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You are here : home > Raising Children > Fears and Anxieties > Drawbacks of Overprotective Parents

Drawbacks of Overprotective Parents

Overprotective parents unintentionally harm their children. By being overtly protective they do not let their children grow into a confident and independent adult. Children learn from their mistakes, and by being overprotective parents suppress this learning process. Such parents should change their attitude. Learn how.

Is my child safe?

Sonali Sharma will not send her eight-year old son on the school bus because she has heard that the bus drivers drive rashly. Preeti Mishra does not allow her twelve-year old daughter to sleep over at her friends' houses because she feels that she is not sure if other parents will provide adequate supervision. Lynn D'Souza says she gets the jitters every time her son climbs onto the jungle gym in the park because she is convinced he will fall and hurt himself. Mukesh Mehta did not allow his daughter to go on a school picnic to the beach for fear that she may drown. 

When a child is born, it seems so fragile, feeble and tiny that it is only natural for parents to feel. Parents feel responsible for these tiny creatures that they have brought into the 'big, bad world' and intend to be their guardian angels for the rest of their lives. Parents want to shield their children from all conceivable harm, but for how long and to what extent? Parents need to remember that children do grow up. They cannot expect their children to hold  'mummy or daddy's' hand forever as they make their way through life. Children do not tiptoe through life, they romp, they run, they jump, and they explore. Given this scenario, parents should accept that scratches, cuts, bruises, and broken limbs are all a part of childhood. Parents who constantly run interference between their children and the real world are actually doing more harm than good. 

Inappropriate fears

This does not mean that children are the best judges of the risk involved in any activity or that parents should not be cautious. But how does a parent know if he or she is being unnecessarily fearful for his or her child's safety?  Parents who view every physical activity as being potentially dangerous; those who only feel reassured when their children are under their watchful eyes; those who are more anxious than their children that something will go wrong; those who hover over their children constantly giving instructions; those who rule out all activities that have an even remote possibility of resulting in an accident; those who feel that their children cannot cross a road without being run over or go out alone without being abducted are parents who could be said to have inappropriate fears.

Downsides of being Overly Protective

Parent's fears for their children's safety, if extreme, can have an adverse effect on their children's confidence and self-esteem. By molly-coddling a child, a parent is only making the child more dependent and inhibiting her attempts to learn to do things by herself. Overprotective parents unintentionally send out a message to their children that they are incapable of handling things by themselves. In addition, the parents' fears transmit themselves to the children who, in turn, begin to perceive dangers lurking in every new activity and experience. It has been observed that children have fewer falls, tumbles and injuries when left to play by themselves than with parents constantly cautioning them, and ready to leap forward at the slightest sign of danger. Parents who fear that an activity may be risky should warn their children beforehand rather than while they are engaged in the activity. Else, the warnings merely serve to transmit the fear to the children and distract them, leading to a greater probability of an accident. 

When a child does something on her own for the first time, it is a great accomplishment, even if it is something as insignificant as learning to ride a bicycle. Parents who wrap their children in cotton wool, in a manner of speaking, are denying their children this pleasure. 

Over-protectiveness with older children

Older children most often do not perceive parental overprotectiveness as stemming from love and concern. They believe that their parents just do not trust them to be sensible and responsible. Older children can react to their parents' excessive fear in one of two ways: compliance or resistance. If parents voice their fears in terms of doubts, e.g. "Are you sure you can do it?" or give them dire warnings of the worst case scenario, it can result in the children giving up the idea or activity altogether because they too begin to doubt their capability. On the other hand, children can react with defiance. 

Parents of such children begin to lack credibility in their children's eyes because they seem to have an extreme view that the world in general is a dangerous place. They feel that they are denied the normal pursuits of their peers merely because their parents have unfounded and baseless fears. Such children react with resistance because they believe that their parents perceive them as being accident-prone and having poor judgement. 

How to be less overprotecting: Establishing lines of communication

Overprotective parents should change their attitude if they want their children to grow up as independent, confident adults. If a parent suspects that he is excessively protective, fearful and inhibiting, then as a first step, he should confirm his doubt by asking the other parent for an opinion. In the case of a single parent, he can share his concerns with someone equally concerned for the child's welfare or even other parents. This will act as a reality check. While he need not adopt other people's opinions as gospel truth, the advice and information will help him make an informed decision about what is safe for his child. 

The second step he should take is listen to his child. He should try to convey to his child that his caution stems from concern for the child's safety and not from a lack of trust in the child's competence. He could discuss the dangers of the activity with the child and advise him what to do in case of an emergency. He should make judgements based on an assessment of the child's overall competence and judgement. 

Despite adopting these measures, there may still be several occasions where a parent may still deny his child permission to participate in an activity. But this is a parent's prerogative and has the weight of experience and superior judgement behind it. What is safe and acceptable for one child may not be so for another. At the end of the day, parents are the best judges of what activities are acceptable for their children in terms of safety. However, the child will realize that while she may be denied this particular pleasure, there will be other activities that will be permissible. What is safe and acceptable will always be a bone of contention between parents and children, but the important thing is for parents to realize that sometimes they just need to let go.

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Art.3 years ago
Being from an overprotective mother I can relate to alot of stuff. My dad wasn't overprotective as much as my mother was. My mom was raised in a house where she had to do what her father told her to do as he was in charge of the house. So I guess that's where she got the over-protectiveness from and threw it on us. Now my mom did let us do alot of stuff like join after school events like choir, band, etc. The only thing is that she was against the types of girls my brother was interested in which were the goth kind back in middle school. She used to call them devil girls and this was before the waterboy came out. My brother rebelled as he didn't want to do what my mom wanted like go to college after high school. So he moved out with his girlfriend a few years back and they live together with their two kids.

