deficit in parents who are unable to meet the emotional and psychological needs of their child. In a sense, some emotionally void parents deserve sympathy as  they are  often emotionally burned adults who have no way of coping with their own emotional and psychological needs. As a result, these kind of parents become one of the following:  rejecting, emotionally distant, immature, self-centered or narcissistic, or driven to succeed in life. These adults are not emotionally what their stated (or chronological) age says they are. They are pseudo-mature in many ways which often pushes the child to become adult-like and emotionally independent before their time. The parent maintains negative patterns of behavior due to lack of self-awareness, often affecting the child in more ways than one, while the child sinks further and further into despair. Sadly, these same kids develop into emotionally needy teens and adults who are longing for the love, security, and affection they never received.

Symptoms often representative of adults who are emotionally immature and detached include but are not limited to: rigidity (unwillingness to be flexible when needed), low stress tolerance (inability to tolerate stress in a mature manner), emotional instability with aggression (anger outbursts characterized by threats of physical aggression, suicidal gesture, cutting behaviors or other acts of self-harm), poor boundaries (desiring to be their child’s friend instead of a parent), unstable relationships (multiple partners or friends who create more trouble than peace), and attention-seeking (looking for accolades, recognition, or support at all costs) among many other characteristics. Tragically, the affected children often develop into teenagers and adults who also struggle with life.

Some of the consequences of growing up under immature and emotionally void parents include:

  1. Affected adult relationships: Believe it or not, our childhood(s) affect our relationships and how we interact with others later in life. If we were loved and cared for appropriately, we will most likely exhibit those same traits as adults. If we were abused and neglected, we will most likely develop characteristics to protect ourselves as adults such as being defensive or overly protective. Some adults become angry or struggle with long-term relationships which leads to a series of short-term and unstable relationships. It is important for me to mention that not every child with an emotionally unavailable parent will develop into an adult with problems. Some adults develop into better people than their parent(s) could ever be. Every situation is different and the variables in the lives of children with emotionally unavailable parents are also different. However, for the most part, children with emotionally void parents often develop into teenagers and adults with problems themselves.

  2. Fear of attachment and love: Children who have developed under an emotionally void parent will most likely develop into a teenager and adult who struggles to emotionally attach to others and receive/demonstrate love. While working within a nonprofit agency in which my clients tended to be abused (emotionally, physically, and sexually), I noticed a pattern in which many of these clients struggled not only to maintain appropriate peer and staff interactions, but also struggled to connect with me and other mental health professionals. Trust is a major component of positive emotional attachment. When you haven’t experienced the love, affection, and protection of a loving adult, you are more likely to develop defenses or protective mechanisms that keep you separated from other people in some way. Unfortunately, defense and protective mechanisms can prevent the individual from engaging appropriately in therapy or trusting that they can be happy and feel secure in their relationships.
  3. Borderline and narcissistic personality traits: Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are two disorders that can negatively affect everyone in connection to the sufferer. The unstable, emotionally labile moods often characteristic of BPD can lead to frequent arguments, paranoia, blaming, and physical or verbal aggression. The self-centered, overly confident, and arrogant behaviors of NPD can make developing children feel estranged emotionally from that parent. Without proper treatment/therapy, these two disorders can destabilize the household and many relationships.
  4. Selfishness: I’ve often regarded selfishness as a personality deficit as it is a characteristic that is not admirable. Not being able to share with others can lead to an inability to be emotionally detached and immature behavior. I previously had a 10 year old client who enjoyed playing games on his iPad after school. His mother, who has a childhood history of abuse, reported that she would not permit him to play on his iPad after school. Of course, many parents do not want their children to play games until homework or chores are completed. But to my surprise, this was not the reason for restricting access to his iPad. She eventually admitted that she did not like him touching her iPad because she had spent so much money on it and liked the fact that it still seemed brand new. She further reported that, as a child, she rarely had anything of her own and felt a need to “protect” her investment. This kind of selfishness resulted in many years of parent-child conflict. As her son grew older and began to question her behavior(s), he became even more resentful of her and eventually asked to live with his father. The relationship was destroyed.
  5. Substance abuse/dependency: In order to cope with pain and sorrow, many people turn to substances that “takes them away” or “dulls the pain.” Sadly, recreational use or prescription use of drugs become a habit and the need for self-medication becomes an addiction. Once an addiction happens, the life of the user then becomes more complicated as relationships, employment, and other important areas of life no longer seem important to the substance abuser.
  6. Lack of identity and direction: A former adolescent female client once asked me the following question almost every individual session we would have: “how do you know what kind of relationship you should have if all of the relationships in your life have been abusive or exploitative in some way?” I would always respond by highlighting the importance of having a strong foundation of morals and identity. Without understanding who you really are, you are more likely to follow the crowd and allow anyone with the slightest bit of interest of you into your life. When you know who you are, what you want, and what is best for you, you are likely to be more careful in choosing other individuals to be apart of your life. A lack of identity can lead to a series of unstable and shallow relationships that are short-lived.
  7. Loss of hope, faith, and joy: For many adults who were raised under an emotionally void parent there is a deep feeling of loss and grief. The “loss” of a parent who is still living and breathing can seem like the most tragic experience. To look a parent in the eyes or hear their voice and yet feel so far away, is tragic. The inability to connect to the very person who brought you into this world is tragic. It is like a tease. It is like a distant fantasy. Sadly, the adult child begins to feel a sense of grief and loss of hope, faith, and joy. Sometimes adult children internalize their emotions and begin to feel depressed, suicidal, or self-injurious. This is often when substance abuse begins.

