When you first hear the phrase, “spoiling your child,” what do you honestly think about? Odds are you picture a parent who buys their children anything they want, lets them do whatever they want to do and go anywhere they want to go. Maybe you picture a child surrounded by toys or eating lots of junk food. A child can be spoiled in these ways without doubt, but in this article, we’re going to talk about something a little different.
You probably have heard the term “Helicopter Parenting,” but have you heard the phrase, “Bulldozer Parenting?”
Parents don’t want their children to experience hardship and setbacks. As a parent, you will always want your child to be successful, happy and to not have to experience pain. However, overcoming obstacles is one of the main ways children grow to become independent, strong adults. A bulldozer parent steps in and removes all roadblocks in their child’s way. What these parents don’t realize is that this might make things easier for their children at the moment, but in the future, these same kids will be left helpless (or scared) to do things for themselves.
Here are some examples of a few things bulldozer parents do. See if you’ve ever found yourself doing some of these things with your children:
- Bringing forgotten homework to school.
- Telling your child’s teacher that he wasn’t able to do his homework last night because your family had a crazy week, so you told him just to go to bed.
- Talking to someone else on your child’s behalf because he’s too nervous to do it.
And it doesn’t just concern older children. Parents of toddlers also can have some bulldozer habits that they might not even realize. For example, think about the following situations:
- Your toddler gets a toy stuck, so you immediately rush over and get it for her.
- You are still feeding your three-year-old instead of letting him do it by himself.
- You are still completely dressing your three-year-old, putting on her coat and carrying her when she doesn’t want to walk.
These may not seem like major issues, and they aren’t if they’re just done now and then, but if a parent is constantly doing these things then they are setting themselves and their children up for a harder time down the line. Here’s why. Let’s look at each one of these examples a little more closely and take a peek at why it could hurt more than help:
- Bringing forgotten homework (or lunches, or sports gear, or a smartphone, etc.) to school – You think you’re being nice, and are helping your child out. But what your child doesn’t learn in this situation is responsibility. There are a variety of essential life skills that one should possess if they wish to be successful. Skills such as communication, responsibility, work ethic, social interaction and many more, are all skills that need to be learned, and if you complete the task for the child, you’re the one who is gaining points toward that life skill — which you’ve already mastered.
Your child might get taught some of these skills on a basic level in school, but your child’s primary educator is YOU. If you start with simple things when your child is young, then you set the stage for him to develop lifelong skills that can help him in the future when he is on his own.
If your child forgets his homework and you don’t bring it for him, yes he’ll get a bad grade. But if it happens just a few times, the odds are high that it won’t happen again. He’ll start taking a little more time to prepare and double check that he has all of his necessary belongings before he leaves the house. And isn’t it better to learn this lesson with forgotten homework in middle school, then with something a lot more crucial later on in life? Because, despite what your pre-teen might think, a forgotten phone is NOT the end of the world.
- Telling your child’s teacher that he wasn’t able to do his homework last night because (insert excuse here) – Really? You had a busy week, so your child gets a free pass on homework? What about other kids that also had busy weeks but busted their butts to get their work done? Now, it doesn’t mean sometimes extenuating circumstances will come up that make it difficult to do homework, but these are things like family emergencies or sickness. Your cousin’s birthday party and the fact that you had a lot of errands to run do not add up to an emergency.
This particular one is a hot topic of debate for a lot of folks. Even just the subject of homework is a huge issue nowadays, with many parents against it. This isn’t about whether homework is useful or not, that’s a whole other topic for another day, this is about the bigger picture and your child’s responsibilities.
The fact is, whether you believe in homework or not, if your child was given an assignment then she should be encouraged to complete it. This translates to the understanding that if she is given a job to do by a certain time she is expected to get it done and make it a priority. It isn’t something she gets to do if she feels like it after all of the fun stuff is over. This helps children learn how to prioritize, reinforces responsibility and starts to create a strong work ethic. If your child knows that mom or dad will bail her out whenever she doesn’t feel like doing the work, then how do you think she’ll perform in college and/or any future jobs she holds?
