Monday

new essay

I have a new essay in BABBLE.com TODAY. It's about over-parenting, and how it's bad for kids and parents.

Thanks to all who talked to me and shared their insights and ideas while I was writing the piece. Not many actual quotes made it into the finished piece, but your feedback was really helpful to me.

Let me know what you think of the essay.

38 comments:

honey said...

Great essay, Katie.

I'm reminiscing ... Our tiny boy was spearing his green beans or macaroni with his baby fork at under a year, imitating us, very cute, and no instruction needed. But not long after he was swinging his spaghetti like a lasso and flinging it across the room. Also cute!

I've had some of those thoughts about overparenting. When I reached childbearing age in the 1970s, some parents had flashcards to turn their babies and toddlers into prodigies. Thanks goodness that seems to have abated!

But nowadays the little ones have all kinds of lessons and classes, which can start as early as age 2 or 3, and grow to something every day of the week by school age. We take our boy to more activities than we want to ... but some of his friends are in more sports, way further along in music, and started even younger.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on another excellently written ,well-reasoned piece.Now ,if only the confused women that most need to hear and understand these things would read and comprehend them.Perhaps they wouldn't feel the need to be so competetive with one another or to hold themselves to unnecessary standards that only cause alienation and self-deprecation.Keep up the great work Katie! jcb

ErinOrtlund said...

I liked the essay! I used to counsel families and it really took me aback how many talked about "homework time" as a time when the parents sat down with the kids to do homework. ??

Interesting mention of The Nurture Assumption. I found an article on Salon which you wrote about that book. Perhaps you could post that article on your blog and see what comments you get? I am really interested to talk more about that book because several aspects of it bother me.

helen said...

We definitely had so much more freedom as kids. I have a friend who quit her engineering job to be a SAHM and now I see that she just simply "engineers" her children's lives instead. Her (over) involvement is almost painful to watch at times and she definitely has a lot of dissatisfaction and anxiety surrounding parenting. I hope that I am able to sit back and let things be as I lean a bit towards the OCD nature at times. Oh, in the latest issue of The Week they reported that researchers in the UK inoculated mice with a harmless bacteria found in dirt and their serotonin level soared. So there may be something scientific to playing in the dirt and mental well being and healthy immune system!

Denette said...

I think it's a great article. I identified with it a lot. In fact when my son was born I made everyone, regardless of illness, wear a mask when coming into the room. I stocked up on hand sanitizer and even rewashed the tables at the resturants we went to. I had a shopping cart cover that I used everywhere. I was obsessed about germs. I have a toddler now and I've learn to relax. In fact, one of the things that drives me crazy is the overparenting at the playground. The constant mediation done by the parents between kids. If a child takes something away from mine it does make me sad to see but if he really wants it back, you better bet he will get it, without my help. We are pregnant for our second and while I won't be obsessive about the surgerical masks I will still use the cart cover. Going to the restrooms and seeing 1/2 the people leave without washing their hands makes the overparent in me go into hyperdrive.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Wonderful article. That's just one more reason why it's so important to keep an outside hobby/ part time job while you stay at home. I always say that our mothers had it so easy-- it was the age of guilt-free parenting. My son (10) is the only kid on his baseball team that has never played on a 'real' team before. Most kids have been playing every season since Kindergarten. The parents are sooo into it. Naturally, I'm the only mom there that works outside the home. Over-involement is gross.

Anonymous said...

I don't know... to me it all seems like different aspects of the "who's the better parent?" game. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if a parent stays at home, works, over-parents, under-parents, or something in between if the children are happy, healthy and well-rounded.

Leslie said...

Awesome article. I agree with just about every line. Sometimes I feel like others might think I'm neglectful or simply overwhelmed by the number of kids, but I'd like to think I'd let them have their freedom and learning experiences even if there were fewer kids in the house!

katie allison granju said...

Leslie- I will soon have 4 kids, and we are likely to have 5 before all is said and done. I do sometimes feel frazzled, but in general I think having a big family prevents me from being unhealthily focused on one or the other of my children.

Bean's Mum said...

I wanted to also congratulate you on the essay. "Benign neglect" is an overdue parenting approach that will help rebalance us as parents.

Strangely, this "return" DOES remind me of the 50s, somehow--specifically the sense of where children fit in: that is, they were expected to accompany mom to stores, etc. instead of mom fitting errands around the child's developmental activities, as seems to be norm lately.

Unlike the 50s, however: instead of us using that extra time to obsess over the perfectly cleaned house, hopefully women can use their newfound time to recreate themselves, apart from their children, whether it be working on their career or simply reading!

