Are You a Pushover Parent? 5 Ways to Stay Strong

5 straight-forward, commonsense strategies that allow for your entire family to live in a happy, parent-driven environment.

Cheryl Butler
7-minute read
Episode #457

Then, unleash another surprise: Let your child air her grievances (respectfully). Maybe she hates it when you refer to her as lazy. Maybe she needs some more wind down time after school. Now bring it home with a third surprise: suggest both of you work to change.

Once you’ve come up with a mutually agreeable solution (say, you’ll give a 15-minute warning at 7pm and then she’ll wrap up what she’s doing and start homework by 7:15), write it down. Somehow putting the agreement on paper makes it more real, more solid for all parties. Post your new agreement in a central location like the kitchen.

Finally, agree what will happen if the agreement is broken on either side (there shouldn’t only be negatives for your child!) If you slip up and call her lazy, you’ll put $5 in a jar which your child gets when her homework is done. If your child hasn’t started homework by 7:15, she forfeits hanging out with her BFF this weekend.

Tip #3: Have Routines.

As the mother of eight kids ranging in age from 12 to 24, I can tell you firsthand that one of the biggest reasons I still haven’t lost my mind (well, not totally!) is because of my one secret weapon: routines.

Adults may find routines to be boring, or too much work to implement, but when you’re raising a family, juggling work, running a household, and trying like crazy to find time for yourself and your partner, establishing daily routines is essential.

Not only do routines help keep order and structure in your home (though your kids might never admit it), they also help kids thrive and keep them grounded. In an article on pushover parenting, Dr Aric Sigman, author of The Spoilt Generation, says, "Parents are in charge and children need rules and boundaries to make them feel secure. We need to trust our own instincts and not shirk our responsibility of being a parent."

I truly have found that having rock-solid routines helps keep our household a more parent-centric environment that my kids have come to count on and respect.

Tip #4: Don’t Make It Easy All the Time.

Overprotective parents are also ripe for becoming chronic pushovers. When you hold your child in your arms for the very first time, time stands still as you dream about how perfect you want his world to be. You may even secretly make a pact with yourself to do everything in your power to keep him safe, no matter what it takes because as a parent you want only the best for him.

That’s admirable and totally understandable but once he starts to grow and exert his independence, like it or not you’re going to have to let him spread his wings and experience the world outside of your cozy and safe nest. Pushover parents tend to hover over their kids regardless of whether they are out of the house with friends, at school events, or attending sporting activities “just in case” a problem arises and they can help solve it. They also demonstrate the same behaviors inside their own home such as taking on extra duties for their kids because we have a soft spot in our hearts for simply wanting to make things easier for them.

For example, we see that they’re tired after a long day of school so instead of allowing them to bring their own dirty clothes to the laundry room or feeding the family pet, we jump in and do it for them, thinking we’re doing them a favor. The problem is that this gets misinterpreted by the child. Once he sees that all he needs to do is act tired to get you to handle his chore, it will become a bad habit for both of you. By allowing them to do their share, no matter how small it might be, you’re giving them regular opportunities to contribute and be proud of themselves and they’ll see you’re not going to cave just because they don’t have their usual energy to contribute. See also: How to Get Your Kids to Help with Chores.

Tip #5: Learn to Say Yes Without Being a Sucker.

Childhood sets the tone for how a child views himself, others, and the world. That's why we as parents need to allow our kids to take full advantage of the many opportunities childhood offers.  When we say ‘yes’ to reasonable requests, we give our children the chance to grow.  When we habitually say ‘no,’ or do so without good cause, we deny them the chance to fully enjoy the carefree pleasures of childhood. There is a happy medium between being a “yes” man and a negative Nellie.

For example, most kids are famous for asking to do something at the most inopportune moment or doing so in front of their friends thinking you’ll cave into their request. Just this past weekend my 15-year-old son wanted to invite one of his friends over for a sleepover and asked me right in front of the kid, which really put me on the spot. “Can Ethan sleep over tonight, mom? We already asked his mom and she said yes.” (Don't you just love it?) Instead of saying “Sure, why not?” I said: “Yes, Ethan can sleep over, but not tonight, I already made plans to go out with some work colleagues. How does next Friday night sound instead?”

This way, it didn't leave much room for argument, I wasn’t a sucker even though I had been put on the spot, and it also didn't embarrass him in front of his friend. Win-win!

How do you keep from having pushover tendencies? Share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT

Image of bossy kid© Shutterstock


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!