Overprotective parents want the best for their children, wanting them free from harm, bad experiences, and pain. They do all they can to shield them from rejection and disappointment, but is there a point where being overprotective becomes detrimental to children’s development and self-discovery?
Is it possible that being overprotective is equal to being a good parent? Let’s take a look.
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5 Signs Of An Overprotective Parent
Parents naturally want to protect their children from emotional or physical harm. Children sometimes need interventions, especially if they are in immediate danger such as too near the edge of something, or if there is an imminent threat of harm. It is responsible for a parent to step in and ensure their safety. But what does it mean to overprotect them, and potentially hinder their development?
After all, research suggests that having an overprotective parent can lead to risk aversion and a lack of a strong coping mechanism.
Here, we have the 5 main ways parents can be overprotective towards their children. The ‘over’ in overprotective is the key here, and where the threat is something only you perceive as a threat to your child, they miss out on learning valuable lessons.
Let’s look at these top 5 signs in more detail.
Decision Maker, Answer Giver
As children grow, so does their inquisitive nature. They want to explore and problem-solve, but they cannot do that if parents are there answering for them or making decisions for them. Imagine somebody being stopped in the street by a friend, and the child is asked how they are. The child might look and wonder what to say and in steps the parent. ‘You’re alright, aren’t you? We were a bit hot and bothered yesterday with the weather but today is much cooler, isn’t it?’ The child didn’t even move their lips!
Stopping children in their tracks this way, including all the times that decisions are made for them such as what the want to eat or wear, prevent children from discovering what they actually do like. It stops them in their tracks and the older they get, the less they will know about themselves. As decisions get more important with age, so will the confusion of not knowing how to micromanage situations.
Privacy Not Respected
‘Knock knock. Who’s there? I don’t know because I am too busy scrolling through my kid’s phone/peeking in their diary/checking their emails.’ Not cool. Whilst it is handy for kids to know that their parents are always there if they need anything, and to ask how things are going with school or friendships, it is not OK to assume free reigns when it comes to privacy. It isn’t a free for all assumption that parents can cross the line and tamper with their constant need for reassurance that all is well. Being there is not the same as being unfair.
The older children get, the more they will want privacy. A parent needs to be clued up on the important things like how children are mentally and physically, and how they spend time with their children change with age. Toys are replaced perhaps with instruments or other games. Make room for the changes, and respect that as time goes on, they may well want to fill what used to be ‘playtime,’ with solitary reading or listening to music. And that is OK. Parents who give their children space are far more likely to maintain good relationships with them.
It really is a top priority for parents to keep their children safe. However, when it comes to scaring them witless every time they so much as pick up a marble or attempt to climb a tree or stand on a swing, is incredibly counterproductive. The end result will be a child who is afraid to really step out and do much out of their tiny comfort zones. They will see anything fun or risky as negative which ironically leads to negative thought patterns.
If a child is about to step out onto the main road, I think it is pretty safe to shout, ‘STOP!’ However, if they are climbing up the steps to a water chute for the 20th time, I think it is safe to assume that they have got this. To know the difference, to know when to zip it and let them play without the constant niggle of worry in the back of their minds will allow for the exudation of confidence and mindful play.
Lack Of Space
Step back. Step back and breathe. Wait. And wait patiently. It’s OK (and important) to knock before entering a child’s room, and it’s also OK for them to sometimes be bored. Jumping on their every move and trying to fill it with endless fun things won’t leave much room for thought, rest, or imagination. Respecting privacy, even from primary school age, will give children the space they need in order to have hobbies they like to do or even have respect for their own space.
Parents who feel the need to constantly fill voids, voids that are necessary, can freak them out. Smothering is never cool. If they are out of sight, and you know they are content. Then there is no need to press the panic button. It can’t be good for a parent to constantly worry about their children if they aren’t close by, but with technology for the older ones (‘I got to James’ house) and for the younger, just that fraction of time alone if you need to cook the dinner, let them. There is a difference between disappearing off to the pub whilst they are home alone playing with the toaster, to them watching a film whilst the parent makes the dinner.
Crossing The Friend Line
‘Why don’t you want to be friends with Sam, he is such a nice boy?’ ‘No sorry, Ben can’t come over to play. You know I think he plays rough.’ Again, whilst a parent’s intention is to want the best for their child, what is being done here, is the parent calling the shots on who they deem ‘good enough’ for their child. Introduce children to a friend’s little ones, yes. Absolutely mix with other familiar families, but the assumption that they will all get along and be best friends just because the parents are, shouldn’t be there.
Friendships simply cannot be forced. There is no better way than to create a wedge between a child than a parent calling the shots on who is welcome or not welcome in their child’s social life. Not only that, but when they go to school, parents don’t have the control to determine who is playing with their child anyway, so there is certainly a better way to encourage friendships, and that is for children to decide for themselves who they like. If a so-called ‘friend’ is genuinely harmful, that is very different from a kid that parents simply like or dislike.
Are These Also Signs Of A Good Parent?
All 5 signs can be helpful to children, to a point. There comes a time where a parent’s own insecurities need to take a back seat, to allow children the capabilities to ensure their own development isn’t stunted by the control of a parent. These actions can result in:
- Poor boundaries
- Low self-esteem
- Seeking Approval
- Rebellious Behavior
Finding the balance can be hard, especially when a parent may find it a challenge to take a step back and allow their children to make mistakes, make a mess or feel what it’s like to be sad or disappointed but these are emotions that children need a grasp of, in order to develop resilience and confidence.
Conclusion – A Fine Line
With the purest of intentions, overprotective parenting can do more harm than good. Being over-involved in children’s lives and decisions, big or small, can have adverse effects.
There is a real fine line between being a good parent and protecting children from danger, to being overbearing and seeing every opportunity to grow or evolve as a cautious step in the journey children take.