The overprotective (helicopter) parent really just wants to protect their children, however this often develops from an anxiety or fear from within the parents themselves. Overprotective parenting protects parents and actually damages children in the long term.
“Some parents don’t realise that by being overprotective they are actually putting their kids at a disadvantage when they get into the real world”
What is Overprotective parenting?
Overprotective parenting is sometimes called helicopter parenting (where you simply ‘hover’ over the child at all times). It is usually the result of anxiety in the parent – being nervous about unknowns and lack of control when it comes to their children, assuming negative outcomes and wanting to protect your child from them.
- Overprotective parenting places limitations based on what might result rather than what is rational to expect. It’s encouraged by fear of encountering harmful things.
- Overprotective parenting endeavors to shield a child from bad experiences or difficulties.
- Overprotective parents view negative occurrences as destructive rather than as character building that could help make a child more resilient.
- Overprotective parents consider the view that children are fragile and might shatter into a million pieces should something bad happen; thus they better be wrapped up in cotton wool
Examples of overprotective parenting include
- Comforting and fussing over a child immediately after a minor fall trip that caused no injury.
- Strict and absolute rules that do not provide a child to flexibility to grow creatively.
- Excessive punishment or ‘snap’ discipline judgments that do not fit the wrong; Discipline response is overly severe for minor transgressions.
- Over-emphasis on always winning or being victorious, such as receiving top marks in school.
- Relying purely on a system of prizes and penalties to bribe or coerce your child (this can lead to adults who are materialistic or manipulative)
- Overly anxious or nervous parents that always need to know what their child is doing; as a result not giving the child many freedoms or much privacy.
Reasons for over protective parenting
There are many reasons why parents might become overprotective of their child; Parents who are overprotective are not “bad” and of course may love their kids very much. Often they are simply nervous or afraid of losing control themselves – ironically their child has a higher likelihood of then growing up to be less capable and independent, or even uncontrollable (rebellious) towards their parents.
Need for Control
Parents can’t control their children’s actions and decisions. They also have very little control over the actions of others in society; such as criminals who may seek to harm their children. They can, however, intensely monitor and control to some extent how their kids spend their time, where they go and check their company and friends.
Bigger, Better, Faster…
Kids who are developing new skills are normally slower and less capable than their parents. Hence, it’s not unusual for parents to become frustrated and just think that it will be ‘Bigger, Better, Faster’ or just plain more helpful if they take charge.
Examples include working on school projects and assignments, but also backyard home projects like building cubby houses or assembling a bike. It is important to let the child get hands on experience themselves rather than just watching you do it!
Fear of failure
Many parents can not stand by and watch their child appear incompetent, inexperienced, or uncomfortable in any way. It can be too unbearable for them. They think that it’s their job to shield their child from these (perceived) negative emotions, and so step in to try and control their environment.
Effects of overprotecting parenting on children
Overprotective parenting can cause a range of developmental issues in children.
“Overprotective parenting will frequently encourage a child to lie. When expectations are too high or unreasonable, a child will lie to avoid getting in trouble.”Michigan State University
Overprotective parents have kids who are more likely to have health issues in adulthood. Research has shown that many children fail to gain independence and ‘ownership’ when it comes to their own health and fitness because their parents forever told them what to do, when to exercise, and what to eat. Overprotective parents have a tendency to worry and fret about their kids’ health and provide constant notes about what to do, which can cause anxiety in the child.
One of the most hazardous effects of overprotective parents is that their children tend to suffer from depression more frequently than other people. Restriction, surveillance and over controlling has a major role in the manifestation and entrenchment of children’s anxiety and is connected to a higher level of anxiety and depression in teenage and adult life.
Children can become emotionally weak – suffer from poor Emotional Intelligence or Emotional Quotient, due to over-protection by parents. This can result in poor social skills and can lead to aggression towards their peers. Thus overprotective parents unwittingly make their child aggressive, and then criticize them for this behavior.