- Talking to someone else on your child’s behalf because he’s too nervous to do it, (or just doesn’t feel like it) – Let’s face it, in a society where people spend a lot of time communicating through emails and text, the need for face to face communication seems to be dwindling. However, there are still a lot of times where it is necessary, and also many times where it can yield better results. Kids today though don’t always know how to go about talking to others, especially teachers and other authority type figures, in a respectful and appropriate manner.
Some kids might be shy, some might be lazy, some might just not know how to talk to others, but whatever the reason, not letting your child talk to someone on her own about certain situations definitely does not help her grow as an independent thinker. Communication is an essential part of building relationships, working with others and completing group projects, so it is important that our children learn the skills necessary to be effective speakers and listeners. If anything, it urges your child to step out of his comfort zone, which is a big step towards genuine growth.
- Your toddler gets a toy stuck, so you immediately rush over and get it for her – In this type of situation, unless your child is in danger or has the potential to be seriously injured, let her figure it out for herself! This has a bunch of benefits. Besides letting her exercise her problem-solving muscles, it also teaches her endurance, perseverance, and patience. To become well-rounded adults, kids need to learn to complete tasks independently, that not everything happens immediately and that sometimes to accomplish a task you need to put in a lot of work.
This isn’t to say you’re never supposed to help your child. What this tip suggests is that before immediately rushing to your child’s aid, at least first give him the chance to figure out a solution on his own, try it out and see what happens. Through basic trial and error, your child will develop crucial problem-solving skills and stretch his creativity as he considers multiple solutions to his predicament.
- You are still feeding and dressing your three-year-old instead of letting him do it by himself – They really do grow up fast, so it is understandable when a parent wants to hang on to those last remnants of infancy and the early toddler years. As children grow, they develop a natural desire to be independent. They want to do things for themselves, and as they approach the early toddler years they start to realize that there are things they can do on their own. Of course, there are still a lot of things they will need help with, and this conflict is where a lot of tantrums begin. You’ve heard of the “terrible twos?” Well, the truth is, this phase could happen anytime in the months leading up to and following the 2-year mark. It all depends on when the individual child is really starting to become more independent and flexing his “I can do it!” muscles.
As a parent, part of your job is to foster self-reliance and self-care in your children. Remember, these are skills that need to be learned. Children don’t come out of the womb knowing how to put on a coat, but by three-years-old, they should certainly be able to do it with little assistance. Encourage your child to feed herself with a spoon, drink out of a cup, take off her own socks and shoes, you get the picture.
Sure, it’s going to take about five times as long for her to do it herself as opposed to if you just did it for her, but those types of short-cuts short-change your child’s full development.
Let children learn basic life skills and step into their independence when they are young and be there to simply guide them and teach them. These are skills that they will carry with them into their later school years and into adulthood.
By now you are probably starting to see a pattern to the things that indicate bulldozer parenting. It’s basically anything that removes the responsibility and hard work from your child and as a result places more pressure on you. Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t do these things once in a while. We’ve all been in the situation where we’re running late, shoes and socks flying as we race to get to the car as we hold a lunch bag in our teeth. You quickly throw those socks and shoes on your child, who adamantly demands, “No, mommy, I do my shoes!” and you say, “I know you want to do it, sweetie, but we gotta go!” It happens.
Bulldozer parenting is when these things are done all of the time, and the child therefore never learns the valuable skills that doing these things will teach. This is where helping your child at the moment, potentially hurts them in the future. So, in terms of spoiling your child, it may not be what one would normally think of, but it is definitely very similar. Just like letting your child have a mountain of toys will result in an avalanche of clutter, doing everything for your child results in his inability to think or do for himself.
If you think you might be doing some of these “bulldozer” habits, step back and think about why you are doing them. It’s probably because you think you are helping your child. Tell yourself that the better way to help your child is to teach him how to handle these situations for himself going forward and then hold him accountable. It might cause quite a few headaches and arguments at the start and have you wishing you were shipwrecked on a remote island in some undisclosed tropical location, but in the long-run, it will make for a more peaceful lifestyle and a happier, more productive child.