My number one rule of coping with parents who are over zealous is this: you cannot blame people for feeling irrational when it comes to their child, they love them too much to feel any other way.
I get it. I am a parent, too.
I feel (disproportionate) sadness when one of my daughters suffers a disappointment. I feel worried (more than is necessary) when they are struggling in school or their sport or art. I feel (enormous) pride when they star in a play, win a gymnastics meet or graduate from school.
The key here is feel. Not act.
Yes, it is part of our DNA as a parent to love our children fiercely and completely. It is natural that we feel protective of our beloved offspring. Of course, it's understandable that we experience deep compassion when things go poorly and delight when they go well. Additionally, it is normal that we wish to have a perfect seat for every performance, competition, game, graduation or any other event that we attend to see our child.
But here's the thing: We all get to feel these intense emotions. What we don't get to do is act on each and every one of them.
Loving our children fiercely neither grants us a free pass to act as if we are the only people who adore our children nor does it give us a "get out of jail free" card to abuse teachers, coaches and other parents. Principles like fairness and respect still apply to us, even when we love our children so much we can scarcely see straight. Rules are still applicable to all of us; even those who have children who are special snowflakes.
I was recently attending a graduation when I witnessed a classic example of "my-child-is-the-center-of-the-world." Seats were allocated such that each family of the graduates were assigned four seats within the first few rows. The assignment was made via a lottery and labels with the families name were placed on the designated chairs. Much thought went into this system to ensure that at least a portion of each child's family would have a good seat.
One parent decided that he was not pleased with his placement of seats and removed his fourth row stickers, exchanging them for a set on the first row. Then, apparently irritated that there were only four first row seats, began adding chairs onto the end of the row to create more room for his entourage while blocking the aisle that the graduates were to walk down. When a teacher approached the father and calmly asked him to return to his original seat, the man became irate, snapping, "How am I supposed to record my daughter's special moment?"
It's easy to understand why teachers and coaches sometimes wish they only had orphans in their classrooms and on their teams.
I understand that too. I work with kids.
To be sure, if our children are being treated unfairly or if they are in crisis, it is our job to advocate on their behalf (at least until they are old enough to do so themselves) to the adults in their lives. Not every act of questioning a policy or requesting help for our children is a symptom of my-child-is-the-most-important -child parenting. Sometimes we need to ask for consideration that departs from the norm.
So how do you tell the difference between being a jerk and being a supportive parent?
With this question: if everyone did it, would it be a good thing?
If everyone who wanted to capture the school performance on their smart phone stood up, would it be a good thing? No, because then no one would get to see the show.
If everyone who wanted his or her child to have the lead in the show harassed the director, would it be a good thing? Of course not.
And, no, it would not be a good thing if everyone disregarded assigned seating at a graduation.
On the other hand, if every parent who saw that their child was struggling and was seeking information on how to support her, spoke to a teacher or coach, would that be a good thing?
It comes down to this: Parents need to know that while their children are the center of THEIR universe, they are not the center of THE universe. While looking out for your child's best interest is part of your role as a parent, so is teaching empathy, fairness and understanding. And modeling those behaviors is a terrific way to start.
Even if you have to sit in the fourth row at your daughter's graduation.