Do Interfering Parents Raise Successful Children?

(Editorial note: I’d like to welcome Sarah Scrafford as Earnest Parenting’s very first contributing author! I’m very impressed with Sarah’s article and I have thoughts on it! Do you? If so, see you in the comments.)

Do Interfering Parents Raise Successful Children?

Being a parent is one of the best feelings in the world; the joy and pride you feel when you first hold your newborn in your arms cannot be expressed in mere words. And from the day your infant is born, you lavish love and attention on him/her, nurturing and caring for him/her as they grow up. You’re responsible for them, for their basic needs like food, sleep and safety. And as they become older, you start to take important decisions regarding their education and social activities.

But there comes a stage when your child is able to make decisions for himself/herself, and that’s when the trouble starts. While some parents are easy-going and willing to let their children choose their own paths, there are others who insist on holding tightly to the reins of control and steering their kids on the road they think is the best for them. And so we have pushy parents who force their kids into playing sports they have no interest in, taking up activities (like music, dance or arts) that they don’t like, and studying hard to become a doctor or a lawyer even though their heart is in some other field.

Some kids go along with their parents’ plans silently; although they’re not happy, they don’t exhibit open rebellion. But the problem festers deep inside them and turns into resentment, a feeling that if left to itself, becomes hatred. Other kids are more vociferous in their opinions; they insist that their parents let them do what they want, and this causes rifts in the family. Children and parents are alienated, and if nothing is done to bridge these rifts, the family drifts apart sooner or later.

The problem in this scenario lies entirely with the parents. Most of them enforce their will on their children because:

  • They’re trying to live their dreams through their children, little realizing that they’re destroying their children’s dreams in the process.
  • They think that they’re providing them with the opportunities that they never had when they were growing up. They don’t bother to ask their children if they want to make use of these opportunities or others of their own choice.
  • They want their kids to be the best in any field; they don’t care that their kids are happy with just being children and are not interested in being competitive.
  • They’re competing with other parents using their kids as pawns; it’s a game where the winner is decided by the kid who excels.
  • They feel they’re not good parents if their children are not proficient in either one or more spheres.

In all the above reasons, the focus is on the parents. Not one of them sees the child’s point of view. Some parents would brush aside this argument with the callous comment that kids don’t know what they really want, but the truth is that children do know what they want. In fact, most of them are capable of making their own decisions and even accepting responsibility for them.

A parent’s role must be that of a guide, someone who is there to steer them in the right direction when they ask for help, someone who will show them how to succeed without saying “I told you so” when they fail, someone who will encourage them to choose their own paths, someone who will provide them with the knowledge and information they need to make decisions and then let them make the choice themselves, and someone who will always be a source of strength and comfort when the going is not easy. When you become such a parent, that’s when your child is well and truly on the way to becoming a successful adult.

This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of ultrasound tech school. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address:

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who try to avoid interfering too much.

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18 Responses to “Do Interfering Parents Raise Successful Children?”

  1. Sunny says:

    I was pretty lucky, my parents weren’t this way with me. In fact I think it was the other way around. I wanted to take piano lessons, so they sent me to some and bought me a piano. I lost interest later. lol Oops!

  2. Amy says:

    Sunny I was equally blessed. LOL on your poor parents and the piano! I hope it was eventually put to good use.

    My thought regarding Sarah’s article: I agree that parents shouldn’t interfere to the point that they’re driving children on a path they don’t want. However, I see nothing wrong with setting some guidelines or standards. For example, if they sign up for a sport they’re not allowed to quit in the middle of the season. You have to stick with your commitments. That sort of thing.

    Speaking of pianos, we’re insisting that the boys take a few years of lessons. I’ve never met anyone who regretted knowing how to play, but I know plenty of people who wish they’d studied longer. Once they have a decent foundation they’ll be allowed to quit or change to another instrument. I don’t feel bad about being pushy on this point, because it’s a foundational thing. Hopefully the boys will understand that when they’re older.

  3. Crissy Barrios says:

    I agree with most of the concept except that I too belief that the kids need to have a well rounded background in alot of fundmental things too. My kids are not harmed by making them take and do a few things that they would rather not but understand that they need to see and understand other things going on around them. If they ask to so something and decide later that they don’t want to do it. My husband and I let them know they can’t just quit in the middle of a season, session, or activity just because they find it boring especially if they chose to do it to began with. I really like your topics lately and just don’t have the time to comment on some of them. Keep up the great work.

  4. Sam S says:

    i know a parent who tries to control her children too much. one of them became a drug addict.

  5. Gerard says:

    I prefer to guide them gently in whatever direction they feel like going. I’ve always maintained that as long as my kids grow up happy and balanced, then I’ll be happy with that.

    We encourage them to go into things like swimming classes and dance as much to socialize with other children. Perhaps more than excelling at those activities. I would hate to think that I was nudging my kids into anything they didn’t like.

  6. Amy says:

    Crissy that’s pretty much how I’ve seen it thus far. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement! I know you’re pretty busy yourself.

    Sam S, ohhhh how sad! If my kids were honestly unhappy with something, then I wouldn’t insist on continued involvement past the initial commitment. Case in point: the boys have opted not to do soccer or football this year. They want to try martial arts instead. Fine by me, and they’ve gotten no argument. I am insisting they continue with piano, though. That will change when I feel like they’ve got a solid enough foundation, perhaps in another year or so.

