What are the signs of overprotective parents?
Overprotective parents fall into a fairly broad category of parenting; some may be driven by fear of injury while others may worry their kids won’t be successful without their constant attention.
Despite the varying circumstances, there are a few signs of overprotective parenting.
If you’re perpetually making big and small decisions for your child without allowing them to think through the options themselves, you may be an overprotective parent.
If your child wants to try something new (like a sport or hobby), but you insist they stick with what they know or what you want, you’re suppressing their drive, showing distrust, and assuming you know better.
It’s important to give children space to consider options on their own. Of course, we can advise them, but ultimately, we want to encourage our children to be independent thinkers with their own confident opinions.
Sheltering from failure
It can be tempting to step in and “rescue” your kid from a bad grade or injured ego. That said, having your child’s teacher on speed dial may be indicative of a bigger parenting problem.
Kids are resilient, but only if we give them the opportunity to rebound. Success is great, but kids won’t truly thrive until they learn to overcome day-to-day failures.
Overreacting to failures
If you’re enraged over the sporadic bad grade or dismayed when your child gets rejected from an opportunity, you need to take a deep breath and be like Elsa — let it go. Overreacting to occasional failures is not helping you or your child adapt and grow.
Fear of injury
If you warn your child to watch their fingers every time they shut a cabinet door or gasp when they occasionally trip over their own two feet, you’re (understandably) worried about their safety.
Certainly, nobody wants a game of tag to end in tears, but trips, spills, and scrapes are a part of childhood. As long as a child isn’t in imminent danger, you should try to bite your tongue from time to time — or the veritable training wheels may never come off.
Intense focus on achievement
If you’re so focused on your child’s accomplishments that you don’t take the time to celebrate them and enjoy the simpler moments, you (and potentially your child) are missing out.
You can schedule tutors and sign your kid up for all of the enrichment activities, but focusing exclusively on academics and measurable achievements could be detrimental to your child’s mental and emotional well-being. We need to let our kids be kids.
Extreme rewards and strict rules
Resorting to outlandish rewards to motivate children and harsh punishments to deter them is another common sign of overprotective parenting.
You want your child to be motivated by their own internal drive and excited by new experiences — not dependent on bribes and fearful of threats.
What are the effects of overprotective parents?
All parents make mistakes, and it’s standard practice to worry about the potential long-term effects of your decision making. But it needs to be said that there’s no one right way to parent. You have to show yourself grace and kindness in this journey and know that you’re not going to always have the right answers.
Nevertheless, identifying any overprotective tendencies now can help adjust the outcome for you and your kids, as this parenting style can have lasting negative consequences.
Unprepared childrenPerhaps most significantly, an overprotective parent can create a child who’s unprepared to deal with what life may throw their way. They’re so accustomed to having a parent make their plans and clean up their messes that they may be helpless in the face of minor challenges and major obstacles alike.
Deceptive childrenIf your child feels suffocated by your very hands-on approach to parenting, they might start to lie. If they feel unable to face the pressure of unrealistic expectations or strict rules, they might twist the truth to manipulate the outcome and change your anticipated response.
Dependent, unconfident childrenIf your child always expects you to swoop in, they may not develop the self-esteem needed to become their own advocate.
If you do everything for them (from basic chores to finishing school projects), they may start expecting you to do other simple things that they can and should do themselves. Instead of taking on new challenges, they’re content to wait for others to handle issues.
Furthermore, a 2013 study out of the University of Mary Washington in Virginia found that children of helicopter parents were more prone to anxiety and depression in their late teens and college years.
If you stop a young child from doing things that may have negative but relatively harmless outcomes, they may become overly scared of trying new things. They may worry they’re going to get hurt or rejected and eventually shy away from experiences.
Kids who are used to having things go their way by design of their parents may have a harder time in the future when they realize that life doesn’t always work that way. They may even feel like they deserve things they haven’t earned.
Moreover, this issue is confounded if they’ve been perpetually motivated by rewards rather than self-satisfaction.
Tips for overprotective parents, as well as those on the receiving end
If you’re shaking your head in shame, rest assured that you’re not alone. There are loads of overprotective parents, who just like you, simply want their babies to be happy high achievers.
Identifying the problem with overprotectiveness is half the battle. You can learn from past mistakes, adjust your parenting style — while still showing ample love and support, and develop a healthier relationship with your children.
Steps you can take as an overprotective parent
On the receiving end of overprotective parenting?
If you’re dealing with your own overprotective parents — whether you’re a child, teen, or adult — you, too, have some work ahead.
The first step to addressing the issue: Start a friendly conversation with your parents and express your feelings. Let them know you want to break this cycle of behavior.
You may think that your parents are controlling your choices, and you may be lashing out as a result. Positive change won’t happen until you take responsibility for your own responses, open up about your feelings, and establish some boundaries.
Outside counseling can also be immensely useful in helping you and your parents strike balance.
Finding a fitting approach to child-rearing may be a fluid process full of trial, error, and compromise.
If you identify as an overprotective parent, you may want to work on some problematic tendencies and try some new strategies — and that’s OK. Parenting is a journey, and you and your kids can and will evolve. Have faith in yourself and your children — you can do this together.
Last medically reviewed on August 25, 2020
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