Loving Your Child Too Much: Raise Your Kids Without Overindulging, Overprotecting or Overcontrolling

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Can you really love your child too much?

As parents, we yearn to show our children how much we love them. We want a close relationship. So, how do we snow love in a healthy, balanced way without falling into some of the most common pitfalls or parenting?

Clinton and Sibcy offer practical, grounded advice to...

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Loving Your Child Too Much: Raise Your Kids Without Overindulging, Overprotecting or Overcontrolling

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Can you really love your child too much?

As parents, we yearn to show our children how much we love them. We want a close relationship. So, how do we snow love in a healthy, balanced way without falling into some of the most common pitfalls or parenting?

Clinton and Sibcy offer practical, grounded advice to shower kids with love, without…


How do you support, encourage and share the blessings you've been given to your child without spoiling?


How do you protect your children from the evils of the world yet allow them to grow into strong, independent adults, capable trusting others and making good decisions?


How do you help your child, take ownership of his behavior and learn to live within limits without squelching his individualism?

You'll discover the secrets based on years of research, counseling and clinical therapy from well-respected Christian psychologists.

Loving Your Child Too Much is a powerful tool to kelp you raise happy, well-balanced and fully-loved kids.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780785297772
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/17/2012
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,446,962
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim Clinton, Ed.D, LPC, LMFT, is president of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He is professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care at Liberty University and is executive director of the Liberty University Center for Counseling and Family Studies.

Dr. Gary Sibcy is a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist at Piedmont Psychiatric Center in Lynchburg, Virginia. He is also an adjunct professor in Liberty University's doctoral program in professional counseling, as well as a consultant for group homes with troubled children.

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Read an Excerpt


How to Keep a Close Relationship with Your Child Without Overindulging, Overprotecting, or Overcontrolling
By Tim Clinton Gary Sibcy

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2006 Dr. Tim Clinton & Dr. Gary Sibcy
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7852-9777-2

Chapter One

Can You Really Love Your Kids Too Much?

Every child deserves at least one person in his life who is absolutely crazy about him.

Parents love their kids. It's only natural. How moms and dads show love to their kids often differs, but that special bond between parent and child is something that has a heart of its own, something that comes directly from above. It's sacred!

Remember when you first held that tiny, wonderful being and felt your baby's warm, smooth skin? Something happened inside that locked your heart with that little one's. At the moment, you didn't believe it would be possible to love someone more, but over time your connection actually grew stronger. With the first smile, tooth, hug, steps, and words—starting with "Dada" and "Mama" and later progressing to "Can I have some money?"—your love for your child deepened.

Enter sports. You cheered wildly as he hit his first tee-ball, scored a goal, or made a basket. "That's what I'm talking about!" you screamed. "That's my boy! We're talking big leagues here!" You just knew he'd be good—a real chip off the old block. And if the coach pulled him out of the game? It wouldn't be pretty. No one—that's right, no one—better mess with your kid.

You're smiling because you know what we're talking about.

As parents and professional therapists, we love our kids with the same gusto. We know the joys, demands, and pressures of raising kids today. And we've seen just about everything—both in counseling sessions and on the court and ball field. More importantly, we've witnessed what works with kids and what doesn't.

This book is written to help you connect with your kids by identifying and explaining some of the most common pitfalls of parenting. It doesn't pull any punches or offer any gimmicks. It centers on what really matters most—building and maintaining a healthy, loving relationship with your children that is emotionally and spiritually close.

Bridging the Love Gap

So what is healthy love? It's more than the powerful bond parents feel when their newborn is first placed in their arms, the rush of infatuation couples experience when they begin dating, or the instant bonding that can happen when friends meet. Whether with family or friends, loving relationships take work. They may begin with powerful feelings, but in order to develop true, lasting intimacy, all relationships require a commitment of time and effort—the willingness to stick with it and confront the negative feelings that will inevitably arise when we get close to another person. Our kids are no exception. We can't count the number of times parents have said to us, "We love our child, but we really don't like him. He's so exhausting to be around."

