Are You Talking to Me?

By Janet Strassman Perlmutter


As a parent, how do you know whether you’re being too indulgent, too demanding or simply too involved in your kids’ lives?


William Doherty, Ph.D., a University of Minnesota sociologist and the author of Take Back Your Kids: Confident Parenting in Turbulent Times, says parents should watch for the following red flags:

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="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">• Does the idea of family mealtime seem like a relic from a bygone era? This is one sign of an overscheduled child or family. Sit-down family meals are as important as ever.


• Do you allow your child to yell at you regularly? If so, you’re probably not showing appropriate parental leadership. A child’s anger is permitted, Doherty says, but rudeness is not.


="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">• Do you cook different meals for each child because one really wants hamburgers and another has her heart set on grilled cheese? Doherty says you may be “wimping out as a parent” in the name of fostering your kids’ individuality. It’s just as important to foster compromise and flexibility in kids, he says.


• Do you resist doing anything that would make your child angry with you? Anti-authoritarian leanings (or simply conflict avoidance) may be interfering with your responsibility to set limits and teach kids to meet appropriate expectations. It’s natural to dislike skirmishes, but they’re a necessary part of parenting.


• How anxious do you get about your child’s success? Is this an area where you’ve blurred the boundary between your kids’ lives and your own? Kids, especially teens, need to feel ownership of their decisions. This doesn’t happen when kids are overmanaged, even by a parent with loving intentions.

• Do you tend to push your child too much or too soon? Pay attention to signs that your child may be stretched too far. Watch for tearfulness, irritability, or unreasonable expectations of himself or herself. Kids learn great skills – social interaction, creativity, etc. – simply from play and free time.

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