Anonymous said...

What kind of friend publicly, and for money, ridicules well-meant attempts to teach her daughter to use a spoon?

That was really mean.

Anonymous said...

Did you read the essay, anon? You act like you did, but you seem to have missed the whole point.

katie allison granju said...

Anon- I'm sorry if you felt I was ridiculing a friend. The person in question is an excellent mother with an adorable child. Of course she's taking a lot of pride in her baby's accomplishments. The point I was trying to make is that parents today - and even this mother - are under a lot of pressure to make sure their babies/young children are able to do certain things by certain ages in a certain way. I believe parents are ill-served by this pressure, and I would like to see moms be easier on themselves and relax about this stuff.

Kevin Barbieux said...

The better parent knows that they don't have to plan or control every aspect and every minute of their childs life. Still, parenting is hard/difficult work. But hard/difficult work is not necessarily "joyless."

Chris said...

Fantastic article, and I couldn't agree more. As a matter of fact, I just wrote a similar article in my own 'Dad' blog, though not nearly as in-depth: (http://dadrants.wordpress.com/2007/04/09/are-we-hurting-our-kids-futures-by-overprotecting-them/)

I must admit though that we do use the shopping cart cover thing, but it's not because we're worried about the germs. It actually serves more as a stability device. Our daughter was/is able to sit upright much easier in the cart-cover, versus sitting in the cart free-style.

As for the "Spoon issue", I think there's one other thing that warrants mention, and that is the sheer enjoyment you get as a parent from watching your child figure things out for themselves. Our daughter is VERY close to crawling, and my wife and I love to simply sit on the couch and watch her flop around and rock back-and-forth, and try to "work it out". In the process, we got to see her figure out how to get from her stomach back to a sitting position. It was really amazing (at least to us), and we would never have gotten to see it if we were hovering over her trying to guide (dictate) her every move.

Part of parenting certainly involves teaching your kids, but part of parenting is also knowing when to let them just figure it out for themselves.

Chris
dadrants.wordpress.com

Anonymous said...

rather ironic that someone who made quite a few women feel that they were inadequete mothers would write this. I tell people who have babies that so much of the shit out there about sleeping, co sleeping, crying it out, not crying it out is bullshit. Of course once you have worked yourself into a frenzy over all the birth, baby, feeding decisions of an infant, you have no energy left over to worry about truly important things like whether that nice man down the street that talks to your son(thereby taking him off your hands while you get work done) is a pedophile.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering what part socioecconomics plays in this?

Anonymous said...

My impression is that the anon that thinks you are "mean" is the ex-friend & child you profiled in your article.

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting topic and I applaud the discussion, however...
You are one of the most self-congratulatory parents I've ever read on Babble. You appear both snide and judgmental in this piece. You are competing just as much as any of the parents you are criticizing. Can't you see it?
I'd like to continue reading your work, and I really hope I'm wrong about you.

Anonymous said...

nope, you are not wrong about her. Something to say about everyone and blind to her own faults.

Anonymous said...

Loved the essay. Love Katie's writing. Love her blog because she is so incredibly honest about her own faults as a parent. It makes me feel less alone.

Anonymous said...

"Play date" is my pet peeve. What happened to Susie's going to play with Janie? Why is it now a "play date" rather than just children playing. Even playing - something children do naturally - has become structured and completely organized. Go play. Have fun. No date needed.

Anonymous said...

For someone that is micromanaging their baby's birth, it's surprising to me that you are condemning other moms for being inflexible.

Anonymous said...

Do some of you people even read Katie's blog? Read her post about childbirth again. I would hardly call what she wrote as being inflexible or micromanaging. She says she is working with both doctors and midwives. She's open to testing that's recommended but educating herself. She may or may not want an epedural. What is inflexible about that?

Anonymous said...

I loved your essay in Babble. I had never visited your blog before but plan to come back often.

Merri - mother to two boys 11 and 6 years old

Denette said...

It's always nice how all the comments putting her down are under anonymous. If you really believe what you say speak up!

Anonymous said...

maybe people go anonymous because it is a humongous hassle to make up an account etc etc etc. I would be more than happy to sign myself as "Tina" or "Mary" or some other anonymous name but I don't want to go to the hassle of making up an account just to do that.
I suspect her supporters are other navel gazing bloggers who have their own accounts. The people who just drop by for entertainment purposes no doubt have better things to do than spend hours on line pontificating stupidity on their own accounts.

