Are you an overbearing parent?

Mothers who homeschool (let’s be honest, it’s almost always the moms) spend a lot more time with their kids than mothers who send their kids to school. I am trying to figure out if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Certainly it could go both ways. (And certainly there are exceptions—like the mom who homeschools but is outsourcing it all, which I’m pretty sure Ree Drummond is doing, for example.)

I spend a lot of time coaching people in their 20s about their careers. Invariably these people are lost. That’s simply what life is like in one’s 20s.  And invariably parents are expecting more of the kids and the kids feel bad that they can’t live up to their parents’ expectations. I end up telling a lot of people they have to stop looking to their parents for guidance in a workforce that they’ve never had to navigate. 

And then I think that there must be a lot of parents who are too involved in their kids’ lives growing up. But no parent says, at the end of raising their kids, “I was too involved.” I have just never heard this before. Which makes me think that parents have poor judgment about how much involvement is too much involveement.

When I google this topic, I find, first, that if you type “overbearing” into Google, the first suggestion is “overbearing mother”.  And most of the links assume the mother and child have no idea the relationship is messed up because they’re so used to it.

I found a lot of information about how women with borderline personality disorder choose to homeschool their kids because they want to control everything and they want to be close to their kids all the time. Only 2% of the US population has borderline personality disorder, but it scares me that homeschooling is so appealing to that subset.

I am also heavily influenced lately  by economist Bryan Caplan’s new book about how nature is so much more important than nurture. It’s an argument, I would say, for getting out of your kid’s way. Which is maybe a great argument for unschooling. I’m hoping it is, but I’m not sure.

On the other hand, Retronaut describes a practice in photography where the kids would be held tightly by the mother to insure a tight focus, but the mother is hidden under a blanket. I’m tired of people wanting mothers to fade into the background. I don’t want to do that. I want to be in the pictures. I just want to feel like it’s right for me to be there.

16 replies
  1. clark
    clark says:

    God i hate pioneer woman. If she’s a pioneer then i’ m a pirate captain. Richer than god but that’s not enough, she has to photoshop everything and lie all the time and pretend her husband supports the family by working and not by inheriting his giant government-subsidised farm.

    I would hate her more if i weren’t afraid it would make me a sexist.

    And yes P, of course you belong in the picture, don’t let bree make you think you should be in nyc all the time running some media empire and just ‘shopping yourself in.

    Cheeseburger salad my eye. How i hate her

  2. leftbrainfemale
    leftbrainfemale says:

    Truthfully, I think that the idea of hsing mom’s being particularly overbearing is more hype than truth. Most of the hsing mom’s I knew back in my days (including myself) did our best to insure that our kids were autonomous, teaching them to think for themselves and make their own decisions. I know when my kiddos started PS and I worked occasionally in the library of the school, teachers were initially pre-disposed to think of me as trying to be too “hands on” with my daughters. It didn’t take too long, though, before we won them over. I think they began to see that my daughters were generally well-behaved and polite, but were leaders, not followers. After the first two years, I began to work from home and so I have been almost entirely hands-off since they’ve been in high school aside from the occasional need to advocate for my LD daughter – but she is generally quite a good advocate for herself.

    Frankly, I would tend to think that in some ways, moms and dads whose children have always gone to public school have really not been involved enough with their children’s education. They assume that kids will get everything they need from the PS, and it just ain’t so! Because they don’t have parents who are accustomed to teaching or reteaching as necessary, a lot of these kids may make good enough grades, but because logic and rational thought are not taught, they don’t have a lot of common sense about life in general. That, to my way of thinking, is what makes a student successful – whether home or public schooled. Listening to my kids talk about their peers, I know most do not have the kind of adult relationship with their parents that we share; perhaps that’s partly because homeschooling parents who have spent so much time with their children tend to see them as older and treat them more like adults. At least that has been my experience – YMMV.

  3. emily
    emily says:

    But it’s no surprise that borderline is a female only disorder. If it’s abandonment one fears, than only put a smart women into a regular workplace to trigger her self-sabotaging side. What woman wouldn’t want to raise her children without these traditional values?

  4. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    All this conversation about Ree and her blog. I had to go over there and check it out. Everything is so perfect, clean, and dainty. I couldn’t stand it and therefore couldn’t stay there for very long. There seems to be more honest, straight, and thoughtful talk about what really matters here. Good to be back.

  5. Marcy
    Marcy says:

    I read both blogs as well as others for the same reason I consult more than one news source or listen to more than one side in a discussion. I am surprised at the visceral response to the mention of a name. Fear and loathing is as ugly and weak when directed at Ree as it is when directed at Penelope.

    Great question to ask myself, am I overbearing….. If my kids answered one would say yes and the other no. I wonder which one is right and if either are being harmed.

  6. karelys
    karelys says:

    pioneer woman makes me want to gouge out my eyes!

    it’s so sweet that you say very boldly “i want to be in the picture!”

    just like when my brothers were young and i just thought “but i want to play too!”

    perhaps being aware of not wanting to be overbearing is a good step towards avoiding it?

  7. Sue
    Sue says:

    I tried twice to ‘get’ Pioneer Woman, and couldn’t last 10 seconds. Her blog is lame.

    One time there was this picture of an aspic, or some retro-dish that look like something from the 50’s, but not in a good way.

    Saying that, I don’t get the hate.
    Lady is bland…I mean, I get for some people to dislike Martha Stewart, or Oprah. But that Pioneer Woman is like white rice. It doesn’t inspire strong feelings. It just, meh.

  8. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    To be overbearing, do your kids need to do everything that you say? I was looking up the definition just to be sure I understood what I might be doing. Unfortunately, I’ve taught my kids to think for themselves and now they are way too independent from me. Darn it…

  9. Julia A
    Julia A says:

    I don’t have much interest in ree’s life or website, but I’ve always thought it would be fun to be one of her kids. I think she’s doing it right. Or did you mean outsourcing like it’s a bad thing? Because I think outsourced homeschooling is the BEST idea and if you had the money, could be fantastic.

  10. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    Come on, I don’t know how many borderline personalities there really are homeschooling. In my experience, parents with BP spend too much time thinking of themselves (Hi, mom!) to really want to spend years with kids all up in their faces, 24 hours a day.

    If anyone’s homeschooled for a second, they would know that most control goes out of the window when kids leave the table to finish building their model when presented with “math exercise worksheets”.

    Homeschooling is messy and when you take learning home, kids don’t have the creepy teacher with the mean kids staring at them to finish their classwork so everyone can go to lunch. They have more confidence to learn in their own environment so it’s hard to control what is natural to them.

    Most parents with BP would gladly spend thousands of dollars for private school or sent their kids to public school as long as were able to take credit for their academic achievements.

    Also, BP parents would cringe at the thought of being criticized by the public or their parents. They not usually stray from what’s generally accepted, not homeschooling.

    The bottom line, is, like one reader pointed out, if you’re even worried that you might be an overbearing homeschooler, it probably means you’re not one.

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