The apostle Paul described love as hard work, writing, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4–8).

Most parents we meet strive to love their children with these biblical guidelines in mind. But what happens when their efforts fall short? The "love gap" is the distance between our good intentions as parents and what we should do to truly love our kids—and it is often what brings families to our offices seeking help. There are many reasons this separation happens, and often the disconnect occurs when parents overcontrol, overprotect, or overindulge their child.

In a speech about fatherhood, President George W. Bush noted this disconnect, saying, "It's a natural longing of the human heart to care for and cherish your child, but this longing must find concrete expression. Raising a child requires sacrifice, effort, time, and presence. And there is a wide gap between our best intentions and the reality of today's society."

We can't really love our kids too much. When it comes to parenting, love—and the amount of it—isn't really the issue. Despite our good intentions, we don't always achieve healthy love. In fact, often the problem comes with the decisions we make in the name of love.

The Love Comparison Chart illustrates at a glance how healthy love differs from love that tends to overprotect, overindulge, or overcontrol. What is your parenting style?


Becky recently came to see us about her nine-year-old son, Michael. Every morning, Michael would wake up with a headache or stomachache, complaining that he was too sick to go to school. Becky had taken him to different doctors on several occasions, and they had run multiple tests to rule out any serious medical problems. In the end, the doctors could find nothing physically wrong.

As we discussed these problems in counseling, Becky informed us that Michael's headaches and stomach problems would disappear every day about an hour after she had decided he was unfit to go to school. They would restart in the evening just before bedtime.

"Mom," Michael would announce, "my stomach is starting to hurt again. I don't think I can go to school tomorrow."

Becky would usually tell him, "I'm sorry you feel so badly, honey. Let's see how you feel in the morning, and we'll decide what to do then."

Becky was at her wits' end. She had tried everything to help her son, meeting with school officials, seeking advice from her church pastor, and praying fervently. "I also tried sending him back to school, but that failed miserably," she told us. "Michael got even worse! He threw a huge fit, started breathing hard, and said he felt like he was dying."

"How did you feel when Michael did this?" we asked.

"Terrible ... like such a bad mom. I felt like I was punishing him, and he hadn't done anything wrong. So I usually kept him home."

Like any good parent, Becky didn't want to see her child suffer. And Michael's tears were real—he truly did not want to be separated from his mother. Becky's desire to protect him, however, was just making matters worse. The only way Michael could heal was by going to school and coming home to find his mom waiting for him, welcoming him back. It was a difficult morning when Becky finally got her son to go to school, but it was a triumph for both of them when Michael returned safely home that afternoon.

We all want to protect our children. It's a natural, God-given instinct, an important feature of love. When we love someone, we don't want him or her to hurt! The apostle Paul stated, "Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?" (2 Corinthians 11:29).

I (Tim) can relate. One afternoon at baseball practice, my talented young son Zach was fielding a ground ball when it took a bad hop and hit him square in the upper lip and nose. What a scene! Blood, busted lips, gasps, and tears. Zach was open about being afraid of getting hit again by the ball. So was his mom. But we all decided it was important to face that fear. So he went back the next week to baseball practice—the game both Zach and I love.

As parents, we should all want our children to feel safe and content. This, in itself, is a good thing. The problem comes when we overapply our love to the point that we're damaging our kids. Some children like Michael become more anxious and dependent when they are overprotected. Others rebel. One overprotective parent described his relationship with his daughter, saying:

I see the other kids running around in the middle of the night, up to no good, making horrible decisions, and I don't want my daughter to make a mistake in her teens that she regrets for her entire life. We don't let her go out at all. Someday I think she'll appreciate that I kept her at home off the streets, away from drugs and who only knows what else. But right now it's just awful. She's depressed. I think she wants to run away from home. She yells at me, "You don't want me to have any friends! I hate you!" and slams her bedroom door in my face.

