My wife and I were recently discussing a child who plays on a sports team with one of our kids, and at one point I uttered a statement that actually stopped me in my tracks.

The child in question seems to be very immature for their age, especially when it comes to social interaction.

“Terry always acts like such a baby, more like a first grader than a “X”th grader”, my child would say. My wife’s point of view was that the kid’s parents are to blame for this situation.

Our discussion then turned to the fact that the child’s parents are divorced, and so both parents are likely “over-parenting” the kid, to the child’s detriment. That’s when I said,“the kid would be better off if the parents chose to neglect them instead”.

Whoa! Really? Did I just say that?

Did I mean what I said, and could I back it up? Well here is to trying to explain it, at the very least.

What I see with this child, and others in similar situations, is that their parents have always been there to do everything for them, and as a result, the children are incapable of having any kind of a normal relationship with others.

One of the other parents from the team is a second grade teacher, and she said that she witnesses this quite often. Parents are trying so hard to be good parents, and doing so much for their children to “help” them, that the kids soon become unable to do anything for themselves.

We can all probably name a few people that we know who are able to function well in everyday life, and who are what one would call “well adjusted” and self-aware.

We all know people who live more at the other end of the spectrum, people who cannot figure anything out for themselves, cannot make a decision without lots of external input, and go from one unsuccessful life experience to the next.

What do the people in the first group have in common, and what do the people in the second group have in common? What is different about the two groups?

To me, the first group exhibits a certain degree of confidence, independence, self-esteem, and interpersonal ability to get along in life.

The second group is easily flustered, lacks self-esteem, has difficulty in relationships, and is generally unhappy with their lot in life.

Could the parenting that they experienced in their childhood have anything to do with who ends up in which category? (That was a rhetorical question!)

It is very easy to get into the habit of doing things for our kids. This reminds me of times when my kids were much younger and they wanted to “help” me do something, and when pressed for time I would reply, “no thanks, I’ll do it myself” because doing it with their help would actually take longer.

But what about my comment that neglect would be better for the kid. Well, if I could only choose between the two extremes of neglect and severe over-parenting, it would be a tough choice, but neglect might just win out.

Fortunately, nobody needs to make such a stark choice for their children. The key, like with so many things, is balance.

If you let your kids fend for themselves a bit more, but remain there behind the scenes “just in case”, you are probably doing them a favour in the long run.

Learning to let go is not necessarily easy, but it can be learned. We have choices to make, and one of the first ones is to choose to detach ourselves and let our children off of the leash, to go and run around and get dirty and maybe even get hurt.

You will most likely die before your children do. The time to begin to ensure that they will be self-reliant is now.