Micromanaging Your Children Isn’t Helping— It’s Actually Hurting

It might be time to get a little hands-off with your kids.

Child being micro managed and dismissed vs a child being seen and heard by parent JackF | Canva

There are certain aspects of the parenting journey that every parent can relate to, no matter what your parenting style may be. The joyous triumph of a toddler’s first steps is inexorably tied to the fear that they’ll fall. The truth is, they will fall no matter how closely you watch them.

As they grow, kids make mistakes. They fall. A parent’s instinct is to protect their children from any harm, yet sometimes, that instinct backfires, especially if you’re micromanaging your kids. 


The tendency to micromanage, or overparent, is a universal issue that almost every parent deals with. No parent wants their kids to feel discomfort, yet that protective instinct exists along a spectrum. It’s one thing to fulfill the role of ever-present parental guide, and a whole different thing to intervene every time your kid experiences some form of conflict. 

There’s a line between being a caring, involved, and curious parent and being a parent who micromanages their children. It’s not always easy to identify the difference. 

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We need to address the issue of micromanaging children.

Overparenting, or micromanaging, stems from a place of wanting kids to be safe, nurtured, and successful— it comes from only wanting the best for your kids, and what parent can’t identify with that feeling? Yet micromanaging children can have the opposite effect from what parents actually want for them.

Micromanaging can take different forms. There’s overt control, like completing your kid’s school projects to make sure they’re doing them “right”. There are also more subtle versions of micromanaging, like being critical of your kid’s choices about what they’re eating, what they’re wearing, who they’re friends with, and beyond. 

Tendencies towards micromanaging are often rooted in the parent’s own anxieties. Existing at the intersection of worry and wanting to control your kid’s environment and outcomes is a complicated space to be in. Of course, all parents worry about their children, and that worry comes from a valid place. But getting stuck at that intersection can negatively affect your child’s sense of self and how they relate to the people around them.

At its core, micromanaging means not allowing your kids to make decisions for themselves. Not letting your kids make their own decisions can pave the way for them to make impulsive or unsafe decisions as they grow. A kid who’s micromanaged isn’t given opportunities to figure out how to solve conflicts, whether big or small. 


In an episode of YourTango’s podcast, Open Relationships, CEO Andrea Miller noted that the results of being micromanaged play out differently for everyone, as no two people have the same lived experience. Yet being micromanaged comes at the cost of children's burgeoning social and emotional development.

She noted that micromanaged kids eventually turn 18, go away to college, and don’t know how to navigate their freedom.

“As well-intentioned as the parents are to keep them safe, they pay a huge price once their [kids] are no longer in their proverbial clutches,” she explained.

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Allowing kids to make small yet impactful choices about their lives is a way to teach them how to make good decisions, in general. This could mean letting them choose what snacks they eat, what after-school activities they’re involved in, and what outfits they want to wear. 

Letting kids take control gives them the opportunity to develop self-direction, which is a crucial skill for flourishing in adulthood. As long as they’re safe and not causing harm to themselves or others, it’s okay to let kids decide how they want to live. In fact, it’s more than okay— it’s incredibly important for setting your kids up for success.

Kids who are micromanaged can grow into adults with ineffective coping mechanisms, high levels of stress, and depression. 

When parents step in at the slightest sign of conflict or discomfort, kids don’t learn how to navigate the hard parts of life. Letting kids address their own challenges instills them with confidence and self-assurance. It teaches them that they can trust themselves. 


4 Ways To Stop Micromanaging Your Children To Foster Trust

1. Have honest conversations about tough topics.

Letting kids know they can come to you when they have questions is a vital part of establishing a trusting relationship. 

As kids figure out their place in the world, they’re bound to have questions, and not all of those questions will have simple answers. Joanna Schroeder explained that she takes a compassionately direct approach when her kids have hard questions. 

When teaching her kids how to navigate the thornier parts of life, like being a teen on social media, Schroeder leaves the door open for them to walk through—when they’re ready. She tells them, “We’ll never judge you for having questions, come to us and we can tell you what’s true versus someone trying to make you believe something that’s not healthy for you.”

She places value on working to foster the kind of relationship with her kids where they can approach her, especially when something feels hard.


2. Don’t shut your kids down when they’re curious.

When your kids do come to you with a question that veers into uncomfortable territory, don’t push them away. Instead, thank them for asking you. Then, tell them the truth.

Schroeder relayed a story in which her friend’s young daughter approached her to ask that essential question—"Where do babies come from?" Schroeder’s friend didn’t feel totally comfortable and gave her daughter a convoluted answer, closing the door to further conversation.

Schroeder offered a different approach: age-appropriate honesty. 

When kids come to you with questions, tell them the truth, in simple and age-appropriate terms. Regarding inevitable questions about babies, adult content, and intimacy, Schroder suggested starting with a biological explanation when kids are young, then opening the dialogue to include the nuanced facets as they grow.


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3. When kids say something we’re programmed to think is “bad” or “wrong,” take a pause.

Micromanaging can manifest in almost imperceptible ways, like controlling kids’ language or the questions they ask you.

Jill Krause gave an example of a time when her kid asked her a sensitive question, wondering why a woman they saw was fat. Krause’s immediate response was to tell her kid not to say that, despite the fact that the question wasn’t asked in a malicious way. After taking a moment to think, Krause realized that “fat” isn’t an inherently bad word, so why should she tell her child not to say it?

There’s beauty to the ritual parents create by allowing their kids to be open and ask questions without passing judgment. When parents take a breath and listen to what their kids are asking, they’re able to help their kids make sense of their existence.


4. Stop shaming your kids. Full stop. Period.

Creating a container for kids to feel safe requires parents to set aside any judgemental tendencies they may hold. 

Kids are figuring out how to be full-formed people in a big, wild world. They’re going to ask weird questions. They’re going to make messy mistakes. Sometimes, they’ll even fail. When your child does stumble, let them know they can come to you.

Casting criticism toward your child when they mess up serves only one purpose: It tells them they’re not actually safe. 


If you do find yourself being judgmental, say that you’re sorry and work to fix it. Schroeder offered a resonant thought on making mistakes as a parent, noting “if we were always perfect, our kids would never learn what humility looks like, what repair looks like.”

She also noted that it’s a gift to offer your kid an apology and acknowledge that you’re trying to parent as best you can and in some ways, you’re learning as you go.

It’s Time We Fostered Trust, Not Fear

If you find yourself micromanaging, take a moment to look inward and ask yourself what’s at the root of that instinct? Question the “why” of that behavior and get clear with yourself. Parents need to support their kids, not set them up to fail. In order to pave the way for their kids’ success, parents need to trust their kids to make their own decisions, which will inevitably come with a fair share of missteps. 

Parents also need to nurture the part of themselves that says, “I’ve done my best, now I have to let go a little.”


Help your kids create a bridge to honest communication. Help them understand the effects of their own actions. Stay open. Stay present. It’s okay to take a step back and let your kid grow into the person they’re already becoming. 

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers parenting, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.