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The book The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, formerly published under the title Hyper-Parenting: Are You Hurting Your Child by Trying Too Hard? was written by Alvin Rosenfeld and Nicole Wise. Rosenfeld, a psychiatrist in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut, has worked extensively with children, adolescents, and adults. Wise is a freelance journalist who specializes in family life topics. In this book, Rosenfeld and Wise first provide an overview of what hyper-parenting is. They then explore both cultural and individual factors leading to such parenting behavior. They further describe several specific hyper-parenting practices, such as micromanaging, seeking perfection, and pushing for winning. Subsequently, they discuss the negative effects of hyper-parenting on both children and parents. Finally, they provide several suggestions for parents to avoid hyper-parenting. The ultimate goal is to achieve “what really matters in life.” Since its publication, the book has received a great deal of attention from journalists, educators, researchers, practitioners, and parents.
The State Of Overscheduling And Hyper-Parenting
According to Rosenfeld and Wise, in today’s society, to help their children succeed, many parents seek out every bit of information they can find on parenting and child development, make aggressive schedules of extracurricular activities for their children, and try to do everything to satisfy their children’s needs. Such a practice is described by Rosenfeld and Wise as hyper-parenting, a term that is now widely used in the media and research. Rosenfeld and Wise suggest that overscheduling and hyper-parenting are reflected everywhere—parenting magazines, newspapers, popular websites, and parenting programs. Furthermore, hyper-parenting is practiced by parents of all social classes, not just by those from the middle and upper classes. Finally, such parenting practice is prevalent not only in America but also in many other countries.
The Antecedents Of Hyper-Parenting
From a broader social context, Rosenfeld and Wise believe that hyper-parenting is a product of the media, which reflect culture in America. First, the media portray the world as a dangerous place (e.g., filled with violence, drugs, and sex). Therefore, parents need to work ceaselessly to protect their children. In the mind of many parents, to do anything less would imply negligence. Second, the media lead parents into believing that “perfection is possible” and that “winning is everything.” As a result, parents are making every effort to raise their children to be above average and become winners. In American culture, being average is no longer good enough, and winning is more important than being a team player or respecting the feelings of others. Third, adding to the media pressure, Rosenfeld and Wise also attribute technological advances as a factor influencing hyper-parenting. Today’s technology (e.g., e-mail and cell phones) makes parents move faster and stay involved constantly. Furthermore, under the impact of information overload, corporate marketing, and rampant consumerism, parents would buy any product for their children (e.g., high-tech safety products, electronic gadgets, name brand toys, clothes, and fashion accessories). Finally, Rosenfeld and Wise point out that the economy plays a major role in the prevalence of hyper-parenting and that today’s parents are “parenting in a state of anxiety and pessimism about the future.”
Rosenfeld and Wise suggest that, influenced by the broader social context, hyper-parenting is, therefore, practiced out of the best intentions of parents, because parents want the best for their children. However, they also point out that while trying to be serious, rational, and scientific, many parents ignore their instincts, give up their control, and are over-dependent on experts for help.
The Consequences Of Hyper-Parenting On Children And Parents
Regarding the effect of hyper-parenting on children, first Rosenfeld and Wise ask the central question “Whose life is it?” For example, they question what benefit it would bring a 12-year-old to move a 1,000 miles away from home to live with a coach in order to pursue her or his Olympic potential but to see her or his family only occasionally. Indeed, when parents over-function by making their children’s lives their responsibility, they may actually deprive their children of the opportunity to make decisions for themselves, to live their own lives, and to learn important life lessons from their experiences. Furthermore, Rosenfeld and Wise illustrate the pressure and stress that these parents put on their children when they seek micromanagement, perfectionism, and competition (e.g., by creating custom kids).
Not only does hyper-parenting take a toll on children, but it also affects parents. Hoping to make their children’s lives better through hyper-parenting, many parents put their personal needs last and sacrifice their well-being. As a result, many parents, both financially and emotionally, are “overworked, overwhelmed, and over the top!”
At the end, Rosenfeld and Wise propose several fundamental principles to help parents avoid the hyper-parenting trap, such as limiting activities, leaving empty spaces on the calendar, taking a break, setting family as a priority, and realizing that childhood is not a performance but a preparation.
Through their book, Rosenfeld and Wise ask parents to rethink their parenting priorities and the ultimate goal of parenting. They point out that true success in life sometimes has little to do with the diploma that hangs on the wall. Instead, the ultimate goal is for parents to raise happy, healthy, and responsible children and for everyone in the family to live a happier life. As Rosenfeld and Wise put it, “hyper-parenting less and enjoying life more” as a family is what this book is really about.
- Chua, Amy. The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. New York: Penguin Press, 2011.
- Clarke, Jean I., Connie Dawson, and David Bredehoft. How Much Is Enough? New York: Marlowe, 2004.
- Kindlon, Too Much of a Good Thing. New York: Hyperion, 2001.
- Rosenfeld, Alvin and Nicole Wise. The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2000.