Overprotective Parents: Undermining Growth & Development of Your Child


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I’ve quoted from an article, Parenting: A Nation of Wimps, which I came across on www.psychologytoday.com          

“Parents are going to ludicrous lengths to take the bumps out of life for their children. However, parental hyperconcern has the net effect of making kids more fragile; that may be why they’re breaking down in record numbers.” (Parenting: A Nation of Wimps, Psychologytoday.com)           

Photo, blog.sun.com

Being overprotective can  affect your child’s growth and development          

Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history….Messing up, however, even in the playground, is wildly out of style.”            

“No one doubts that there are significant economic forces pushing parents to invest so heavily in their children’s outcome from an early age. But taking all the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of development, especially while increasing pressure for success, turns out to be misguided by just about 180 degrees. With few challenges all their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety.          

In the process they’re robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget, too, about perseverance, not simply a moral virtue but a necessary life skill. These turn out to be the spreading psychic fault lines of 21st-century youth. Whether we want to or not, we’re on our way to creating a nation of wimps!”          

The lid explodes          

When too much pressure is in a container, with its lid closed, there will come a time when it will explode, for sure. Psychologist view overprotective kids this way, as close lids, waiting to explode. These children have not had the opportunity to release pressure along the way, mental pressure, including that coming from their parents. Play and other types of social interaction are ways in which we release tension and renew ourselves to take on the next day’s challenge. This type of process is not restricted to adulthood. Overprotected children are not allowed to learn by trial and error or by experimentation; they are not allowed to mess up. In effect, they are like walking robots, being controlled by their parents, operating at the whims and fancies of them, and not given the chance to develop resilience and coping strategies for themselves. The lid often explodes when these overprotected children go off to college.            

“There is a ritual every university administrator has come to fear,” reports John Portmann, professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia. “Every fall, parents drop off their well-groomed freshmen and within two or three days many have consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol and placed themselves in harm’s way. These kids have been controlled for so long, they just go crazy.”          

“American parents today expect their children to be perfect—the smartest, fastest, most charming people in the universe. And if they can’t get the children to prove it on their own, they’ll turn to doctors to make their kids into the people that parents want to believe their kids are.” (Dr. Seuss)           

“Virginia’s Portmann feels the effects are even more pernicious; they weaken the whole fabric of society. He sees young people becoming weaker right before his eyes, more responsive to the herd, too eager to fit in—less assertive in the classroom, unwilling to disagree with their peers, afraid to question authority, more willing to conform to the expectations of those on the next rung of power above them.”          

Parents need to abandon the idea of perfection and give up some of the invasive control they’ve maintained over their children. The goal of parenting, Portmann reminds, is to raise an independent human being. Sooner or later, he says, most kids will be forced to confront their own mediocrity. Parents may find it easier to give up some control if they recognize they have exaggerated many of the dangers of childhood—although they have steadfastly ignored others, namely the removal of recess from schools and the ubiquity of video games that encourage aggression.”           

(a) Undermining children’s self-esteem and confidence in their own abilities to take care of themselves and get things done;          

(b) Instilling fear of failure such that they are denied the chance to learn how to persevere while standing on their own 2 feet;          

(c) Stunting growth and development—in fact, studies have shown that these children lack some of the knowledge to negotiate what they need, solve their own problems, stay safe, and interact in close quarters with others;          

(d) Inability to launch because they’re unsure of their passion, their own direction, and what to do next, if it means doing it on their own;          

(e) Taking more staff, teacher, and administrator resources that would be directed towards their children but instead, must be used to tend to parental needs and wants; and, ironically,          

(f) Raising parental anxiety levelsresearch has shown that parents who consistently judge their own self worth by their children’s success report feeling more sad and having a more negative self image than parents who did not engage in this behavior. (drrobynsilverman.com)          

photo, dishumdishum.com

 “They need gradual exposure to find that the world is not dangerous. Having overprotective parents is a risk factor for anxiety disorders because children do not have opportunities to master their innate shyness and become more comfortable in the world.” (Michael Liebowitz, clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and head of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at New York State Psychiatric Institute).          

Remember, cheating your child of his/her childhood is to extend it forever, they never really grow up, never really get the chance to navigate through childhood and transition from that stage to adolescence and adulthood simply because you were trying to live their lives for them by being hyperprotective. And the effects of all this is far reaching, even to the point where overprotective children are unable to deal with their own relationships and family issues when the time comes around for them to be spouses and parents.          

Marriage is one benchmark of adulthood, but its antecedents extend well into childhood.”The precursor to marriage is dating, and the precursor to dating is playing,” says Carducci. The less time children spend in free play, the less socially competent they’ll be as adults. It’s in play that we learn give and take, the fundamental rhythm of all relationships. We learn how to read the feelings of others and how to negotiate conflicts. Taking the play out of childhood, he says, is bound to create a developmental lag, and he sees it clearly in the social patterns of today’s adolescents and young adults, who hang around in groups that are more typical of childhood.”          

So look at yourself again, are you overmonitoring or oversheltering your child? Are you really protecting your child or are you well on your way to making him/her fragile? Error and experimentation are the true mothers of success. You don’t need to go out of your way to take the bumps, the errors, the failures from the equation of your child’s life. Let them learn by trial and error; let them grow and develop into well rounded individuals with the kind of backbone and stamina that is needed in today’s cruel, competitive and often unforgiving world.

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