It is truly sad that a child’s life can be affected by the emotional and psychological instability and unavailability of a parent. It’s as if this belief gives the unstable parent more power than they deserve. But decades of research confirm that children must have the experience, during early childhood development, of a warm caregiver/guardian in order to develop the appropriate skills (the ability to be emotionally available, connect with other individuals, understand the rules of social communication, etc.) needed for later in life.

Do you have questions regarding this? Have you experienced this? If so, feel free to post below as I always enjoy reading your questions and replies to each other.

As always, I wish you well

The Enmeshed Family: What It Is and How to “Unmesh” | Maria Droste Counseling Center

this is a great primer on the concept of “Enmeshment within families”.

Give it a read.




Source: The Enmeshed Family: What It Is and How to “Unmesh” | Maria Droste Counseling Center

by Chris Lewis, Ed.S., LPC

It’s a word most of us have heard before, often when describing families that are extremely close and tightly wound. But what does it mean? Aren’t families supposed to be close? Aren’t we supposed to try to please our parents or siblings? Doesn’t being a part of a family mean making sacrifices sometimes?

Well, the answer is “yes” and “no” to all three questions. Yes, the hope is that our families are our primary social communities; little (or big) clusters of individuals who are related by birth or adoption, and who define themselves as members of that clan. Ideally, children are launched into their adult lives from these families, prepared to think for themselves and with a well developed efficacy and identity of their own.

When families are enmeshed, however, this doesn’t always happen. When children are raised to conform to their parents’ expectations of who they are, what they believe, and how they think and feel, that individuation so necessary to being truly independent doesn’t occur. Healthy families allow for differences in their members; adults and children alike.

Growing up is a process of exploration, and healthy families allow for a child to develop according to their own individual and unique characteristics. Children who love art are encouraged and supported in that interest, even if mom doesn’t value art herself. Children who love music or theatre are supported in those interests, whether dad had football and soccer in mind or not. Children are not told how they should feel or think, but are encouraged to make up their own minds and express what they are feeling without being judged.

As children grow older, enmeshed families can hit heavy walls of conflict when the natural healthy questioning of adolescents challenges parents with “too rigid” expectations for their children’s behavior. Teenagers are supposed to differ from their parents, and they often need a few years of wide variance from their parents before they settle into what feels right to them. That’s a healthy process.

Families that are enmeshed often have a set of spoken, or unspoken, rules that govern the member’s behaviors even into adulthood. Do these sound familiar to you?

