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 Parenting Press®

About the Author:

Jean Illsley Clarke, M.A.

Don’t Give Your Children Too Much,
Says Jean Illsley Clarke

Award-winning parent educator Jean Illsley Clarke, the author of Parenting Press’s Time-In: When Time-Out Doesn’t Work, and Who, Me Lead a Group?, has spent decades designing and conducting workshops on parenting, self-esteem, drug abuse prevention and team building. Today she has a new focus: overindulgence.

What has Clarke learned? That giving your children too much actually hurts them.

“As people who were overindulged as children become adults, there is a huge impact on their confidence level. These are the people who are most likely to report that they don’t feel they have control over their children,” she notes.

But Clarke’s research shows that lavishing children with material things is not the only problem. What deeply concerns her are three other common parenting issues. One is “over-nurturing,” when parents do too much for their children and thus prevent the kids from becoming competent themselves—in everything from ordinary household chores to coping skills to developing interpersonal skills.

Another of Clarke’s concerns is what she calls “soft structure,” when parents provide little discipline and few boundaries—as well as not requiring children to contribute to family life by doing chores. Some parents do the chores themselves because it’s faster than trying to teach the children to handle the work; others want to save the kids’ time for “important” projects like sports and lessons. The result, however, is that some children aren’t taught such basic life skills as washing clothes or balancing a checkbook.

A third concern: “Too much, too many,” Clarke calls it. “Too many toys, too many camps, too many activities.” Not only can rushing from one activity to another be stressful, but children have no downtime that they have to learn to fill themselves.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Clarke received her master’s degree in human development from St. Mary’s University. She recently received two alumni awards from the University of Minnesota as well as an honorary doctorate from Sierra University. The mother of three, she lives in Minneapolis. For more information, see

Jean Illsley Clarke

Parenting Books
Self-Esteem: A Family Affair
Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children
How Much is Enough?

Group Leadership Books
Who, Me Lead a Group?

Wall of Discovery

Jean Clarke and her husband in front of the Univ. of Minnesota’s Wall of Discovery honoring illustrious graduates. Her entry on the Wall shows a sketch of the Nurture/Structure Highway, a key component of her teaching.

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Last updated February 01, 2017