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Breaking The Hyper-Parenting Habit

It's always with the best intentions, but parents have a way of going overboard when it comes to taking care of their children. It's a syndrome Family Circle calls "hyper parenting."

And when The Early Show went out looking for guilty parties, they didn't have to go far. Right here in New York City, three mothers confessed.

Fran Knowles: "I am guilty of doing a little too much for my daughter. I take her pretty much wherever she wants to go. If she needs to be driven to a party or friend's house, I change my plans and take her where she wants to go."

Alison Akant: "I think it's very hard. I feel that my parents didn't do enough for me, so I'm overcompensating."

Maggie Schwartz: "It's inevitable you compare what you do for your own kids to what other people are doing and you wonder who is right and who's got the right balance."

Family Circle's editor in chief, Linda Fears, visited The Early Show to talk about the problem and how parents can overcome the urge.

"If you try to fix or eliminate any problem your child may face, you are doing too much," she told co-anchor Hannah Storm. "It's really easy to get into that pattern. Nobody wants their kid to be hurt or sad. But the truth is, if your child is always saved from these situations, he's going to start to feel like there's something wrong with him like he's either not smart enough or strong enough to handle a situation on his own."

Fears says it's not only a problem for children, but for their parents, too.

"It's really not good for anybody," she said. "It's very easy to fall into that pattern. The reason why a lot of parents end up doing this is because they, from birth, a lot of parents feel like they have to orchestrate their child's life."

A good example of hyper-parenting is the tendency to sign children up for multiple activities, expecting them to excel at them all.

"That's not the point in having your child do a lot of activities, so he'll be great at everything," Fears said. "There are few kids that are great at everything. It's important to expose them to a lot of different activities so they can find out what they are passionate about and love. Those are the activities that they are going to try their hardest at and excel at."

Fears had some specific tips for parents to follow, in the effort to avoid hyper parenting.

Consider whose problem it is
"A lot of parents think back on when they were kids and when they were in uncomfortable or hard situations and then project that on to their own child. So, for instance, if you weren't invited to the cool kids party and see that potentially happening to your daughter, you need to say to yourself, 'Who is more worried about this, me or my kid?' "

Stay behind the scenes
"And it might kill you to see your kids on the bench during the basketball game week after week. But instead of running to the coach and dealing with it yourself, talk to your child. You might be surprised to find out your child is going to say, 'I'm just happy to be on the team. I don't really mind not playing so much in each game.' But if he is bothered by it, then it's your job to encourage him to talk to the coach."

Hone decision-making skills
These are what Fears calls, "Life-long skills to feel confident about making your own decisions." For example, "If you have a teenage daughter who wants to get some new clothes, decide on the budget. Take her to the store. Let her pick out her clothes, within certain parameters, so she's making the decisions on her own. Same goes for if there's a social problem at school. Instead of rushing to help your child deal with it, wait a couple of days. See if she can handle it on her own."

Ease them through disappointments
"Your child's feelings are going to be hurt when he goes to school and sees that his science project does not compare to his friend's whose chemical engineer father did it for him. What you need to say to him is, 'You know what, I'm so proud of you, you did a great job, you did it all by yourself.' And believe me, the teacher knows the difference between a child's work and an adult's work."

Rewrite the script for setbacks and frustrations
"If you child says, 'I failed my math test. I'm so stupid,' say, 'Remember two weeks ago when you did so well on your test? You can do that again.' You're not going to immediately say, 'Oh, gee, we'd better call the tutor, there's got to be a problem here.' You want to make your child feel like next time you're going to do better and here's how you are going to do it."

For more information, go to Family Circle magazine.

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