I am not a parent. However, I’ve recently noticed that I have been parenting people around me for well over a decade. It’s entirely possible that you’re doing this too, even if you’re not a parent. This also includes adults, even if they are your offspring. (Not only is it okay to stop parenting your adult children, we want you to.)
Note that in this article, I’m not talking people who actually need your help in whatever capacity. I’m also not talking about people who just need extra motivation. For me, these things used to apply to my parents, siblings, and friends.
You’re reminding them to do important things
If you’re keeping the other person’s schedule like it’s yours, you’re probably parenting them. This is especially true if they wouldn’t otherwise remember on their own, or if you have to keep reminding them to do something until they get around to doing it.
When I say important, just so we’re clear, I mean things that could affect their overall life. This could be getting their car serviced to make sure that noise doesn’t mean their engine doesn’t explode or going to the doctor to get that abnormal painful new mole looked at. Those are things adults should do on their own for the sake of self-preservation.
They rely on you more than they should
Karen and Mark constantly asked me – or told me – to do things that were ultimately not my responsibility. This was very stressful for me but I sucked it up because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? No. Only if you’re a parent. I am not.
While Karen is driving, I have to constantly remind her of how to drive. “That’s a red stop light”, “there’s a car in front of you, break”; “turn here”. I got sick of this. If she’s going to have a car accident, it will waste some of my time but then maybe she’ll start paying attention more. I don’t care. I have all day.
You don’t know what they’d do without you (and maybe they don’t either)
This again does not apply to people that need to be dependent on you, but rather people that don’t need to be dependent on you.
If this person wouldn’t be able to function without you, that’s a problem.
Why does this happen?
In my case, an emotionally immature parent has likely caused me to take on a role that’s not my own. This can also be the result of control issues that you have in your own life. If you know of another reason, please let me know in the comments.
How to stop?
Imagine if you were two strangers of the same age, and you weren’t being paid to manage the other person’s life. Would this be normal?
Remember that parenting someone that doesn’t need it is not helping either of you. You’re adding stress to yourself that you don’t need and not allowing the other person to take responsibility for themselves. That’s not to say that you can’t help them – everyone needs help sometimes. But if they can’t function without you, that’s not healthy.