Too Much of a Good Thing
But you can have too much of a good thing. When parents are too rigid in enforcing routines and rules, they may stifle their children's spontaneity, flexibility, and maybe even their creativity.
In her new book,Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, Dr. Golinkoff and co-author Kathy Hirsh-Pasek address the trend of hyper-parenting and over-scheduling children. "If you've got everything worked out so that you have a half hour for play, a half hour for this lesson, a half hour for that lesson, then, yes, that can affect your kid's spontaneity," notes Dr. Golinkoff. She takes it one step further saying, "You want your kids to learn how to amuse themselves. That is key! That teaches them to use their imagination and to figure out what resources they have." You can't always have people telling you "what to do, what to play with and how to act," she continues. "You have to have some spontaneous time so that you learn how terrific you are."
A child locked into too many routines and rules may not be able to "go with the flow" when the situation calls for it. Dr. Richard Gallagher, PhD, Director of the Parenting Institute at New York University's Child Study Center says, "Sometimes it might contribute to a situation where a kid is not very adaptable." Masako says this is the case with her daughter Mia. "I think she is not as easygoing as some of her friends—granted that may be genetic, too—and definitely does not adapt to new environments as easily as I had hoped," she says.
Dr. Gallagher says keeping a child to an extremely strict routine can sometimes lead to poor problem-solving skills. "I think it can result in a kid not having the experience to be able to think on his feet and respond," explains Dr. Gallagher. "If a child is in the same pattern over and over again, with no variation, he won't know what to do when there is a variation." Take the example of a toddler who is accustomed to eating certain foods at certain times every day. What happens when that kid is stuck in his mother's car in a traffic jam and can't get home in time to have that certain food? Dr. Gallagher says that child probably hasn't had an opportunity in the past to think, "I'm not at my goal. What else can I do? How can I respond to this new situation?"
Lastly, parents who try to control their kids with too many rules and routines may be looking at trouble down the road. Harvard's Dr. Fischer notes, "Typically you see much worse terrible twos or much worse adolescent rebellions when parents have over-controlled their kids."