  • Don’t talk to outsiders about what goes on in our family. That is our business and our business only.
  • What Mom and Dad say/believe/think/feel about you is what is right, never mind that you are 45 years old and have been on your own for 27 years.
  • It’s okay for you to be a little bit different from us in some ways, but there is a line that you can’t cross in this family and still be accepted (maybe you can’t be a Democrat, or a gay person, or marry outside of our race).
  • The cost of being different is to be cut off. We cannot accept differences that challenge our rigid sense of who this family is.
  • Even as adults, you will conform to the wishes of “the family” instead of make your own mind up about how, where, and with whom you wish to live your life.

If they do sound familiar, it is possible that your family is enmeshed on some level. If so, there is good news and bad news about that. Change is possible, but it isn’t easy. Enmeshed families are rigid systems that become locked-in over time, and these roles and patterns can be very hard to break out of. If a family as a whole understands that this enmeshment is unhealthy and wishes to change, family therapy can be helpful in establishing more permeable, flexible boundaries within family relationships.

This is an ideal scenario; however, most often what occurs is that one family member recognizes that they are unable to be who they are or live as they choose without offending the family, and that person very often needs to make a difficult choice. In healthy families, members are supported in making choices for their own well being, even if members don’t agree with those choices.

Individuals who decide to divorce can often be judged by other adult family members who think they “know what’s right” for that person and that marriage. Adults who wish to change religious or political status can feel they don’t have the right to do so because their families will disapprove. Adult children can make well-meaning but wrong judgments about how their parents should be spending their money and retirement years.

If you are dealing with trying to make healthy choices for your own life and experiencing the fall-out of being “different” in an enmeshed family, you have a couple of choices. You could confront your family in a loving but firm way, tell them what you see happening, and then tell them what you need in terms of moving forward. Invite them to accept your decisions for your life whether or not they are the decisions they would make for you. If they resist, offer to do family counseling with them in order to ensure you all navigate through these changes and maintain a healthy closeness.

If your family members refuse, the choice for you is to remain in conformity for the rest of your life, sacrificing what is best for you and suppressing your own identity for the family’s collective identity, or to risk their disapproval and make your own choices. You can choose to do what is best for you; that is within your control. What you can’t control is your family’s response, but you have to be willing to let them deal with their response; it’s their business, not yours.

Over time, many families will be able to adjust to the changes and accept you on some level: “Oh that’s Jimmy, he’s a little ‘different,’ but he’s okay.” Some may not, but this is where the sacrifice part comes in. If you are in an enmeshed family and you have a need or desire for your life that isn’t in compliance with the family “rules,” you are going to have to make a sacrifice one way or the other. Choose your own well being, or choose a life of denial of your own needs.

If you are in this situation and need help with these decisions, individual therapy might be helpful to you. Therapy can help you determine what you need and want, and help support you through making the changes you need to in order to get where you want to be. Therapy can also help support you in staying strong in your own sense of who you are, no matter what others believe.

Chris Lewis, Ed.S., LPC, is a therapist who specializes in individual, family, and couples and marriage counseling in Denver, CO. She provides services through Maria Droste Counseling Center.

Adult Asperger’s: The Relief of A Diagnosis

Adult Asperger’s: The Relief of A Diagnosis | Psych Central.

Adult Asperger’s: The Relief of A Diagnosis



The following are criteria for Aspergers that have been excerpted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV):

  1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
    • Marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction
    • Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
    • A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people, (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
    • lack of social or emotional reciprocity
  2. Restricted repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities
  3. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  4. There is no clinically significant general delay in language
  5. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment inchildhood.

They are often physically awkward and socially tactless.

You’ve probably known quite a few. Maybe they are even in your family. There’s that brilliant professor you had in college who looked at his desk the entire time he was talking to you and whose office was so overflowing with stuff there was nowhere for a visitor to sit. How about your brother-in-law the mechanic, whose work is superb but who insists on describing in minute detail exactly what he did to fix your car — and doesn’t seem to notice all your hints that you’re trying to leave already! What about your uncle or cousin or the sister of your best friend who is so socially awkward that you squirm with discomfort whenever they show up at an event, wondering what they’ll do next to embarrass themselves?

