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10 Common Mistakes Overprotective Parents Must Be Aware Of

Arundhati Swamy Arundhati Swamy 6 Mins Read

Arundhati Swamy Arundhati Swamy


Mother, grandmother, family and school counsellor

Does your child react a lot, expect you and others to do most things for her, seem helpless or lacking in age-appropriate practical skills? She could be an overprotected child.

Toddler to Teen
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10 Common Mistakes Overprotective Parents Must Be Aware Of

As parents, we are instinctively protective of our children. How we protect our children is dictated by the ever-changing physical and social environment we live in.

Overprotection, whether intentional or not, is an exaggerated or misguided way of showing our love for our children. Overprotective parenting comes from certain life experiences around parenting that have been imprinted in our subconscious minds. Thus, whatever we do, feels so right. However, it doesn't always turn out right!

For instance, we feel the urge to do more than what is necessary for our children to keep them happy always. Perhaps because we were unhappy that we didn't get enough in our childhood. So, we give our children what they want, whenever they want. Or maybe we did not feel protected enough, so we give our children more protection than is necessary. We also tend to overprotect children who are 'special' - a child born after a prolonged wait; a child who has suffered a life-threatening experience; an adopted child; an only child; or a favored child.

But overprotection can have a negative impact on a child's self-esteem and her ability to become independent and confident.

10 mistakes overprotective parents make and how it affects children:

  1. Overindulgence - When parents give children much more than what they need. The indulged or pampered child usually grows up to be self-centered, selfish and demanding. Entitlement becomes her right.
  2. Intrusion - Ever-curious parents who lack trust in their child tend to constantly snoop around their child's personal belongings, make inquiries from his friends, thus intruding into his privacy. The child harbors resentment and anger which lead to conflicts between the parent and the child.
  3. Restrictions - Over-concerned parents who lay down irrelevant and inappropriate restrictions on the child's behavior, for fear of misbehavior. The child becomes inhibited and fearful and may withdraw into a shell for comfort.
  4. Control - Parents who believe that the child must be strictly controlled to keep her away from harm. A strictly-controlled child usually finds ways to outsmart or deceive her parents.
  5. Manipulation - Parents try to manipulate the environment to protect their children from experiencing defeat, frustration, emotional pain, and disappointments. Such a child is deprived of learning valuable life skills such as resilience, hard work, problem-solving, learning from failure, and accepting defeat with grace. Devious means, ruthlessness, and unhealthy competition become his tools to stay ahead.
  6. Low expectations - Parents may have low expectations of their child and discourage her from taking responsibility for herself and her tasks. The child grows up to be an irresponsible adult, expecting her colleagues and spouse to accept and support her 'life is easy' attitude.
  7. Over-dependency - Parents who encourage the child to stay overly dependent on them because it feeds their unmet emotional needs. The child encounters difficulties in relating to people, has emotional conflicts in balancing intimate relationships, especially with their spouse.
  8. To the rescue - Parents who anticipate the child's needs and meet them even before he asks. This leads to learned helplessness, where the child's self-belief is poor and so he leans on others for support because he lacks confidence in his own abilities to solve problems.
  9. Micro-management - Parents who closely monitor every aspect of their child's life and deprive her of the space and opportunities to learn through curiosity, exploration, and discovery. The child becomes fearful, nervous, and anxious in social situations, and is an easy victim of bullies.
  10. Over-parenting - Over-involved parents who hover around the child to ensure that he meets no hurdles or challenges. The child learns to be helpless and passive in negative situations, feeling hopeless and powerless to face them or change them. He blames his own incompetence for failure and is unwilling to do something about it. Such a mindset in adult life will destroy his career prospects and interfere with family relationships.

Answer the following questions with a YES or NO, to see if you are an overprotective parent:

Do you:

  1. Panic or feel very distressed when your child has a fall and bleeds a little?
  2. Anticipate a difficulty and sort it out before your child can face it?
  3. Get picky about your child's friends because of potential 'bad influence'?
  4. Solve problems for your child when help is not required?
  5. Manipulate situations to ensure success for your child?
  6. Decide who should be your child's friends?
  7. Check your child's phone messages or call up your child's friends to find out more?
  8. Text your child several times to know her whereabouts?
  9. Disapprove of your child taking small risks or of making mistakes?
  10. Talk to the teachers almost every day to see how your child is doing?
  11. Believe that your child is always right, and others are wrong?
  12. Take ownership for all that your child neglects to do on their own?
  13. Believe that your child should not be mischievous, to avoid getting complaints from others?
  14. Advise your child that those around him are bad and should not be trusted?
  15. Ask your child to avoid sports and games, to prevent injuries?
  16. Avoid giving small errands to run because your child must cross the road?
  17. Keep a sterile home so that your child doesn't pick up infections?
  18. Comfort your child when he is not distressed, or mildly distressed but not struggling with it?
  19. Tell your child what to do and how to do it because you know what's best, and to prevent mistakes?
  20. Become anxious and insist on helping your child, to ensure better results?

If you have answered YES to most of the above questions, you are likely an overprotective parent. So, take a few moments to self-introspect and understand what makes you want to overprotect your child. Getting to the root of it is the first step in helping yourself overcome it.

"Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child." (author unknown). Because even overprotected children grow up. It requires emotional strength in parents to watch their child experience mild discomfort in social interactions, face little challenges and handle mild distress. But these experiences prepare the child for bigger challenges and adversities in life. The skills learned during childhood will mature into competencies required to lead a productive adult life.

So, parents, take a few moments to reflect upon your parenting styles. Are you preparing your child for future independence, competence and emotional stability? If not, then you are most likely an overprotective parent, and what would it take for you to change?

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