    Gerard, I hope that I’m being gentle with them. I think what you said about balance is key. In our case, we’re balancing the activities that I want them to do with some of their own choosing.

    If they were seriously unhappy with Scouts, for example, we’d let them quit. They do complain about having to go to meetings, but they haven’t been in the new troop long enough to find out how much fun they can have. So we wave off the complaining and keep taking them. I think once they’ve had a summer of camping they’ll change their minds. If not, then we’re not going to force anything on them.

  7. Prabhubhakti says:

    Ask the kids who have been through it for some eye-opening stuff

  8. i think parents should always guide their children in making risky decisions, coz the parents might have experienced the same situation. But too much guiding often will mean dependency of the kid to their parents. So i guess its better to balance the guidance. Coz learning from mistakes is the best teacher a child could ever have.

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  10. Amy says:

    Prabhubhakti, I’m sure there are horror stories out there. I hope yours isn’t one of them.

    register company philippines I agree. Balance is so important. There’s a teaching strategy called “scaffolding” in which the teacher gives lots of help and instruction at first and gradually pulls back the support as the child learns the skill. I like to think that parental involvement can be scaled back in the same manner.

    Mortgage Loans, Thanks. 😀

  11. I am lucky my parents are not like this. They let me do what I want provided that I would be responsible with every action I will make. They love me and trust me so much. In return, I do everything that makes them happy and I will not break their trust. I love them so much.

  12. “And so we have pushy parents who force their kids into playing sports they have no interest in, taking up activities (like music, dance or arts) that they don’t like, and studying hard to become a doctor or a lawyer even though their heart is in some other field” are obviously not good but parents have the right to say not to drink too much or not to go to pubs late night or driving the car slowly.


  13. Sick of My Parents says:

    Yes! I can definitely relate to many of these pushy parent scenarios. My Dad is more laid back, but my Mum has always been strongly neurotic and interfering and unfortunately you are right it is all about her, even though she thinks she is helping. I am successful on the outside, as is my sister, but I have a very weak sense of identity and I often lack confidence because in many ways I have never had the chance to really explore who I am. I think the hardest thing for me growing up was coming to the difficult realisation that my parents are actually quite needy, and often don’t have my best interests at heart. I try to be mature in dealing with them, but it hurts that I have to act like an adult, sometimes like the adult, whilst they find it so difficult to listen and respect me when I assert myself or explain what I need. I just hope I won’t be this way if/when I have children myself.

  14. Grandpa Murf says:

    Good site on a needed topic. As someone who is “on the other side”, at least in terms of having regular influence on my three children (they are 27,24 and 21 and have given us 3 g-kids). I grew up in a family with parents that were loving and provided well for our basic wants and needs but where, in my opinion, too hands off and easy in helping us as children make choices and enforcing “positive discipline”. In hind site, I found myself as a freshman in college lagging both academically and in athletics and it took me a few years to catch up. On the up side, I believe that my parents did model perseverance in a way that became my vehicle to catch up and in some areas excel over those 4 years.
    Helping your child find things that interest them and encouraging them is only 10 percent of what it takes to raise kids that become successful adults. I would hope that most parents would see that as the goal instead of “successful children”. Modeling and enforcing the discipline to work hard, be consistent and not to quit will ensure that they have a chance to be successful in anything that may become their passion and/or their vocation. Too many parents get caught up in trying to find what interests their child instead of teaching core behaviors of long term success. The overall ease and comfort of our lives today have made it become more of a conscious effort to look for and make the time to instill these core behaviors is. The reality is, is most children tend to be attracted to what their good at and if you just let them to only try and never commit, they may never excel at anything. Most people can excel at several things given the desire to. As parents, you have the opportunity to influence and help guide your children in defining and developing their interests and passions. The challenge as parents is to seek and exercise truth and wisdom in how to balance ease vs. discipline and freedom vs. structure and short term desires vs. long term goals. The secret is to start with simple lessons as soon as they can understand and to grow up with them.

  15. Amy says:

    Employee Leasing, you are truly blessed to have a happy relationship with your parents.

    Cathy, excellent point. It’s so hard to find the right place to balance those two things. But important, nonetheless. I also think that it’s different depending on the child. My older boys need a lot more pushing than the younger ones do on their schoolwork, but the younger ones I need to push to do social things.

    Sick, I hope that you find the strength, peace, and success in the future that you deserve.

  16. Amy says:

    Grandpa Murf, may I be so bold as to say I love you? Excellent comment! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your wisdom! Your comment came exactly when I needed to read it, so I am also thankful for that. I was feeling bad about being tough on the boys even though I know they need it. Your words are very encouraging.

  17. Mark Birmingham says:

    I agree with your points and more when I read your comments, which fleshes out the outline. However, I will disagree with one part of one point.

    •They want their kids to be the best in any field; they don’t care that their kids are happy with just being children and are “not interesed in being competitive”.
    The world is competition. Not everyone wins all the time. My son, who is eight, earns through “points” (poker chips cashed in for $$$). He excels, he gets more points, he fails, but trys, he still gets points, but must correct. If he just does not do he gets no points or could even lose points. He loves it and always trys to get the coveted “bonus points”.
    Note: My wife is Filipina and I noticed another post by someone in the PI talking about kids being to dependent on Family. That’s because in the PI they want to keep the kids dependent so they will remit money when they get older. Just that simple.

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