Me on the other hand obey my parents, its not really that hard to do. I've wanted to rebel but really can't see myself doing so. I was raised to honor your father and mother and respect your elders. Show your parents that you can earn their trust and as you get older you will get trust in return.
Chris.5 years ago
this article makes perfect sense.
mary.5 years ago
why are parents so overprotective?
Kevin.5 years ago
my parents are really over protective... it drives me nuts, they think i dunno anything...

they should learn to let go...
it's gone to the point where i don't give a shit what they say and do what i wanna do...
i'm old enough to have judgement but they can't see that.
i tell them what i am doing and they can think what they want of it, it doesn't affect me.
Meggy.5 years ago
my dad is so overprotective. i can't do anything. i'm 16, and i asked to do something with a guy my age and he freaks. tonight i went out with my boss for ice cream and we stopped at super k for a few things she needed. he got all mad! i even told him we were going to super k but he didn't think we'd be gone that long. what is gonna happen to me when i'm out with a 48 year old woman who is like a mom to me? he knows her well, too. i can't do anything, i can't ride with my friends anywhere, and i can't drive anywhere besides a 1 mile radius around my house. it's crazy. could anyone gimme some suggestions?? my mom doesn't live here, so i can't go to her. at least tell me some side effects, i'm very shy and i feel this may be why. help!!!
Desperate.5 years ago
my parents are soooo overprotective!!!! i can't do a lot of stuff normal people can do like my friends. example- my mom and dad won't let me get on instant messeanger because they think i am incapable of not giving out personal information, talking to people i don't know without blocking them and acting my age!! my dad comes in to see what i'm doing every 5 minutes !! i ean its like i'm 6 years old. well i'm not i'm much older!!!please help me!
Christine.5 years ago
i am working with a mother who believes her child is alergic to everything. the child has never had a reaction, but things like not letting the child have cake at a party because diabetes runs in the family (she doen't bring an alternative either). any suggestions?
nikita.5 years ago
i have a 12 year old girl and hence, this is to all those girls here (it seems most are from usa)- they say that their parents dont let them freak out with gals n guys cos they are "over protective". well they mistake their carefulness as over protectiveness. just as familiarity breeds contempt - familiarity also breeds intimacy. the teens is a period of discovery and curiosity - once this phase is over, everything just gets right. the parents are just trying to protect you from the hurt and humiliation that goes with any wrong step. even i too used to go crazy when my mom used to be extra-cautious but now when i am a mom, that too of a 12 year old girl, i am able to understand her paranoia about me. going to a movie with a guy is very fine but i would like to ask the girls in this site, to tell me very honestly that dont the guys try to get too close for comfort, trying to grop the girls taking advantage of the darkness - be honest. its not their fault either - ti's their curiosity that gets the better of them. not all the time they are lecherous - most of the time they are curious. this is just a small example. believe me girls, smooching & petting at this age is real fun & exciting but you know what, when you grow out of this and you eventually do, when you reach maybe your early twenties and you look forward to steady partners, this kind of past is no fun to remember - you'd wish it had never existed. not only this, there are thousands of instances when strangers have taken advantage and tried to molest you - there are lots of freaks out there who think just because you are going thru a phase, they can take advantage of you. we live in a country where free mixing is legally prohibited and any sexual crime is brutally punishable, even then there are guys who try things here although society is comparatively safe here - there is no dope, no open sex and even then i think thrice before sending out my daughter and then in places like india, usa, i am sure parents have every reason to be paranoid where sex and dope are rampant. even home parties are nothing but a place for drugs, sex & liquors - tell me if i am wrong because i know i am not, i have seen them at close quarters coming from a parentage belonging to the hi-fi society. i knew how some of my friends were going about and those days i really hated the curfews but today, looking back, i feel good - i am thankful to my mom & dad cos today i dont feel dirty & used, i have a successful career in comparison to those friends of mine - i am able to look myself in the mirror and respect myself. these very so called friends of mine would be making fun of me and would be trying their best to get me to sneak off for such "fun activities" - its a different issue i never had the guts to defy or hurt my mom & dad. and i know, even though my daughter doesnt like me setting curfews for her, someday, like me, she will be glad too. i m sure all of you girls out there would be too. hence, dont have regrets for losing out on freak out fun - rather concentrate on your academics and nurturing your talents - tomorrow when you have a successful career, you are able to think more wisely and clearly, i am sure, you will find out lots of ways to have fun - as of the moment, have fun with your family and a set of very close friends who prefer real clean fun - then you know your parents are also going to trust you with them to go out for movies and shopping, within decent hours ofcourse - night life is not decent girls or boys - even boys should have a set timing to come and go. once you are into a career, night life will automatically become a part of your life - have fun then. right??
mike.5 years ago
im such a trustworthy kid, who abstains from sex, drugs and alcohol. i sucumb to all of my parents demands because hay are reasonable, but now the have created a curfew, thats completely irrational. while my friends are having a great time im home, dreaming of the great time im missing. i dont understand why they wont just let come home an hour later.
Melody.5 years ago
i am 15 years old. my parents don't let me do anything and all i can do is stay in the house and watch tv.she let's me go out once in a while. my two sisters got pregnet and i guess they don't truth me or atleast thats how i feel. i don't even like to talk to them and i find myself wish i was somethibg else. help me please cause i think i just can't take it anymore.
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