Parents: Stop Over Functioning!


Are you feeling more stressed, tired, or worried about your child’s life than she/he is about their own life? Do you do for your children what they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves? You are probably over-functioning! In fact, if you are a parent, period, you are probably over functioning.


I’ve learned over the years as a family therapist, and even more so as a mother that over functioning is part and parcel of parenting and that we all do it on some level. Over functioning in a relationship is doing more than what is reasonably required. Parents naturally over function simply by virtue of caring for a more vulnerable human being (your precious child).


There are many problems with over functioning: burnout, stress, resentment, etc. The biggest problem with parental over functioning is the effect it has on children: under functioning. When we over function, we enable others to under function. When we over function with our children, they naturally under function and we set them up for failure. When you think of all you do for your child that they are able to do for themselves (ie laundry, pick up after them, remind them of their responsibilities, etc) remember this morbid truth: you are the only person in this world that will over function for them. Unless of course he marries his mother, but that’s a whole other issue.


It’s easier and quicker than letting our kids do it themselves. It gives us a sense of control. We may not be ready to accept they are growing up and don’t “need” us as much. It feels good to “care” for our children. While these are all lovely and noble reasons to over function, we still set our children up for failure.


Here’s a simple strategy to stop your over functioning behavior and share responsibility with your children:

  1. Make a list of ALL the tasks you do for your child that they are CAPABLE of doing for themselves. Parents, get out a whole notepad, this list is going to be long!
  2. Pick 3 of the EASIEST tasks on this long, long list.
  3. Ask your child to pick 1 task and decide together how your child will begin to take over responsibility for this item.
  4. Once your child masters the task, REPEAT.

The great rewards of sharing responsibility with our children are that it not only relieves us of unnecessary stress, but it also builds their confidence and teaches them critical life skills. You’d be amazed how many university students I’ve met that don’t know how to do laundry! So go ahead, stop over functioning, and start sharing responsibility. In the end, you’ll have a happier home!

Shyamala Kiru, DMin, RMFT 
Private Practice, Markham

kiru shyamalawebAbout Shyamala

Shyamala has spent over a decade working with hundreds of individuals, couples and families.  She is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist with the American and Ontario Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently serves as their Chair of Public Relations.  She holds a Masters in Counselling and a Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy.

In addition to her private practice in Markham, she is a consultant for the Health Services Team at a York Region Private School and is a media expert for sources such as Chatelaine, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.  You can also find her the panel of Discovery Channel’s National TV show, Canada’s Worst Driver.   She regularly delivers psycho-educational workshops as well as professional development for schools all across York Region. With an approach that is sensitive and down to earth, Shyamala brings authenticity and energy to her work with people of all cultures and backgrounds.


March 3, 2015

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