Bulldozer Parenting: When Helping Isn't Helpful
Parents' involvement in kids' lives has escalated to an extreme and it can have long-term negative effects on the child.
Get family activities sent to you
Get things to do with your kids
Delivered right to your inbox
“If all adversity is taken from a child, they never learn how to problem solve, how to fail, or how to lose gracefully…bottom line is they don’t develop resilience,” Dr. Morison says. “It is thought that this type of parenting is causing an increase in depression and anxiety in college kids.”
In fact, kids raised by bulldozer parents develop low self-efficacy as they get older because they don’t believe in their own ability to manage challenges or difficult situations. And when that child is on his own in college and is faced with meeting his needs for the first time, he will likely struggle and become anxious or depressed.
Changing Bulldozer Parent Behavior
Dr. Morison encourages parents to ask kids if they want help before offering it. Useful questions are: “Do you need me to help you solve this or do you want me to just listen?” or “What do you think you can do about this situation?” or “What are your options?” Allow your child to brainstorm solutions on her own and encourage her to ask others for what she needs.
"Parents who act as bulldozers want to get all adversity out of the child’s way and this implies that we see failure or struggle as bad,” Dr. Morison says. “Really, it can be reframed as an opportunity to grow.”
Instead, focus your attention on being your child’s support system, encouraging her as she encounters challenges. The “I can do this myself” attitude doesn’t change as children grow into teens, according to Dr. Morrison. In letting your child face her challenges on her own, you are teaching her to learn life skills she will need through adulthood.
Turner Turco recalls the time her oldest daughter was cut from her middle school basketball team. That evening, she received a call from a concerned parent in the class deeming the decision unfair and offering to call the coach for her.
“Actually, it is fair. Katie isn’t as strong of a player as some of the other girls, and the coach wasn’t picking on her by not picking her,” Turner Turco recalls telling the concerned parent. “She needs to learn that she can’t always win.”