Anonymous said...

I would further add that this woman greatly contributed to the overparenting and overstressing of mothers of infants (Dr Sears takes the big prize on that one but Ms Granju surely contributed her own two bits). How ironic that now she is judging others for running with that worry. She might want to look at the fact that a really good amount of her writing is presuming to judge what other parents should or should not be doing. No doubt this fishbowl effect propels even more of the "overparenting" trend because people such as Ms Granju have led mothers (especially but Dads too) to believe that things that matter not a bit are truly significant. It is a shame that she actually is a gifted writer because what she directs her efforts to is pure crap. Perhaps she would be wise to stick to pop culture commentary. Or if she must write about parenting, humor is ALWAYS the great equalizer. But she who microanalyzes the parenting of everyone else (before the baby is even out!!!) really needs to put the brakes on before talking about how everyone else is "overparenting".
I would also like to add she is hardly the first to identify this. I googled the word and there is another book published by a man who has a Ph.D and works with troubled kids and seems far more of an authority. Everything else I have seen on "overparenting" identifies "attachment parenting" as part of the problem. Interesting.
Granju comes up with no new ideas, puts her own judgemental little spin on them, speaks from no place of real knowledge and authority except her own opinions and for what? So she can make a living as a writer? There is nothing wrong with writing for a living but spare us the parental "expertise" because you don't have any. Stick to the HGTV stuff and music reviews. Based on the "teaser" of this essay, the book itself will no doubt be very expensive toilet paper.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. Katie's done a great job of explaining the difference between attachment parenting and the hovering parenting style that she is spotlighting. Have you ever read The Continuum Concept? She also writes in the first person, as a mom and not a parenting expert, so in no way should anyone expect they are reading something by a psychologist or pediatrician when they read her stories and articles. I prefer reading Katie's writing to books and articles by male doctors and pHd's because I believe her perspective is different and fresh. I have been a fan of her work for years and will keep reading. I do also like her music reviews and such even though I rarely get to hear any new music LOL!

katie allison granju said...

my thoughts on the difference between attachment parenting and "over-parenting"
This is an essay I wrote about three years ago on this topic. See what you think:

ROOTS AND WINGS

-Katie Allison Granju

We dropped our nearly-12-year-old son, Henry off for a month at summer camp this weekend. He stayed two weeks last year but wanted to try a month this time. I know I'll miss him but it was fun to see him happily waving goodbye, surrounded by a gaggle of other boys as we drove away.

In the past few weeks, as I've mentioned to friends and acquaintances that Henry would be gone at camp for four weeks, I've encountered quite a bit of wonderment that we would allow him to stay away that long, or that he would want to. Interestingly, some of the folks who seemed most startled at the idea that a sixth grader would spend a month away from his parents at summer camp are the same people who have amazed me in the past with their willingness to leave their infants and very young children for days or even longer at a time.

In thinking about that riddle, I was reminded yet again of how upside-down I find much of millennial, Western child rearing to be. I think we have it backwards in our culture: we don't allow babies much of a babyhood, but we treat our older children and teenagers like babies for far too long.

As with other higher-order mammals, human infants are hardwired to require certain responses from their adult caregivers in order to thrive. Human babies need to be held a great deal—almost constantly, actually—and experience a great deal of touch-time with other humans. They need to eat very frequently and in small amounts, including during the night. They have a strong need to suck for comfort, not only for food. They need to discover that they are able to elicit responses from the people around them when they cry. And optimally, human infants need to wean and reach other important developmental milestones, such as readiness for separation from parents—at their own unique pace.

Notice that I said that they need these things to thrive, rather than survive. I'm well aware of the anecdotal "my mother fed me on a strict schedule and I'm just fine" argument (I myself rode around without a car seat in a haze of second hand smoke as a tyke), but a growing body of respected anthropological and medical research now supports the view that high-touch, fed-on-cue, attachment-style child care yields optimal neurological and emotional development in babies and young children.

Sure, babies can turn out OK under a variety of conditions, just as plants can take root in rocky soil, but we know with increasing assuredness what the gold standard is.

Yet we modern American parents lead the world in our gadgetry and lifestyles designed to maximize babies' separation from their parents. Although there has been some movement toward more attachment-style parenting in recent years, American babies still spend more time in playpens, swings, cribs, and battery powered bouncy seats than they do in the arms of their parents, siblings, and other relatives. We stay at arm's length, and it's almost as if we are afraid to hold our babies too much for fear they will never let us put them down.

