Spoiler Alert: They were doing their best*.
(*this excludes parents that are abusive, toxic or dangerous people.)
Parenting is hard work. You have to put everything that you have into being the best role-model that you can be. Constantly being vigilant that everything you say or do might be what your child is influenced by. And even if you think that everything you are doing is perfect, it’s not.
I don’t know if there is a single person who feels like their parents did a flawless job of raising them. Just about everyone I’ve ever met has something that their well-meaning parents have done that they feel has screwed them up in some way. Parents always want to do what’s best for their kids. They want to raise them to be good people, to be thoughtful of others, to be successful… Strangely enough, though, you can push those wants too far.
My mom is Wonder Woman, she puts so much of herself into her kids. This woman has worked a crummy job that she detests for the past two decades to support the family. All of us children are adults now, but she still wants to spoil us. At Christmas she insists on spending a specific amount, and that it’s even and fair. She insists on paying when she takes any of us out to lunch. She’s been my saving grace during my new life as a parent. However, even a mom as awesome as she is can make a few blips. In any case, any blips my mom has made have been done through love.
Cartoon Parents Can Mess Up Too
One of my favourite cartoons, Steven Universe, the episode “Sadie’s Song” perfectly illustrates how something as seemingly harmless as over-encouraging can be harmful. In the episode, the character Sadie is talked into singing at the local talent show, “Beach-a-Palooza”, by Steven. Sadie is panicked when her mother, Barbara, arrives at home and she wants to hide it from her; much to Sadie’s dismay her mom comes down and is thrilled when she finds out what’s going on. Steven and Barbara start going through Sadie’s closet to try and find a stage-worthy outfit, and as they work their way through, there are all these outfits from things that she’s tried that she stopped doing (ballet, swimming, and softball) due to her mother being too encouraging; Barbara does everything that she can to try and make her daughter succeed, so much so that she ends up sort of taking over and not letting her daughter do anything for herself. In the end, Sadie ends up freaking out says she doesn’t want to do Beach-a-Palooza anymore. She tells her mom “I just thought, for once, that I’d get to do things my way. But you came in and took over everything like you always do!”, to which her mom tells her “I just wanted everyone to know how talented my daughter is”. Good intentions, bad results.
Even Psychology says you’ll screw up
Psychological studies suggest that even telling your kids that they are smart can have negative effects. Oftentimes kids, when constantly being told that they are smart, feel like the only value they have is in their intelligence as that’s what they’ve grown up being praised for. Every time they fail at something or make a small mistake, they will beat themselves up, they will see themselves as a failure. If they were labeled a prodigy, and others start to catch up, they feel like they’ve peaked and that they are stuck in some weird intelligence purgatory. Fear of failure will prevent these them from trying new things.
The thing is, too much of anything is going to mess your kids up. Too much support? You are smothering them, being overbearing, or helicopter parenting. Helping out too much? They become unable to do things on their own or become entitled. Too much discipline? They will likely hide things, and build walls. Trying to keep them realistic? They become fixated on what is attainable and become unable to dream.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions (Who knew??!). No matter what you do, or how well you mean, your kid won’t end up perfect. They will love you, but they won’t think your parenting was perfect. When your kid grows up, they’ll know that you were doing your best. And they’ll more than likely appreciate everything that you were trying to do for them (even if they are a little messed up from it). After all, to err is human.