Protecting your children from the evils of the world is a God-given responsibility. But overprotecting will bruise the spirit and keep kids from growing into strong, independent adults capable of earning trust and making good decisions. Many parents tell us, "If I can only keep my child from messing up during the teenage years, he will be okay." But all kids will make mistakes—and when they do, they need to know how to learn from them and move on. The best time for them to do this is during childhood and adolescence, while there is still a safety net. If they don't learn these lessons before they're adults, they'll be left walking the tightrope with nothing to catch them when—not if—they fall.


Did you know that kids are bombarded with about twelve hundred commands a day? Think about what it takes just to get a child ready for school. Zach, it's time to get up. Zach, get out of bed. Don't forget to brush your teeth. Did you wash your face? Go wash your face. Zach, come downstairs! Get the milk out of the fridge. Finish your cereal. Where's your homework? Well, go get it! Don't forget your backpack. Or your homework. Put on your shoes. Tie them. Where'd you put your coat?

We're not saying parents shouldn't instruct their kids. Without direction, they would probably never get anywhere on time! But even the most compliant kids can keep only 80 percent of our commands. And it's the gap between 80 and 100 percent—or for some, between 60 and 100 percent—that makes both parents and kids crazy.

As one parent told us, "It seems like all I do is yell and discipline. I hate it! I feel like it's hurting my relationship with my kids." Is discipline necessary? Of course! But moms and dads must remember that corrections and commands are primarily negative interactions. It doesn't feel good to be corrected, and it doesn't feel good to be told what to do twelve hundred times a day.

No adult would want a boss who is constantly demanding and critiquing. No one, adult or child, wants to feel controlled, overwhelmed, or rejected. If your relationship with your kids consists mostly of discipline, correction, yelling, spanking, or grounding, then somewhere along the way from the delivery room to here you've lost the heart of the relationship.

Many overcontrolling parents we meet admit they often say no before their kids even ask for permission. Kids will quickly give up on certain things like cleaning their rooms, doing their homework, and sweeping the porch, but when it comes to asking for permission, they live by the mantra, "Never give up, never give in." When parents automatically answer no to every question, they unwittingly create many unnecessary battles, ultimately making them feel even more out of control.

These parents also tend to try to manage their kids' behavior by "showing" them in detail how to respond to certain incidents. Often they monitor their children's play or conversations after observing bad or harmful behavior. Again, it's important to discipline and establish guidelines, but in moderation.

Parents who overcontrol often do so from a healthy desire to help their kids take ownership of their behavior and learn how to live within limits. The difficulty is that this method usually backfires, leading to rebellion, anger, and emotional withdrawal. When their kids respond in these ways, they tend to become even more controlling. Eventually, they find themselves being the "thought patrol," gatekeepers, or taskmasters. While we must assume these roles at certain times, our children also need us to be listeners, supporters, encouragers, collaborators, and emotion coaches.

Overcontrolling parents only want their kids to succeed. But instead of allowing their children reasonable latitude so that they might fail a few times and learn something, they train them to believe that personal success comes only through achievement—and achievement comes only through perfectionism.

Fortunately, there are other, more positive ways you can relate to your kids that will enhance your authority as a parent and increase the effectiveness of your discipline strategies. Rather than constantly criticize, you can learn to focus on your child's good behavior, building a relationship that is based on respect as well as fun.


