Whose Life Is It Anyway? The Risks of Living Vicariously Through Your Children

Andy Santanello · July 23, 2019

Living Vicariously Through Your Children

No life comes without some level of disappointment. How could things have been different if you took that job? What if you never stopped playing guitar? What about if you followed your dream of getting a degree in Psychology instead of Philosophy? When looking at your children, it can be tempting to stop them from making those same mistakes that you believe you made. However, living vicariously through your children can also come at a high cost.

Why It’s Hard Not to Live Vicariously

It is perfectly normal to struggle with feeling like you are living vicariously through your children. After all, it comes from a place of wanting the best for your children. If you look back on your life and see quitting football as your biggest regret, it is easy to see how you would feel frustrated and upset when your child is contemplating the same. Add that to the pressure put on parents and families by Instagram and Facebook, and it’s easy to see how parents would project outside influences and personal dreams onto their children.

Why Is Living Vicariously Through Your Children Dangerous?

Even if your children share many interests with you, they are still separate people with their own hopes, dreams and interests. Whenever you try to see your dream come to fruition through someone else, you are harming that person’s individuality and harming your relationship. Pushing someone to fill a predetermined role takes that child’s interests and talents out of the equation, which also robs that child of the ability to realize his or her potential. 

Are You Living Vicariously Through Your Children?

Some of the signs that you are living vicariously instead of allowing your child to make decisions include:

  • Obsessive involvement in your child’s activities at the expense of your own hobbies
  • Forcing your child to do specific activities that don’t offer additional benefits (art camp, theatre camp, basketball camp, etc.)
  • Making decisions on your child’s behalf based on your past disappointments
  • Reprimanding your child for his or her performance in an extracurricular activity

Is Influencing Your Children a Bad Thing?

While living vicariously through your children can be a bad thing, instilling goal-setting habits and values into your children is a positive thing. When children and teens have goals, it can build their self-esteem and give them a sense of purpose. Whether it’s setting small goals, like making the Junior Varsity soccer team, or setting big goals, like getting above 2200 on the SAT, goals are a great tool. Every parent should encourage his or her child to dream big and set goals for the little steps along the way. You can also help your child in achieving goals by modeling values first and then letting go of the reins a bit. This gives them guidance and structure without putting them in a position where they are fulfilling your dreams.

Therapy in Baltimore from CBT Baltimore

 If you are struggling not to push your dreams and aspirations onto your child, you are not alone. It isn’t easy to be a parent, and you deserve support. If you need someone to talk to, don’t be afraid to reach out.

If you are interested in seeking therapy in Baltimore, we’re here to help.  Contact the CBT experts at CBT Baltimore at 443-470-9815. We would love to speak with you.