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Creating a Codependency with Your Children

Creating a Codependency with Your Children

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I wrote a post for CHEO Moms & Dads not long ago about being a scaredy cat parent.  In the post, I talked about the fears that I had surrounding my daughter and about how I wish I could loosen my reigns a little bit.

Now, this post is merely one segment of my role in her life and my personality as a parent.  A blog post doesn’t clearly depict an entire life story – it merely shares one experience.  However, a commenter took my post as though it was the be all and end all of my parenting and they were concerned.  Here was their comment:

As with all things, it got me thinking… am I creating a codependent?  Am I teaching her nothing?  Will she be able to go into the world and navigate it herself and make healthy decisions?

Let’s first look at what codependency means.  According to Wikipedia:

Codependency (or codependence, interdependency) is defined as a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (as in an addiction to alcohol or heroin); and in broader terms, it refers to the dependence on the needs of or control of another.

[1] It also often involves placing a lower priority on one’s own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others.

[2] Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including family, work, friendship, and also romantic, peer or community relationships.

[2] Codependency may also be characterized by denial, low self-esteem, excessive compliance, or control patterns.

[2] Narcissists are considered to be natural magnets for the codependent.

As far as parenting goes, that specific definition may not be the best.  Instead, let’s look at this Psychology Today article on the topic of, “Are You Raising a Codependent Child?” by Laura JJ Dessauer, Ed.D., L.M.H.C..  You can read the article for full details but let’s look at her bulleted list of the typical characteristics of a parent raising a codependent child:

  1. Being inflexible (or the type A “Superparent”)
  2. Having your child meet your needs
  3. Wanting to solve problems for them

If you are reading this and those three things strongly describe you, you may want to check out Laura’s article for some tips on how to curb some of those behaviours.

For me, I may have fear that something I do or allow will lead to Willow being injured (ie: not cutting up her food enough or letting her climb up a playground structure if I know it’s beyond her limits) but it doesn’t spill over into what she sees (I’m also self-aware enough to know that it doesn’t).  I don’t jump in and solve problems for her and if I see her getting frustrated when trying to finish a puzzle, for example, I let her work through it.

I think many of us will have something that, to others, would make us appear one specific way but we have to remember that it’s just one small piece of who we are as parents.  

If you find yourself with one of the three characteristics above, I wouldn’t be worried about creating a codependent child. I know I’m not.

My child is only two but she is fiercely independent.  She isn’t shy, clingy or apprehensive.  She gets frustrated and then she works through her issue.  She’s a normal two year old and, regardless of what I share through my blogs, I think I’m a pretty normal parent too.

What do you think?  Do you think that ‘helicopter’ parents are creating codependent children or do you think that parents can have a characteristic like that and still raise balanced children?

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Comments (3)

  1. Brenda A. Friday - 21 / 12 / 2012 Reply
    You are normal. You are the parent and you make decision that best suit you and your family. Listen to yourself and child (as you are now!) and nod and smile when you hear/read the opinions of others that are not harmonious with your own beliefs. I have mastered the "smile and nod" as I often feel "out there" in how I parent!
  2. Ingrid Friday - 21 / 12 / 2012 Reply
    We have to many labels in parenting now days. I think it's pretty normal to worry about your kids going beyond their limits. We wouldn't be loving & nurturing parents if we didn't try to help or protect our kids especially in today's society. Labels should remain on clothes not people.
  3. Julie Kavanagh Friday - 21 / 12 / 2012 Reply
    I had some anxiety about my daughter being fiercely independent at that age -- and she still is! I believe it is normal to create healthy boundaries since they are unable at a young age to comprehend the consequences of, for example, climbing on a play structure beyond their ability with children much larger than them. As she grew bigger and had experiences that didn't work out for her, she learned and didn't repeat some mistakes or tried to be more careful... lessening Mommy's anxiety. We are cautious, but not careless in our kidlets development when they are unable to look out for themselves just yet ;) Thanks for sharing! I enjoy these blogs. Merry Christmas fellow Mommy's!

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