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Every parent wants to raise the perfect child: healthy, happy, loved, and respected with high achievements and even higher goals. We want our children to have the things we didn’t have and to achieve their dreams. This is all well and good, unless we become so focused on our desires for our child that we forget what’s inherently best for the child.
The term hyper-parenting describes a dangerous trend in child rearing in middle- and upper-middle–class homes. In hyper-parenting families, parents become overly involved in every detail of their children’s academic, athletic, and social lives. They unnecessarily augment their children’s environment and overschedule them.
In these parents’ heartfelt desire to help their children succeed, they hinder the kids by not allowing them to be, simply, children.
Children today are getting so much more than just basic schooling. Many participate in several of the following extracurricular activities: sports, clubs, music lessons, art lessons, foreign language lessons, necessary tutoring, and internet.
Individually, these activities are valuable, but combined they can leave parents and children frazzled.
Some parents claim that they involve their children in these activities to avoid the risk of boredom.1 What they are forgetting is that boredom is a catalyst for creativity. Boredom can fuel a child’s imagination; while over-scheduling the child doesn’t allow them the opportunity to exercise their innate ability to entertain themselves.
Raising the perfect child has almost become a competitive sport, with the prize being speaking early, qualifying for gifted and talented programs, or earning admission to an elite university. These things, and not a well-balanced and happy child, have become the measure of parental accomplishment.
According to Alvin Rosenfeld, MD, “The competitive parents react to the latest science reported in the media—which professionals know is of dubious validity—by broadcasting Mozart into their infants’ nurseries to stimulate mathematical ability, enrolling toddlers in organized gymnastics programs to fine-tune large motor development, and putting children too young to comprehend the rules in competitive team sports. They insist that kids who are barely awake sit for 7 AM piano lessons and that high-schoolers manicure their resumes to fit profiles elite colleges supposedly are looking for.”2
Many parents may recognize these characteristics in themselves but, despite the fact that they know their children are over-scheduled, many parents will choose to keep up the pace for fear that cutting back may harm their child’s future.