What Is Overcompensation in Parenting?


There's nothing wrong with learning from the past or from our own true failures and inadequacies. But how do we know when we're overcompensating?

Do you ever feel like this...

You never had _________ growing up. (Insert: birthday parties, money, affection, consistent discipline, your own room, respect for your feelings…..you get the point)

Now that you’re a parent, you have decided that you will always give your children ________________. 

What happened here?  

Overcompensation… taking excessive measures in an attempt to correct or make amends for an error, weakness, or problem.

It’s like the sin of gluttony.

We don’t eat or drink too much, but we try to make up for some sort of inadequacy with too much. So much so that it ends up being counterproductive.

Overcompensation in parenting creates a new problem rather than fixing an old one.

So the cycle continues:

Feelings of disappointment/failure/inadequacy push you to drastic overcompensating actions, which lead to an undesired result.

Here are some classic examples in parenting:

I didn’t have enough, so I’m going to give too much: A woman grows up with an unaffectionate mother. After she has children, she constantly showers them with affection, even beyond their individual tolerances — all in the name of making sure that they feel loved and secure.

But, they grow up feeling smothered, trapped and responsible for fulfilling some sort of need in her. Then, she feels like a failure for not giving them enough freedom and independence.

Or this one,

I had too much, so I’m not going to give any at all: A woman grows up with parents that were too strict. They never let her do much with her friends or have adventures because they were controlling. She is resentful toward them. Therefore, as her kids get older she gives them too much freedom and encourages them to do and try everything. She doesn’t hold them back—no boundaries.

But, then she starts to see them making poor decisions. Suddenly, she knows they need her loving direction and advice, but they are completely resistant. She feels completely inadequate for not being able to help them effectively.

How do we break The Cycle of Overcompensation?
Ask yourself a few questions….

1. Am I trying to make up for a past mistake of my own or my parents by going overboard in a particular way?

2. Is my action really doing my child a favor or a disservice?

3. Is the desired result occurring?

Remember, there is nothing wrong with learning from the past or from our own true failures and inadequacies. This helps keep us humble and more willing to change.

Where do you believe you might be overcompensating in your parenting?

What can you do to “pull it down a couple of notches” so that your child(ren) benefit from your behavior?

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