In the next to last week of looking at parenting styles, we'll focus on the Over-Indulger. This style is the less severe than the Avoider style, but it's still imbalanced toward the Under-Controlling side.
An Over-Indulger is like an Avoider in that they don't set limits either, but it's not because they don't care. They just don't want to make their child unhappy. Over-Indulgers generally fall into the Golden Retriever/Phlegmatic category. (You can read about them here.) They are tender and kind, understanding and sensitive. Often they avoid conflict at whatever the cost, and for them as parents, this means they give up their own rights to make others happy and keep the peace.
What does an Over-Indulger believe? They believe that children should have a happy childhood, free from negative experiences (even if these experiences could offer valuable lessons). Children should be carefree. These parents are so in tune with what their children need that they give in or give undue service, thinking that happy children are more likely to cooperate more.
How does an Over-Indulger discipline? By spending much of their time on their hands and knees...literally. The quintessential server, they give of their time and energy to their children so much so that their own rights and needs go unfulfilled. They take on many responsibilities and wear many hats--cooks, maids, tutors, financiers, cab drivers--and doormats. They come to their child's rescue entirely too much, protecting them from even what would be considered a healthy hardship, or one that will help them grow and mature or learn something about life or themselves. They want to prevent problems from happening and children from feeling disappointment. So they might drop everything to bring a forgotten lunch to school, or make an extra stop by the grocery store late at night to buy a certain brand cereal, because their child can't start their day without a bowl of that cereal every morning.
While the actions of a Micromanager and an Over-Indulger are similar, the motivations behind them are extremely different. Micromanagers are overly involved so they can control the situation or the child to look like good parents. Over-Indulgers are overly involved so they can protect children and serve their children's whims.
If your hero or heroine had a parent like this, how might they end up as an adult? Let's take a look at some possibilities:
1) Tendency to be self-centered.
These children are led to believe their whole lives that the world revolves around them...and their world did because mommy and daddy saw to it. Spoiled is another way to word this potential flaw. They expect success because they always had success, but they aren't willing to really work for it because it was handed to them on silver platters. This may lead to feeling powerful, because they think they can take advantage of others like they did with their parents. But when it doesn't work out for them in the real world, they'll have trouble coping.
2) Lean toward manipulation to get their way.
These children had it made. They knew exactly what button to push on their Over-Indulger parent to get them to jump and perhaps even say, "How high?" on the way up. They know how to get a parent to give in or give up. As a result, they don't really learn respect or how to be grateful. In fact, they may be ungrateful and demanding, which is shocking to the parents, I assure you. So these children grow up thinking the way to get what they want in life is to do the exact same thing to other people...and quite honestly, might not see anything wrong with it.
3) Can be a drifter of sorts.
As adults, children with this type parent might have problems operating within the limits of a job. Rules, authority figures, and responsibilities are basically new to them. They were the authority figure in their home and they had no real rules or responsbilities. So how are they to function out in the real world? The answer is that they might not be able to. They might go from job to job, searching out the "perfect job" that will allow them to do what they've been accustomed to doing.
4) Might boomerang back home a lot.
When things don't work out (like in #3), they'll come back home because they can't support themselves. Of course, the Over-Indulger welcomes them right back home, offering to do their laundry and make their bed for them. The adult child sighs comfortably, as this is the standard of living they are accustomed to. (Think Matthew McConaughey in Failure to Launch. Perfect example.) The parent feels needed, and the child feels in control.
Next week, we'll look at a brief history of parenting trends before finishing up with the Balanced Parenting Style, a.k.a., Perfect Parent (in theory).
Q4U: Any other series you'd like to see featured on The Character Therapist? I'd love to help out and answer some of those burning questions you might have!
* A lot of the information in this series will be derived from Jody Johnston Powel's book, The Parent's Toolshop. Quite a bit is also from my own clinical experiences and opinions.*