But by age six or seven, we begin to obsess over every detail of our kids' lives and micro-manage every moment of their days. Because we worry about stranger danger and exposure to the wrong movies, advertising, or foods, we no longer allow kids to wander freely through our neighborhoods or even our own front yards, where they should be learning important lessons in autonomy and problem solving. I meet many 10- and 11-year-old children who, while never having spent a night sleeping in the same bed as their parents as infants, still have never spent a night at a friend's house as third and fourth graders.

Our parenting style is like asking trapeze artists to learn to work without a net first, and only after they have mastered this, insisting that they perform in full safety gear of nets, wires, and pulleys. I believe that the result of this backwards approach to raising kids is that we are turning out children who may feel an unexpressed longing for something very primal that they can't even identify, yet without basic life skills or self confidence.

Babies need babying. Big kids need the chance to try out their wings.

And when they experience the inevitable bumps and bruises along the way, that's when we get to hold them close and give them a little "booster shot" of smother love. I fully anticipate that we will receive at least one "I'm so homesick I could die" letter from Henry. When I do, I'll pack and send off an extra special care package for him and continue to count the days until we get to retrieve him. And I'll be both surprised and a little disappointed if in a year or two, he doesn't feel ready for a five week stay.

COPYRIGHT KATIE ALLISON GRANJU - 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Anonymous said...

Here we go again...Lets beat up Katie for making a living by using her talent and sharing her opinions on parenting. She is merely exchanging her ideas with a broader audience (instead of chatting in the neighborhood playground.)She has never proclaimed that she is the know it all of parenting.She just happens to write about how she feels regarding particular parenting issues.I don't see where that is such a horrible thing.There is no book that will tell you the absolute right way to raise kids and if you are naive enough to think that there is such a book, or that such an author exists,my guess is that you are setting yourself up for more disappointment. jcb

Clisby said...

To anonymous at 12:18 p.m.: You don't need an account to post your name. You go to the comment section, click "Other" under "Choose an identity", put whatever name you want to show up in the NAME field, and then post (like I just did, assuming you're reading this.)

I also wish people didn't post anonymously - not because I give a hoot who you are, but when there are a lot of posts on a subject, it's often hard to tell who the heck is saying what.

Anonymous said...

Of course you are assuming that someone that puts their baby on a schedule is then going to be the parent not letting their tween go to slumber parties and hovering. I have really only known one overly restricted parent like this and she had some series abuse issues and was petrified if she let her girl out of her sight that what happened to her would happen to her child. And she co slept and breastfed a long time. I think there is no correlation between
"AP" and hovering over older kids. It might make a good selling point to you because it worked that way for you but I haven't seen it. I think a lot of the hovering behavior written about in the media which I have been mercifully isolated from in my neck of the woods is all about achievement and fear that kids will need to get ahead. In some segments the parent is afraid that if their child is last eating with a spoon that if they fast forward twenty years the same kid will be flipping burgers at Mickey Ds while the other kids in the playgroup go to Harvard. This has nothing to do with attachment parenting. And by the way, aren't YOU going to be leaving your young baby for large chunks of time?????

Anonymous said...

I don't think she comes off humbly like its "just her opinion". Despite protests to the contrary she most definately appears to think that someone died and left her the god(dess) of parenting matters.

Anonymous said...

I've read Katie's blog for years, and most all her published articles as well.

She is a goddess, but not because she makes herself out to be one. Actually she is continually poking fun at herself and admitting to her own shortcomings as a parent.Which is the main reason I enjoy her writing.

Peace out.

Anonymous said...

um, waiting for your kid to fall asleep so you don't have to read to him is hardly a major parenting faux pas. It is a sad commentary on our times that someone might think it is.
About matters of some importance, yes, she is very self congratulatory about matters such as this, using other people as her 'bad examples". No she didn't use the friends name but it does sound like "I'm doing this better than you are neener neener neener". Frankly it sounds like first kid syndrome to me (the pea lady, I mean). I wonder what dumb obsessive stuff SHE did with her first child???

katie allison granju said...

You definitely do get more relaxed as you have more kids.

Henry and I were talking last night how when he was little, I tried to prevent him from ever playing with any toy guns.

Now Elliot plays with a rusty machete.

Anonymous said...

Katie:

Great article. In addition to many of the points you made, itr also seems that this generation of hyper-parents acts like they are the first to ever have kids.

The over-parenting phenomenon is such a problem, that some colleges have had to hold classes to "help" parents let go. The WSJ wrote an article recently about companies sending copies of offer letters to new hires to their parents. Good grief.

nice worf.