As parents, we always want the best for our children. We want them to be happy and to be sheltered from the harsh realities of the world. But, in this endeavor, some of us go overboard and become overprotective parents, which does our children more harm than good. And, the adverse effects of our overbearing parenting style carry on not just into their adolescence but also into adulthood.
Why some parents are overprotective
Parents, in general, have a lot of concern for the safety and welfare of their children. Agreed that most parents have faith in their child's ability to cope with age-appropriate challenges. However, some parents are unduly concerned and 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. Such parents turn overprotective and tend to constantly monitor their child and take control of his life. In fact, there is even a moniker for moms who tend to be overbearing helicopter moms. Overprotective mother syndrome is another such term that depicts mothers who become hyper-anxious about their child's well-being.
Common signs of overprotective parents
Do not give the child autonomy, keeping her under tight control
Make the child dependent by doing everything for her
Are always fearful that something unpleasant may happen to the child and transfer these fears to the child
Hold on to the child well into her adulthood to satisfy their own emotional needs
Signs of overprotected children
Are overly dependent on parents
Have low confidence and self-esteem
Feel challenged by hardships or conflict
Are unable to think independently or make decisions on their own
Are reluctant to take up responsibility or own up failure
What happens when an overprotected child grows up?
Studies have shown that overprotection is more detrimental than beneficial to a child, leading to unfavorable effects on his cognitive and socio-emotional skills.
Let us look at how an overprotective parenting style affects the child as he moves into adolescence and then into adulthood.
During the teenage years
Cognitive skills: A child begins to assert his independence as he enters adolescence. During the teenage, the brain undergoes several changes and this is the time that teens work towards establishing their identities. But, an overprotective parent doesn't allow his adolescent to create his own space due to the fear of losing control over the child. The parent continues to foster dependency and, in the process, keeps the child away from having any significant learning experiences. Keeping the teen confined within a narrow boundary, affects his thinking and reasoning abilities, and prevents him from developing into a confident, responsible and resourceful individual.
Social-emotional skills: The overprotected teen lacks confidence and has low self-esteem. He believes that he is incapable of being independent and standing up for himself. As a result, the child becomes an easy target for bullies. Moreover, overprotective parents do not allow their teens to develop bonds of friendship. Thus he is deprived of an integral part of teenage. This lack of healthy social life can make him seek gratification in the relationship with his parents, thus making him even more dependent on them. On the other hand, there is also a chance for an overprotected teen to rebel against his parents, especially because of the restrictions imposed on him. Since the child longs for independence, he begins to test boundaries. This may lead to the child picking up some risky behaviors such as abusing alcohol or drugs.
During early adulthood
Cognitive skills: A young adult who is overprotected lacks a sense of responsibility and continues to remain dependent on her parents. If she does need to move away and live independently, she finds it extremely hard to cope with such a life as she doesn't possess the necessary life skills problem-solving, decision-making, and so on. Since she is used to being cared for by her parents, she finds herself to be a misfit among her more independent peers. Her low confidence level suppresses her thinking and prevents her from using her skills as she doubts her abilities. She also holds back from expressing herself or sharing her creative abilities due to the fear of being judged.
Social-emotional skills: She is easily frustrated and struggles to deal with challenges relating to academics, work, or relationships. As she continues to remain dependent, she is emotionally weak and finds it hard to relate to her peers. If her parents are unable to shelter her, she is unsure how to proceed ahead in life, as she hasn't learned to face challenges or hardships. She is oversensitive and avoids taking any risks as she fears failure. Studies also show that overprotected individuals are at a greater risk of suffering from anxiety disorders in adulthood as they are always stressed owing to their various fears.
During late adulthood
Cognitive skills: Even in late adulthood, an overprotected individual continues to find it hard to take responsibility for his actions. For, he has grown up without having to own up to any responsibility. His career suffers, as he is incapable of independent thinking, problem-solving, or decision-making. He is unable to accept constructive criticism and tends to interpret situations negatively. Besides, he lacks the drive to move forward in his career due to his low confidence. A non-performer at work, he moves from one job to another as he is unable to face the challenges of his job.
Social-emotional skills: Owing to his emotional instability, he lacks appropriate social skills. A sense of overdependence makes him lookout for someone to depend on. In a relationship, he is likely to remain passive and allows himself to be dominated by his partner. He might even stay in an abusive relationship as he fears he would lose the person he is dependent on. As a parent, the overdependent individual could also turn out to be overprotective of his children or may grant them excessive freedom.
While it is normal for parents to be concerned about their children, we must 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.