Lack of self-regulation
The kids of protective parents don’t usually get given as much free time as other kids. Their conditions are usually extremely structured, and their time is closely monitored.
Without opportunities to practice leading themselves, they cannot develop the self directive skills which will be essential to reaching their goals later in life. This makes them less likely to possess the mental control, self discipline and motivation to succeed. These kids can grow up to hesitate, over indulge and lack the energy and motivation needed to succeed independently.
Ironically, overprotective parents can actually increase the risk of their child failing academically. When a parent’s involvement in their child’s education is very rigid and has an extreme influence on their academic achievement (more so even than the child’s schooling) the child can misidentify and think the education is for the parents approval, rather than for their own benefit and development.
When children are assigned homework, sometimes over-protective parents will place a disproportionately high emphasis on it and force it to be done on threat of discipline. They can feel a desire to mark it to make sure that their child’s work is correct, or even resort to ‘taking charge’ and inadvertently doing the homework for them rather than with them.
Hence, while parents have great potential to enhance their child’s academic success, they have the same potential to cause their educational failure.
Tips for training yourself to be less overprotective
There are some tips about, how you can train yourself to be less overprotective. Being a Dad or Mom, you should adopt these tips given below:
- Practice and demonstrate Safety; lead by example and set the standard to help build a generative safety culture. This way you can feel more confident that your child is more likely to act safely and do the right then when you are not around. For example always wear a helmet on a bicycle, and exaggerate your look out for traffic prior to crossing a road.
- Provide Kids With Life Skills – let them have a go, and don’t do it for them. Be there as a safety net to help assist, guide, observe and mentor them (and rescue them if they get stuck) but try to avoid taking control or providing too many demonstrations.
- Let Them Be Fun Finders – don’t indulge their ‘boredom’, or rather – let them be bored! This will help stimulate their creativity.
- Stop Obsessing – take a chill pill (literally!). You might benefit from actually seeking professional mental help or counselling regarding your own obsessions and parenting anxiety, rather than projecting this onto your child by being controlling.
- Be Honest About Fear – be open and honest with your child about emotions and explain your reasoning to help them understand
- Teach Problem Solving – encourage lateral thinking and problem solving skills with your child, rather than fixing all of their problems for them. Providing stimulating problem solving games can be a a heap of fun for the whole family, such as puzzles or ‘escape room’ type activities.
- Avoid Peer Pressure – don’t buy into the fear or peer pressure from other over protective parents. Follow your gut instinct and trust your moral courage. This will be evident to your children who will recognise you as a stronger leader and authority, and will help nurture their own confidence and moral courage which will help them stand up to peer pressure in the future.
- Let your child make mistakes – this is the big one. It is important to teach your child that making mistakes is a normal part of learning, and that we only fail truly if we give up. A great saying I have for children is that FAIL = First Attempt In Learning!
- Engage with other parents which you know to use a more relaxed parenting style and seek their guidance.
- Learn more about age-appropriate expectations for behavior – if your child is becoming a teenager, being over protective can become seriously damaging to your relationship as they seek out independence through puberty.
- Focus on being calm and mindful in order to avoid over reacting when something ‘bad’ happens like an accident or you find your child doing something dangerous. Your child will mirror your emotions and mood, so if you are distressed over something they have done this will cause distress in them.
- Remember some small accidents such as a little cut might not even require intervention at all, and letting your child cope themselves will build resilience.
Summary of Overprotective parenting
Overprotective parenting can lead to dependency on parents, a higher chance of psychological disorders, and a lack of strong coping mechanisms. Ultimately, Kids must be given opportunities to learn from their experiences, including hurtful ones.
Overprotective parenting manifests typically from a fear or anxiety within the parent themselves (potentially from a traumatic experience), rather than an external source. That being said, over protective parents must introspect and work hard on themselves and their own experiences to ensure they are not disadvantaging their children through over controlling.
There can be no more difficult direction for a loving parent to follow than this: children need not be overprotected. Over protection protects parents and damages children.