In our families, it is normal to find ourselves in an overfunctioning/underfunctioning dynamic with our spouse, children, parents, or siblings. The overfunctioning person often takes on the most responsibility, takes over decision-making, tries helping too much, and often sees others as having the issue. The underfunctioning person depends on others for advice, always accepts or expects help, easily gives in to others, and can become symptomatic.
This dynamic is established to stabilize a relationship or family when anxiety or stress increases. When we are reacting rather than thoughtfully responding, then we can easily fall into an overfunctioning/underfunctioning pattern and lose our sense of self or separateness.
In parenting, this pattern is particularly important to observe and manage. When we are in charge of creating a safe and positive environment for our children to thrive, it can be very tempting to step in and take over when we feel as though our children are not presenting their best selves. The cost of overfunctioning for our children is that they do not have the opportunity to develop and grow into the strong, resilient individuals that they have the potential to become. Children often learn to underfunction when there is no room for them to fully exist and present who they are in relationships. We can empower our children to practice healthy boundaries and take personal responsibility by continuing to clarify our role as the parent.