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The unexpected effects of Parental Overprotection

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As parents, we always want the best for our children. We are concerned for their safety and welfare and want them to be sheltered from the harsh realities of the world. However, some parents feel that it is entirely their responsibility to protect their child from all the dangers, challenges, hardships, and disappointments that life may throw up at times. In this endeavour, some of us go overboard and become overprotective parents,  constantly monitoring  our children and taking  control of their lives. 

It is perfectly normal for parents to worry about their children, but we must be careful and understand that there exists a fine line that differentiates protection from overprotection. There is no harm in allowing our children to learn from their mistakes and face the challenges that life throws their way. 

Although very well-intended, parents who try to excessively shield their children might not be helping them in the long run. Overprotection, as the word suggests, is exaggerated protection.  Overprotective behaviour takes place when we are under the assumption that only parents know what is best for the child, in every moment and circumstance of life, and do not take into consideration the child’s feelings, thoughts and preferences. Unfortunately, this approach sends a message that the child isn’t capable of taking responsibility or making choices and it negatively impacts the child’s self-esteem and confidence, leading to insecurity and fear of making mistakes or taking chances.

Let us consider frustration for instance. A parent’s immediate inclination when a child is frustrated and upset is to step in and do whatever is necessary to make the child happy. Frustration is inevitable and it isn’t necessarily a negative emotion. When we deal with frustration constructively, it can help children learn to overcome obstacles and tolerate disappointment. Such an approach helps the child build resilience and confidence, two very valuable and necessary skills. 

Many studies have proven that overprotection is more detrimental than beneficial to a child, leading to unfavourable effects on his cognitive and socio-emotional skills. These adverse effects of our overbearing parenting style carry on not just into their adolescence but also into adulthood, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychopathology. Therefore, although it is vital that parents look after the safety of their children, it’s crucial to also teach them self-reliance and independence as they grow up and mature. Balancing guidance and support with gradually granting children the opportunity to make their own decisions, face consequences, and exercise autonomy is essential. It is the best parents can do to help their children become confident and resilient people.

If you have questions or require support with any aspect of this article, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Ms. Elisabeth Ackel

Primary Student Counsellor



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