Why over-parenting is a double edged sword

Parents play a central role in their children’s education and achievement in life. But unknown to many is that parenting requires special skills if the children, especially those in school, are to excel.
A teacher addresses students. Parents should complement teachers by being good role models to their children. (Lydia Atieono)
A teacher addresses students. Parents should complement teachers by being good role models to their children. (Lydia Atieono)

Parents play a central role in their children’s education and achievement in life. But unknown to many is that parenting requires special skills if the children, especially those in school, are to excel.

Educationists advise that parents should avoid over-parenting as it creates an unhealthy relationship with their children, which impacts their academic life in the long-run. Over-parenting is the excessive involvement in the day-to-day life of one’s child or children, typically in the desire to shield them from difficult situations or help them succeed.

According Faustin Mutabazi, the managing director of Education Consultancy Bureau, parental involvement has significant effects on a student’s accomplishments.

He notes that the impact is even greater in children in primary school.

“If pupils are to maximise their potential from schooling, they need the full support of their parents. Parents should play a role not only in their own children’s growth, but also more broadly in their school life,” he says.

Mutabazi, however, says parents should desist from over-controlling their children, especially those in high school, as this can negatively affect their performance.

Research carried out by the University of Arizona in USA, indicates that adult children who are over-parented tend to have lower self-efficacy and an exaggerated sense of entitlement.

The research goes further to point out that parents who over-parent are likely to be less satisfied with family communication and connection, and that creates other problems for them, in terms of depression, anxiety and negative coping behaviours.

Emmanuella Mahoro, a psychologist based in Kigali says, parental support can be physical, which includes taking care of basic needs, and moral, which is largely psychological.

She says lack of these can have a negative impact on a student. The impact can be seen when a student fail in their academics, turns to drugs or become depressed.

“The same case applies to when a child is given too much attention. They tend to lack self-esteem and confidence, as well as lack of respect for others,” she says.

Bienvenue Cheez Murangwa, the executive director of Roots Foundation, a local charity organisation that supports street children, is of the view that parenting is the second most influential environments after school in a student’s life.

He says pampering students with lots of stuff such as money, freedom as well as love can affect a student’s overall performance negatively.

“Although these things are not bad for a child, when exaggerated they pose danger to the well-being of such a student,” he says.

The best way to go, Murangwa says, is for parents to be in a position to understand how much is too much for their children, and know how to regulate whatever they are offering them.

“For instance, a pupil who is still in primary school shouldn’t be given or allowed to own certain gadgets such as phones. This can interfere with their academics as their minds are still too young to handle a lot of stuff at once,” he explains.

For students in high school, Murangwa believes that some of them are old enough to handle many things at ago, but adds that a parent should know what is good for their children and what might be too much for them.

Cathy Uwamahoro, a Kigali-based mentor says, adult children depend on their parents for direction, and when this doesn’t happen or is compromised in a certain way, children tend to grow up without proper morals.

“As a parent, you should be in a position to monitor what your child is doing in addition to giving them what they need at school and at home,” she says.

Uwamahoro adds that most of the time parents find themselves in a fix when it comes to parenting as they don’t know what is right for their children, the result of which is pampering them thinking it’s the best way to show them love.

“This poses a great danger on such children’s future as they will not learn how to live independently. The best way for parents in such a dilemma to seek guidance from mentors and family counselors,” she adds.

How to avoid over-parenting

Claudine Nzitabakuza, the head of Teacher Education Management and Professionalisation Department at Rwanda Educational Board (REB), says parents should learn to give students responsibilities at home, depending on their age.

“Giving them responsibilities doesn’t mean they will spend all the time doing that, but it’s just one way of helping them to learn to manage their time well. These skills will be of help both at school and in future,” he says.

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Over-parenting can lead to low self esteem in students.

However, Nzitabakuza cautions that this should be in a way that will not interfere with the student’s academics.

Additionally, he says parents should train children to know what they are expected to do without being followed up now and then.

Lillian Mbabazi, a teacher at Little Angels in Kicukiro, Kigali, believes that students should not at any point be over-praised by their parents when they achieve something, but rather give them words of encouragement.

“A student who is in high school should just be encouraged to do the best. Praises should go to young children as it inspires them to work harder,” she says.

Mbabazi also says parents should avoid rewarding students with too much material stuff.

“Just like praises, material things are just another way of spoiling a student. For instance, giving materials such as phones, tablets and other gadgets can create a sense of entitlement, which is an unhealthy character trait,” she adds.

Mbabazi explains that such rewards can mislead them to grow up thinking that even out there getting whatever one wants is easy.

“This has a negative impact on how they perceive life. Chilcren who are over pampered grow up thinking that life is simple and one doesn’t have to put in much effort to acquire what they want because their parents always provided them whatever they asked for,” she says.

However, Mbabazi says for a student to continue working hard, they need encouragement or rewards that boost their academic performance. A parent should only offer what they can afford to avoid creating a wrong impression on their children’s expectations, she adds.

Monica Umutoni, a teacher at Nyange Secondary School in Musanze District explains that giving a student what is within the parent’s means helps students learn to appreciate whatever they are given however small it is.

“But rewarding them all the time and with a lot of materials has the potential to make them think that it’s their right to get whatever they want from their parents, which can have a negative impact on their overall well-being,” she says.

Their say...

Millicent Bishumba, university student

Being able to correct a child’s behaviour should be the priority of every parent. This helps a child to know what is good for them or not. Showering a child with gifts all the time makes it hard for them to change their mindset on how they perceive life in general as they grow up with unrealistic expectations.

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Olivier Habimana, parent

Providing an environment where learners can express their feeling is important, and this should happen both at school and home. When children are allowed to share their opinions, it helps a parent to guide them better.

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Emery Rwandanga, student at G.S Rugando

I think each school should have rules that guide parents on what to provide their children, especially in boarding schools. This will help regulate what students carry to school and stop cases of parents ‘spoiling’ their children unknowingly.

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Kenny Mpayana, teacher

When parents show too much love to children by giving them a lot of pocket money and other unnecessary gifts, it compromises the student’s attention from their studies. These gifts should be given in moderation.