While overcontrolling parents tend to shut down all of their kids' requests, overindulgent moms and dads say yes to everything—toys, clothes, even privileges. We call this "Disney daddy syndrome." Attempting to shower their kids with happiness and security, these parents set no limits. One such parent explained:

From diapers he's wanted for nothing. If he's needed anything, I've given it to him—clothes, school supplies, sports equipment. And because I grew up remembering the pain of being on welfare, his mother and I have also given him the desires of his heart—baseball cards, Lego sets, a trampoline, two puppies, a rabbit, and even a backyard swimming pool. My wife, Emma, stays home to care for Jimmy, and even though that's a full-time job, we're more concerned about lightening Jimmy's load. "What's the point of childhood if it's cluttered with chores?" we say. So Emma takes care of the animals, the laundry, and everything else at home, and I work long hours and bring home a good paycheck. You'd think we would be a happy family, but lately we feel like Jimmy has betrayed us. He's become an angry, defiant, miserable child. We just don't know what to do.

This certainly doesn't prepare kids to mature into responsible adults. As this father discovered, such spoiling only breeds discontent. Overindulged children become addicted to the cult of the next thing: as they are given each new toy or liberty, the newness wears off more and more quickly, creating a cycle of dissatisfaction and greed. Soon these parents become frustrated, angry, and resentful that their kids have become so spoiled. But they still can't say no. It's the only way they know how to give and receive love.

This spoiling also extends to household chores. Just as these kids beg and plead for the latest iPod, they put up a fight to get out of cleaning their rooms. And if their parents put their foot down, they collapse to the floor in a tantrum-induced heap. Although the children are perfectly capable of carrying out simple household tasks—taking out the trash, cleaning off the dinner table, or folding the laundry—overindulging parents won't make them help, despite the fact they are becoming increasingly angry and resentful at being virtual prisoners to their children.

The reasons parents overindulge range from guilt to issues from their own childhood. But the dangers of overindulging are real, and go much deeper than just having a "spoiled" kid. Even though kids fight it every step of the way, they need structure and responsibility in their lives. Without it they become increasingly insecure, irritable, and bored.

As our heavenly Father, God doesn't always give us everything we want, but He does provide everything we need (see Matthew 6). By following His example and other biblical guidelines, we can break the cycle of capitulation. It is possible to give good things to our kids in a way that, rather than overindulging them, promotes health and joy.

Bringing Up Kids Today

Parenting is an amazing opportunity! When God blesses us with children, He gives us a little one who absorbs everything we say and do. When kids are small, they smile when we smile, squeeze hands when we squeeze hands, high-five when we high-five, kiss when we kiss, and even spit when we spit. And yes, if we yell, they learn to yell. Criticize, and they learn to criticize. The influence factor is enormous.

But parenting has gotten more complicated over the years. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal described today's kids as reading, writing, and rushing—which means moms and dads are rushing too. There's schoolwork, lunches, baths, cleaning, basketball, baseball, soccer, swimming, piano, computers, parties, doctor appointments, church programs. It seems as if all we do as parents is go, go, go. Pile on work demands, personal illnesses and losses, marital expectations and problems, money challenges, and caring for aging parents, and it seems impossible to stay relaxed enough to keep from grounding the kids for forgetting to replace the cap on the toothpaste!


Excerpted from LOVING YOUR CHILD TOO MUCH by Tim Clinton Gary Sibcy Copyright © 2006 by Dr. Tim Clinton & Dr. Gary Sibcy. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Part 1 Too Much Love … Is It Possible?

Chapter l Can You Really Love Your Kids Too Much? 3

Chapter 1 How We Love Too Much 19

Chapter 3 Why We Love Too Much33

Chapter 4 What's the Harm in Loving Too Much? 45

Part 2 Healthy Love

Chapter 5 The Right Way to Love 59

Chapter 6 The Three R's of Healthy Love 73

Chapter 7 Loving Without Overindulging 81

Chapter 8 Loving Without Overprotecting 99

Chapter 9 Loving Without Overcontrolling 121

Part 3 Connecting with Your Kids

Chapter lo How Parents and Kids Connect 143

Chapter 11 Building Closeness with Your Child 157

Chapter 12 Emotion Coaching 169

Chapter 13 Effective Discipline for Any Child 179

Chapter 14 Extra-Effort Kids 211

Notes 235

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