5 Signs You’re a Pushover Parent—And How to Knock it Off

By Gigi Schweikert

When parents come home exhausted and overwhelmed from a long day at work, it’s often just easier to say yes to things like ice cream and iPad time than to say no to them and face a terrible tantrum from their kids. However, being a “pushover parent” and always giving in to your children’s demands is actually setting the stage for much larger issues in the future.

Pushover parents don’t want to spoil their children; rather, they want limited family time to be spent without arguments, or think their own parents were overly strict with them and don’t want to repeat the mistake. According to parenting expert Gigi Schweikert, former Director of the United Nations Child Care Center in New York City and herself a mother of four, five signs that you might be a pushover parent are:

1.     You’re trying to be your child’s friend.
2.     You do things to avoid conflict.
3.     You have no routine.
4.     You don’t let your child experience consequences.
5.     You rarely say no to your child’s demands.

The pushover parent, says Schweikert, often follows his child’s lead, giving into her every desire and often doing for her what she can do for herself. He also revolves his life around his child, focusing on pleasing her and blaming her problematic behavior or lack of responsibility on school or coaches.  

Unfortunately, this approach sends the message to your kids that the world revolves around them and that you will bail them out of any situation. And unfortunately, bailing out is often exactly what many parents face as their adorable toddler turns into an out-of-control teenager.

Both parents need to actively work against pushover parenting tendencies together and stay consistent, because rather than growing out of this behavior as your child grows, these tendencies get worse as the problems you face get larger. But there are ways to take back control

For starters, accept the fact that your role is as a parent, not a friend. Children thrive when they have a routine and limits. Once they understand where the boundaries are, you will have less conflict. Of course, kids will push the limits every now and then, but that’s as it should be–this is exactly how they learn respect, and that their actions have consequences.

You should expect your child to be angry or frustrated when you don’t give in to their demands. But try not to feed into the drama by yelling or screaming. Take a breath and maintain a calm and controlled conversation. Model the behavior you want your child to replicate! Also, remember when you were that age? A little empathy and a calm explanation of why you have made a certain decision will often go a long way toward diffusing the anger.

Get on the same page as your spouse and don’t allow your kids to play one parent against the other. Show a united front by saying, “I will give you an answer after your mom and I have discussed this.” Initially, it will seem difficult but if you are consistent, you will see a remarkable improvement in behavior in just a couple of weeks.

Teach your children to make good decisions by offering choices. Try this approach: “Would you like to do your homework before dinner and then have TV time afterwards? Or would you like to watch TV now and then do your homework right after dinner?” For very small children, try the “first this…then this” approach: “First, get on your shoes and then we will go outside.” When we offer children small choices, we’re laying the foundation for them to make big choices in the future.

Also, let yourself off the hook a little. There is no such thing as the perfect parent, and there will always be days when allowing our children to eat a fruit roll-up for breakfast is the best we can do. But learning how to say no means that we can say the occasional yes, while still providing a framework of leadership and guidance for our children for the years to come.

Photograph by London Scout via Unsplash.com