They are often physically awkward and socially tactless. They seem to be perfectionists but often live in chaos. They know more about some obscure or highly technical subject than seems possible — and go on and on about it. They may seem to lack empathy, and are often accused of being stubborn, selfish, or even mean. They can also be extremely loyal, sometimes painfully honest, highly disciplined and productive in their chosen field, and expert at whatever they decide to be expert at. They are the Aspies, adults with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The number of adults with Aspergers is still difficult to determine. The syndrome wasn’t even officially acknowledged in the DSM until 1994, even though it was described by Hans Asperger in 1944. The result? Many older adults weren’t diagnosed — or helped — as children. Teachers found them exasperating because they were so disorganized and uneven in their academic performance despite often being clearly bright. Other kids considered them weird and either bullied them or ignored them. As adults, they are only now discovering that there is a reason they’ve had difficulties with relationships their entire lives.

For many, having a diagnosis is a relief.

“I never could figure out what other people want,” says Jerome, one of my Aspie clients. “People seem to have some kind of code for getting along that is a mystery to me.”

Jerome is a brilliant chemist. He has the respect of his colleagues but he knows that he’s not well-liked. The finely tuned intuition he uses to do research breaks down completely in relationships.

“I know I’m well-regarded in my work. As long as we’re talking about a research problem, everything is fine. But as soon as people start doing that small talk stuff, I’m lost. It’s good to have a name for it. At least I know there’s a reason.”

Jerome is now starting to put the same intelligence he uses in his lab to learning better social skills. For him, it’s an academic problem to solve. Like many other Aspies, he wants to get along and have friends. He’s highly motivated to learn the “rules” most people take for granted. He just never understood what those rules were. Having the diagnosis has given him new energy for the project.

The press coverage of the syndrome of the last several years has been very helpful as well.

“I was working on a highly technical engineering project with a new guy last week. In the middle the morning, he put down his pencil, looked at me and said, “You have Aspergers, don’t you.”

Ted was explaining a recent encounter to me. “I got real nervous, thinking he was going to leave.”

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Well. I know now that’s my problem so I just said he was right. And you know what he said? He said, ‘I thought so’ and told me I could relax because he works with another guy who has the same thing. We had a great morning solving the problem. That wouldn’t have happened even a few years ago. I would have upset him somehow without understanding why. He would have gone back to his company thinking I was some kind of jerk. Things are just better now that there’s some understanding out there.”

Having the diagnosis has also saved more than a few marriages. Now that the kids are grown, Judy was ready to separate from her husband of 27 years when she first came to therapy.

“If Al and Tipper Gore could do it after 40 years of marriage, I figured I could manage it too. I don’t know what their problems were but I was just exhausted. I felt like I’d been single-parentingour two kids forever. Actually, I felt like I had three kids. Most of my friends couldn’t figure out what I saw in a guy who could only talk about one thing and who would rudely disappear in the middle of a social evening. He never seemed to be able to understand any of our feelings. Our finances were always a mess because he would lose track of bills. Yes, he was really sweet to me in our private life and he’s always been great about doing things like building the kids a tree house — that was really, really cool. But it became harder and harder to see that as a fair exchange for all the times I had to smooth things over because of something he did or didn’t do that bothered someone.

Then my daughter emailed me an article about Aspergers. It changed everything. I realized he wasn’t deliberately making life so hard. He couldn’t help it. As soon as he took an Aspie quiz online, he saw it was true. He does love us. He didn’t want the family to fall apart. He went right out and found a therapist who works with adults with Aspergers. He’s far from perfect but he’s honestly trying. He’s even apologized to the kids for not being more involved while they were growing up. I can’t ask for more than that.”

A diagnosis is primarily used to drive treatment decisions and to make it easier for clinical people to communicate with each other. But in cases like these, it can also be an enormous comfort to the individual and their families. As long as someone with Aspergers feels like they are being blamed or criticized for something they don’t even understand, they can only be defensive or bewildered. When the people around them feel offended or disrespected, they can only get exasperated, argue, or write them off. But when the thing that makes a relationship difficult is named and understood, it becomes a problem that can be worked on together. That shift can change everything.

