Don’t Overfocus On Your Child

They are their own person and so are you.

mother focusing on child interstid / Shutterstock

So many clients I see are completely burned out from parenting in today’s super-intensive way. With my first and even second child, I completely bought into this idea, and I would have continued to do so if not for the following variables:

1. I had my third child in 3.5 years, rendering this level of focus impossible, and

2. I started to see more clients who were completely burned out by parenting and this made me really re-examine how I parented.


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Here are some indicators that you are hyper-focusing on your child(ren):

1. You never have an interesting conversation with your partner while your kids are awake

2. You don’t watch anything on TV/listen to any music/podcast that the kids won’t like/find educational

3. Your weekend activities center wholly on the kids’ interests

4. You feel burned out and anxious about parenting

5. You think constantly about your kids’ development/progress

6. Your kids’ extracurricular activities supersede your own interests, stretch your finances, and cause you to stress on a regular basis

Another way to view kids, which is a revelation in today’s hothouse parenting climate, is that they are just another family member, whose needs, wants, interests, and preferences are on par with every other family member’s. Even yours! So this means that in a case where you want to listen to some podcast and your kid wants to listen to Kidz Bop or whatever, you pick your podcast at least half the time. If you are talking to your husband and your child comes over and wants to know something about science, you finish what you are saying and tell your child not to interrupt, and get back to him in a few minutes. (Yes, even a question about science! It will not turn him from a future Einstein into a future drug dealer not to get this question immediately answered.)


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Kids whose every word is hung upon turn into self-centered people that I see when they are dragged into couples counseling by frustrated partners.

Kids whose activities come before their parents’ interests end up with depressed, overburdened parents and often tell me as young adults in therapy that they don’t want to have their own kids because their parents seem so stressed and overwhelmed. Kids who get to choose what they eat for every meal become adults who cannot be flexible or courteous when their preferences are not accommodated in every situation.

Children need love and care, but they also need boundaries.


A very important set of boundaries to teach your child is that others’ needs are equally as important as theirs. In fact, your needs as a parent are more important than your child’s needs in many ways, because if you do not take care of yourself, you will have no capacity to care for your child. As they say in airplanes, you must put on your own oxygen mask before putting on your child’s.

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If you find yourself focusing on your children’s development to the exclusion of your own needs, and your kids’ desires rule the household, think deeply about what you are teaching them.

When they are older and expect partners to cater to them in the manner that you did for their whole childhood, it will become swiftly evident to you where this self-absorption came from. Unfortunately, you will no longer be able to fix this issue.


Also, if they do not know how to have a loving and caring intimate relationship because they did not see you and your partner interact in any way aside from co-parenting, you will regret not bonding with and prioritizing your partner in a way that your children could see and learn from.

If this resonates with you, share it with your partner and see if you can open up a discussion on ways to stop hyper-focusing on your children and start prioritizing the family unit and taking the needs of the adults into account. Remember, when you are depleted, you cannot be the best parent to your child, and you certainly aren’t making them look forward to adulthood. 

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Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of DrPsychMom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.