Perhaps you’ve seen that mother, hovering protectively over her child at the park or trying to orchestrate her child’s antics at preschool. A controlling parent can create major mishaps with little ones, affecting the way they grow and learn. Dig a little into the characteristics of a hover-mom to make sure you’re not guilty of the same behaviors.
1. Smother Mother
A smothering parent is the parent who constantly hovers protectively over her offspring. A smother mother might be the type of parent who operates in fear-mode, states the Kansas State University, constantly worried about whether her child might get hurt, either physically or emotionally, or unable to stand the idea of becoming unnecessary to her youngster or not being involved with every aspect of a child’s existence. A hovering parent may wrap up her identify with her child’s identity so tightly that the two become impossibly intertwined.
Sometimes that inner drive for perfection can spill over onto little ones, warns Matrisa Hollinger, with the Northern Illinois University College of Education. If everything has to be “just so” for a parent with work, home and personal life, it can be easy to transfer this need for perfection to offspring. Before long, this controlling parent may be demanding perfect behavior, perfect appearance and even perfect preschool performance from a little one, giving the child no chance to make choices for himself and setting him up with unrealistic expectations.
3. Conditional Love
When parental love becomes a tool or weapon to coerce kids to perform or behave, this form of parental control can become extremely negative and harmful to little ones. When parents show that kids aren’t entitled to a parent’s love outright, but have to perform a certain way to earn it, parents are using conditional love, according to Jim Taylor, Ph.D., with the Psychology Today website. This type of controlling parent may heap on the praise and expensive gifts when kids perform just so. Any mistakes, though, and these parents tend to punish with cold withholding of love and emotional connection.
At its worst, parental control can turn overtly abusive, according to Hollinger. This parent may act out of feelings of anger or fear, possibly even seeing a little one as a threat that needs defending against. The abuse could be emotional or verbal, shouting, belittling or calling names. The abuse could even be physical against the youngster. This parent often feels justified because of the perceived threat or because the parent feels so strongly that the little one has to obey at any cost.
- Kansas State University: Dysfunctional Families: Recognizing and Overcoming Their Effects
- Northern Illinois University College of Education: Controlling Parents
- Psychology Today: Parenting: Conditional Love is Good!
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Understanding Dysfunctional Relationship Patterns in Your Family
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images