Your intentions are always good. You set out to protect your child because he or she has yet to develop a sense of right and wrong at a tender age. And as a parent, you recognise that it is your duty to protect your child.
But what happens when we obsess over what is regarded safe or unsafe for our children? What happens when we become overprotective? Who will have to pay the price?
Innate desire to protect
We can be divided in our parenting styles, but as parents, we can all agree that we are responsible for our children’s well being. So like most parents, we want to protect our children from danger, pain and suffering. And understandably so.
So as soon as our children learn to grasp objects, we keep small objects out of their reach. We also cover sharp corners of tables to ensure a safe environment for our children to grow up in. It helps that outdoor, even sand-filled concrete playgrounds have given way to padded playgrounds for safer play.
Of course, some safety precautions are reasonable and even necessary. For example, we do not let toddlers handle knives. Nor do we let them walk unsupervised by the road.
But if our innate desire to protect them physically extends to beyond their early years to the point when we develop a compulsive need to control their every action and outcome, what could happen to our children?
The cost of being overprotective
Today’s overprotective parents are labeled “helicopter parents”. They worry about the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of their children. This fear triggers an impulse for them to control a child’s decisions, routine and even social circle.
Again the intentions are good. But a potential pitfall could be a child who is incapable of evaluating choices or assessing situations at a later stage because it had all been taken care of by his or her parents.
Such is the degree of attentiveness of helicopter parents in Singapore that it was recently reported that a primary school placed a notice at its gate for parents to refrain from showing up at school with items that a child has forgotten to bring to school. The school explained that it wants to instil responsibility in students.
Other issues identified among children with “helicopter parents” include poor problem-solving, low self-esteem and fear of failure. They might also grow up feeling incapable of making their own decisions.
In our quest to protect our children, we should not curb their curiosity and desire to explore. Saying “no” to their every request to search and investigate can dampen their spirits to take risks and learn new things in a different environment. They will also be denied opportunities to learn responsibility for their own actions.
Instead, we should allow them to take appropriate risks even if we know that they are likely to fail. By being too restrictive, we could unwittingly install in them a sense of fear and apprehension towards new experiences and objects.
When we deny them of opportunities to take on new challenges to shield them from supposed disappointment when things go wrong, they will not learn to pick themselves up when things do not go their way. They might not experience the sense of accomplishment that comes from succeeding after repeated attempts. Eventually, they lack the skills or life lessons to help them tide through life’s challenges when they grow up.
We may not realise it, but our strong need to protect fuels anxiety that can be felt by our children. Instead of exerting our wants on our children, we need to let them learn to make choices for themselves. Doing so allows them to independently handle failures and disappointments.
Protect your child and family in a tangible way. Speak with a professional now.