Katie's Take

How to Avoid Overparenting

Katie Couric
Katie's Take

Katie's Take

I'm not necessarily a fan of sweeping generalizations about entire generations made by cultural anthropologists who are looking for a catch phrase to capture a zeitgeist (whoa, where did THAT come from?), but here's the rap on Millennials:  People say they're overcoddled, overprotected and ill-equipped to handle the setbacks and disappointments of the real world.

If that's true, it's largely because they have been overparented.  And before I go any further, let me say, "Guilty as charged."  I am a parent, too, and I have from time to time been a "helicopter mom" hovering a bit too close and making sure my daughters aren't too far out of reach.

I was really struck by an article I read in The Atlantic called "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy," so much so that I cited it in my commencement address this year at the University of Virginia.  The piece quoted a number of experts who offered some very frank…and frankly jaw-dropping…wake up calls about the consequences of fixing every problem and clearing every obstacle that lies ahead of your child.

In this episode I talk to one of the experts from that piece, a bestselling author and clinical psychologist named Dr. Wendy Mogel. Her books The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and TheBlessing of a B Minus both extol the virtues of a little disappointment and explain how character building sadness and frustration can be for a child.

According to Mogel, experiencing emotional distress and failure as a teen is a necessary step in development and will spur personal growth through college and beyond.  Mogel sees many parents that tend to "vibrate like emotional tuning forks" around their kids and cautions them to avoid getting overly involved in solving all their child's problems.

On her website, wendymogel.com, Dr. Mogel gives her 13 rules to parenting, which include: Avoid the urge to fix your children, don't treat your child's achievements and failures as reflection of your parenting, and be sure to give them time to play.

She encourages parents to familiarize themselves with the words "trial" and "error" and to allow kids to choose their own path. "If your child has a talent to be a baker, don't ask him to be a doctor," says Mogel.

Most importantly, when it comes to your kids, she says: Be alert, not alarmed.

To join in the conversation, tweet me @katiecouric.

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