Stop Suffocating Your Kids: They Don’t Need you as Much as you Think


If there is one thing that all parents are guilty of at times, it’s suffocating our kids. Even with our oldest being only 6, we can see it from time to time in her eyes and hear it in her words that we’re suffocating her, and we know we have to reign it in. But before we talk about how we are suffocating our kids and ruining their lives, understand that it’s okay. You might not be perfect, but none of us are. We all want to do what we can to make sure our kids lives are as easy and seamless as possible, as enjoyable and as much fun as ever. But sometimes we do too much for them, and they’re going to be the ones that suffer from our over-desire to do everything. I hear it sometimes in my daughter’s voice when I pick her up from school. This is her last week of the first grade, and my frequent questions, intrusion and desire to know everything about her day from beginning to end grate on her nerves at times.

She’s her own person, and I have to remember that I’m not someone with whom she wants to share everything at that moment in time. I’ve learned that when she is short with her answers, it’s for her own reasons, and I have to stop pushing. Most of the time, she approaches us later and tells us all about her day despite behaving as if she’d rather me pull her teeth than speak to me in the car (by the way, she once told me she doesn’t like telling the same stories over and over again, and that’s why she sometimes waits for daddy to come home so she can tell us about her day together instead of two separate times). So see? Kids aren’t as dumb as we think they are.

Parental suffocation starts from day one – or probably even before. We discuss with one another while the baby is still in utero how we will make his or her life easier and more enjoyable, how we will protect our baby and how we will do anything for him or her. And we just get worse from there. In my professional opinion, it’s too much access to the media. When my oldest was born, social media wasn’t as popular as it is now, and we were much more relaxed parents. We had bumpers in her crib, shelves over her crib on the wall and so many things that when our twins were born last year, I was freaked out about. I wanted to hang things in their nursery, but I was afraid to have anything hanging above their cribs (what if they kicked the crib one day and it hit the wall and the shelf or letter or picture fell off and landed on the baby?). I still haven’t put the bumpers on their crib, despite the fact that they’re 14 months and just fine – but our oldest daughter had hers on hers from day one.

So much access to any and everything, to so many stories you don’t need to hear, to so much information is dangerous to us, and it makes us paranoid. We have so much access to things we didn’t see before, and it makes us paranoid, and it probably does more harm than good. Four years ago when our oldest daughter was born, it was perfectly acceptable to turn her around in her car seat at one; now it’s frowned upon to do it before four. Things change, and we become more paranoid. But that doesn’t mean we can suffocate our kids; because guess what? They don’t actually need us as much as we think that they do.

The Babying

I was recently shocked to find out that a friend of ours whose daughter is the same age as our oldest showers by herself, washes her own hair and brushes her own teeth without anyone putting the toothpaste on her brush for her. She even brushes her own hair and picks out her own school clothes. Our almost 7-year-old does none of this. She still likes to play in the tub with her 4-year-old sister playing mermaids and Barbie, we wash her hair and we put the toothpaste on the brushes. And I pick out her school clothes and brush her hair. It made us realize that we are raising a little girl who cannot get by on her own. We quickly realized that while she’s yet to realize it, we were suffocating her in the perpetual baby stage because we thought she needed us to do those things for her. Guess what? She doesn’t; and she’s a lot happier doing them on her own. She even thanked us for letting her be a big girl when we began allowing her more independence.


When cheerleading ended last November and we went to enroll our oldest in dance and gymnastics, she asked us not to. She told us she wanted a break. She missed coming home and playing. She missed her sister and the babies. She missed being home, eating dinner as a family and even going to bed on time. She was tired of practice 2 nights a week, games on Saturdays and always being busy. And guess what? She was right; we were tired of it, too. We happily let her skip out on things she really didn’t want to do, and now she’s excited about the upcoming cheer season once again. She doesn’t need us to schedule every moment of her life – she needs free time to just be a kid.

Handling Their Problems

I’m using my oldest as an example a lot today, but mostly because she’s the one that’s oldest and most affected by us at the moment. She came home yesterday with a bunch of papers and things that she cleaned out of her desk since this is the last week of school. Among them was a note to a little girl in her class apologizing for leaving her out and inviting her to play with her on the playground and sit with her at lunch.

At first I was angry that she would be rude to a little girl to the point that she excluded her and felt she needed to write a note like this, and I was in the process of scheduling a meeting with her teacher to discuss it and handle the issue. That’s when my husband pointed out to me I hadn’t even asked my daughter what happened yet. Upon asking her, she informed us that she and her friend were playing, and her friend told the other little girl she could not play with them. My daughter said the other little girl’s feelings were very hurt, and it made her sad and she felt really bad about being mean, so she wrote her a note and asked her to be her friend.

Without my help or my husband’s help or the help of her teacher, she was able to rationalize the situation, put herself in the other little girl’s shoes and see that her actions were not nice. She made the decision to stand up for the other little girl at the risk of upsetting the friend that didn’t want to include her, and she made things right all by herself. See? She doesn’t need me to fight her battles for her, or to involve others in situations; she can handle herself with far more grace and eloquence than I’d been giving her credit.

Forcing Kids to Talk

Family time is nice, and bonding is nice, but we have to remember that kids are just like adults; sometimes they’re just not ready to discuss things with us. That’s why we have to stop suffocating our kids with conversations. It’s doing more harm than good to talk to our kids over and over again about the same things until they finally open up to us. What we need to do, instead, is remind our kids regularly by proving it with our actions that we are always there for them, and that we are always willing to talk. When our kids want to talk to us, we need to focus on them, listen to them and prove we are ready and willing to listen. That’s what’s going to get them to open up to us, not playing 100 questions.

Suffocating our kids is something we do in a million ways; bothering them, forcing them to interact with us, doing their homework, not trusting them to handle issues and not trusting them to do the right thing. Our job is to be here, to set a good example and to educate our kids. And what we have to do is prove that day in and day out.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images


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