By: Carol Maxym, Ph.D.
Today, parents are involved in their children’s lives more than ever before. While it’s important to care about your child’s happiness and development, too much micromanagement can set him or her up for failure in the long run.
Believe it or not, micromanagement is lazy parenting. Yes, lazy. You’re probably thinking that makes no sense because it takes so much of your energy keeping everything together, running smoothly. Yes, it does, but it also creates an artificial order of what will ultimately become chaos because your child is not gaining independence of thought, action, or emotion.
It’s a hard fact to accept, but being too controlling and being too involved in every aspect of your child’s daily life, can have many harmful results.
You’ve probably heard the old proverb: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you allow him to feed himself for life.
How does that proverb relate to micromanaging your child?
Micromanaging moms and dads tend to organize and make sure homework is being done each night. They help kids with larger projects, they arrange meetings with teachers when things aren’t working optimally, and they take charge of organizing schedules. These parents also constantly remind and nag their children to do better, try harder, and meet their rigidly set standards. Sure, you can impose adult-level quality and expectations of on every aspect of your child’s life, but ask yourself… what is going to happen when you aren’t there?
Are you just giving your child fish after fish or are you teaching him or her how to fish?
As a professional, I am continuously distressed to hear about parents needing to be more involved in their child’s education. No, no, no! You do not need to supervise what your child is learning and how he is doing. You do not need to micromanage schoolwork and activities for your child. I have no doubt you will do a better job (naturally, you are an adult!) resulting in a higher quality end product. However, the end result of having a better product is the antithesis of meeting your child’s needs. Remember your child’s needs are more closely related to being able to become independent, honorable, and productive in the adult world than to be imitating adult-level competence at the ripe age of 8 or 12 or 16.
You may not want to hear it, but I’m going to say it: micromanaging your kid or teen is selfish. Yes, really, because at the end of the day it’s about you having the satisfaction of the end product instead of experiencing the struggle, pain, and distress of waiting to see how your child will do if left on his (her) own. Micromanaging is a sign of wanting adult-level quality for kid-level endeavors that are intended to give your child the skills and experiences he or she needs to fail, learn, and grow. Sure, it’s easier to micromanage something than to teach someone how to do something step by step than it is waiting for the learning to happen. Especially since learning rarely happens immediately and takes both patience and time.
Micromanaging is about you having instant gratification. Micromanaging is about you not having to bear the anxiety of your child not doing perfectly at the start…or even later.
Here is one telling way to help you tell if you are micromanaging. Check out whether you have “Pronoun Disorder.” Pronoun Disorder is when you use the pronoun “we” when you should be saying “he” or “she.” Pronoun Disorder is when you say things like, “We’re applying to college”, “we’re studying for the exam”, or “we’re putting in extra practice at the soccer field.” Pronoun Disorder is when you think things like: “I know exactly how he’s feeling. I must ease it for him.”
So to help you reconsider micromanaging your child, think about whether the process or the end product is more important to your child in the long run.