People have always been protective of their children – it is the nature of not only human beings but also of animals. We protect our young from danger and see that they come to no harm. So far so good. But while animals allow their young to go ahead and fend for themselves at a young age, we find it difficult to let go our hold over our children. Protection is good, over-protection is not.
Molly-coddling children, doing everything for them, not letting them do anything even remotely dangerous, or maybe not even dangerous, is not good for the child in the long run.
Over-protecting children harms them a lot more than it does them any good. Children need some amount of freedom, some amount of responsibility, some amount of accountability if they are to grow up and become good, dependable, confident adults.
Downside of protecting your child too much
What is the downside of protecting your child too much? Every time you rush out to protect your child over some real or imagined danger, what is the message you are sending out? It is that the world is an unsafe place, you cannot manage to face the dangers on your own, I have to come along to look after and protect you. So the child grows up fearing the world, is timid by nature and is never able to take any risk or undertake any slightly troublesome task because he/she is scared that something will go wrong.
The other thing that happens is that the child does not develop any self confidence. As a child he/she is constantly cosseted and told that he/she cannot do things on his/her own. Even after growing up and reaching adulthood, this gets transformed into lack of self confidence, into the belief that he/she is incapable of doing anything at all. This impacts the child’s self esteem and self image in a very negative manner. Neither of these outcomes is desirable.
The child goes in the opposite direction
A third thing that may happen is that the child goes in the opposite direction – he/she is resentful of the over-protection. It may cause embarrassment among friends. The result is rebellion and stubbornness – the decision to go against everything when one is older. This creates enormous problems in one’s personal life and at work. Getting along with peers or listening to advice or instructions from superiors becomes a major of conflict.
The best approach is to protect but guard against over-protection. Let them learn from their mistakes. They will fall, they will make mistakes, they will get hurt – it is part of life. But it will toughen them up, build their strength, give them confidence. It will teach them to make decisions, to solve problems, to share and help others. Give them tasks from a young age – teach them the value of being self sufficient, of being disciplined, of taking responsibility and being accountable for things – whether they go well or even if they fail. This builds character, makes them self-reliant.
Take a chance on your kids – throw them into the deep-end of the vast ocean that we call life. Be at hand to help if things get out of hand but allow them to swim to safety on their own. They can do it. Have faith in your upbringing and your God. And they will return to the shore, slightly bedraggled but full of the thrill of having beaten all the odds.