The Social World of Kids with Special Needs | TVO Parents

The Social World of Kids with Special Needs | TVO Parents.

4About this Video

For children with special needs, making friends can be a big challenge. Three Moms share their stories and offer advice in this discussion: Marcy White, Mary-Lou VanBerkel and Louise Kinross of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.
Published on: April 04, 2012 | 
Length: 21:38 | 
Views: 1775

Parents’ Toolkit | TVO Parents

Parents’ Toolkit | TVO Parents.

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  • Newcomers’ Guide to Elementary School

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Boyhood Is Not a Mental Illness: The American Spectator :

The American Spectator : Boyhood Is Not a Mental Illness.




Boyhood Is Not a Mental Illness

Suspended for chewing a Pop-Tart into a gun?

All the employees of school districts on a witch hunt to expel and otherwise permanently punish young boys for shooting toy guns or forming their fists into the shape of a gun need to read Back to Normal.

The purpose of psychologist Enrico Gnaulati’s 2013 book is to argue how ordinary childhood behavior is often misdiagnosed as ADD, ADHD, depression and autism — frequently with life-long, disturbing consequences. But along the way he raises the taboo question of whether we “label boys as mentally unstable, behaviorally unmanageable, academically underachieving, in need of special-education services, or displaying behavior warranting school suspension just because their behavior deviates noticeably from that of the average girl?”

He adds, “In a sense, girl behavior has become the standard by which we judge all kids.”

He cites numerous studies showing that typical boy behavior – wrestling, rough games of tag, good guy/bad guy imaginative play that involves “shooting” — are condemned by preschool and elementary school teachers, the vast majority of whom are women,  without the behavior being redirected appropriately to release boys’ “natural aggression.” Boys who play in the way noted above are not on a path to mass murder, contrary to what zero tolerance school policies suggest. For the vast majority of them, they are simply on the path to manhood. I wonder how many of us who recognize that truth still stifle our boys’ rough play or cowboy shoot outs out of fear of the new rules – reinforcing the capriciousness of regulations in young minds who will one day asked to make them.

Without changes to rigid policies and attitudes about what constitutes good behavior, we will be on a path as a society to generating mass confusion and depression in boys whose natural tendencies are being relabeled as criminal traits or medical problems that need to be treated.

This is not just an existential threat. As unorthodox feminist Camille Paglia said recently in remarks at American University:

Extravaganzas of gender experimentation sometimes precede cultural collapse, as they certainly did in Weimar Germany.  Like late Rome, America too is an empire distracted by games and leisure pursuits.  Now as then, there are forces aligning outside the borders, scattered fanatical hordes where the cult of heroic masculinity still has tremendous force.  I close with this question:  is a nation whose elite education is increasingly predicated on the neutralization of gender prepared to defend itself against that growing challenge?

If that sounds crazy, is it wrong to worry how the massive increase in the number of children taking anti-depressants and other drugs as a result of skyrocketing diagnoses of ADHD, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder will impact their lives?

Many drugs used to treat the above disorders cause serious problems, including mood swings, sleeplessness, weight gain, weight loss and slower growth. And then there is the long-term impact of a mental health diagnosis, which can create a sense that the child is not in control of his actions because it is purely a chemical imbalance in the brain.

As Gnaulati writes, however, in many cases it’s “causes — plural, not singular — that explain why a child behaves the way he or she does.”

“On any number of occasions in my practice over the years,” he writes, “I have seen how a mildly depressed or ADHD-like kid can be transformed by a change of teacher, a change of school, signing up for a sport, a reduced homework load, a summer abroad, a front-of-the-class seating arrangement, a month living away from home with an even-tempered aunt, or any of a host of other everyday steps.”

Many forces conspire to push a mental health diagnosis, from rules on health insurance to schools achieving certain goals under federal No Child Left Behind law. Gnaulati’s book should give parents struggling with a difficult child hope that their child may not be permanently mentally ill, but going through a difficult stage that can be treated without medication. And it should give school administrators perspective on how best to handle unruly boys and channel their energy without condemning their nature. At the very least, we don’t need any more boys suspended for chewing a Pop-Tart into a gun.