6-week parenting class targets overindulgence

February 20, 2011 

The Child Care Action Council is offering a six-week parenting class based on the book "How Much Is Enough: Everything You Need to Know to Steer Clear of Overindulgence and Raise Likable, Responsible and Respectful Children" by Jean Illsley Clarke.

Participants will meet 7-8:30 p.m. every Wednesday from Feb. 23 to March 30 at the council’s Professional Development Academy, 819 Olympia Ave. N.E., Olympia. Cost is $85 per person or $100 for couples. Child care will not be offered during the class.

The class will be led by Sheryl Garrison, a program administrator at the Child Care Action Council who took a train-the-trainer course on overindulgence from Illsley, an award-winning parent educator.

Garrison talked with me about what South Sound families can expect from the council’s course:

What is overindulgent parenting?

There are three types of overindulgence. One is when we give our children too much, like too much food, too much entertainment, or fill up their free time with too many activities.

The second type of overindulgence is over-nurturing. That’s doing things for children they can do for themselves. You may have heard the term “helicopter parent?”

The third is called soft structure, where parents have no firm rules. Their children don’t do chores, and their rules are always flexible so there are no real strong boundaries. Parents often see it as a form of love, but it’s actually hurting them. ... When children grow up with no understanding of how to do chores, as adults they regret that nobody taught them how to take care of things.

Do parents know when they’re overindulgent?

No. I think most parents fall into some of the traps. We feel like we’re loving our children, and we’re protecting them. It’s become a phenomena of the American culture.

Jean (Illsley) created the test of four, it’s a quiz that helps parents figure out if their parenting is a form of overindulgence.

What are the questions in the test of four?

The first is, “Does it hinder the child from learning a developmentally appropriate task?” In other words, is there something they should be learning that you’re preventing, like doing their own breakfast or laundry or cleaning their own room? An extreme would be going to a job interview with their child, or dropping the child off at college and wanting to set up their dorm room.

The second question is, “Does it take a disproportionate amount of the family’s resources? Is it an unfair amount of time, money, resources or attention?”

The third is, “Does it benefit the adult more than the child?” An example of this is when mom wants the child to be a soccer star for her own ego. Pageant moms also tend to fall in this category.

The last question is, “Does the child’s behavior harm others, society or the planet?”

What happens when children are overindulged?

A child brought up that way just automatically assumes that they’re going to be promoted in the work force, and that they’re going to have opportunity because they’ve always had opportunity. They grow up feeling entitled.

But the research shows that overindulged children have difficulty in their adult lives, and they feel resentful about the way they were raised. They often have a hard time keeping relationships healthy. They don’t know how to do simple things like balance a checkbook. They struggle with boundaries.

What else will the class cover?

The course will help parents find what the author calls a “healthy center.” Over the six weeks, we will identify overindulgence, and let parents talk about where they fit (on the spectrum). We’ll talk about healthier ways to parent your child.

We’ll have a lot of handouts for people, and we’ll have two instructors who will lead the small group discussions.

Where can folks register or get more information about the course?

They can call 360-786-8907 or go to www.ccacwa. org.

Lisa Pemberton covers education for The Olympian. She’s also one busy mama with three children, ages 3, 6 and 10. Reach her at 360-754-5433 or lpemberton@theolympian.com.

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