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Over Protection of Children Can Lead to some Serious Consequences

Updated on September 24, 2015

Fear or Freedom

As parents we do all that we can to protect our children from harm but are we doing too much?

The term 'helicopter parents' has been coined to imply parents that hover over their children closely supervising and watching their every move instead of allowing the learning of independence.

In a world where child pornography is rife and stories of abuse and abduction and assault are on almost every page of a newspaper and heard on round the clock news broadcasts, fear grows in the heart of parents and kids may never know the freedom that was had growing up when the lazy days of summer holidays meant that they could wander freely and explore the local neighborhood, sometimes riding their bikes kilometre's to play with friends.

So how then do parents allow their kids experiences that involve risk and ensure not only the physical safety of their children but their emotional safety as well without causing stress about the world we live in and allowing their rightful passageway through life independently.

How do we know that our efforts to ensure that our children are safe and secure might just have gone too far and is meeting our own need and not our children's.

Without doubt we have to work harder to get the balance right but It is possible to allow children to grow and develop taking the necessary risks that will ensure that they are capable to handle their future. Loving parents are often overprotecting thinking that they are doing the right thing when in fact it sends a message to children that the world around them is not a safe place and can make their child fearful of life and all of it's possibilities that it offers and can set up a pattern of avoidance behaviors and or create unnecessary anxiety.

There is much thought in the fields of counseling and psychology that preventing normal childhood risk can causing serious harm in many ways including some of the following:

  • Higher stress and anxiety levels in children - therapists working with children and adolescents have experienced higher levels of anxiety and depression in young people in recent years and some are putting it down to tight parental control and a lack of independence increasing stress levels.
  • Lack of necessary life skills - If you think about it if a child is driven to school but lives within walking distance or where they can catch public transport, and are never given the opportunity to do so how are they to learn to become independent and to do it themselves.
  • Impacts self esteem - a child who is made to feel that they are not capable of managing life situations on their own can develop low self worth.

So what can loving, caring parents do to help their children to increase self confidence and decrease stress as they go through life?

Some of the following suggestions might help:

  • Children need to experience manageable risks according to age .... for example we wouldn't allow a toddler to play by himself on playground equipment; or allow a five year old to watch an M rated movie or allow them to cross a busy road on their own; just as it would be foolish to allow a ten year old to get behind the wheel of a car. Risks need to be considered according to age and ability and parents need to make the choice according to factors that impact on mental and physical health and well being and safety. And choices will vary just as family rules and values vary and what's right and acceptable to one family may not be to another.
  • Educate your children as early as possible about 'Stranger danger' and what to do if they find themselves in a difficult situation. Make sure they know absolutely that their body is there's and no one has the right to touch it without their permission; talk to them about what to do if someone they don't know approaches them; help them memorize your phone number and local police or kid's helpline or trusted friend or families number so that if necessary and they are scared or worried when separate from you they can make immediate contact.
  • Examine your reasons for saying no to normal childhood risks. Ask yourself if your thoughts are rational. Are your fears for your child's safety grounded in your own childhood experiences, for example do you say no to climbing trees because you have a fear of heights yourself.
  • Teach your child how to do things well in advance such as crossing a road, using a kitchen knife or lighting a campfire safely. Prepare them for travel alone by traveling with them on the train or bus into or around the city so they know which platform or station to get off and on and how to buy tickets.
  • And lastly don't be afraid to embrace life and take risks yourself, the world can be a scary place but it's not as scary as we sometimes imagine it to be.

The beginning of independence
The beginning of independence | Source

Examine your own reasons for saying no to normal childhood risks

— M Carter


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    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      These are such valuable tips for parents. I was sheltered as a child and very overprotected. It did cause a strain on my ability to cope at times once I became an adult.

      I try to be encouraging to my children and give them the freedom to learn from their own mistakes, while at the same protecting them enough so they don't get negligently hurt in the meantime. It's a balancing act for sure.

      For example, when my daughter started using the microwave on her own, I wasn't yet comfortable to allow her to boil water on the stove. Now she enjoys making her own hot water and soups, while I never learned how to cook until I was in my 20s because I wasn't allowed to use the stove at my home.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Hi ZayMarie I'm so glad you found my hub helpful... and I just want to say that you sound very mature to get the stress level thing but it sounds like it's tough in your situation with your dad...the only thing I can say here is keep trying to NEGOTIATE with your dad as you really should be able to go to the movies or out with friends at your age...hope this helps when you show it to him & keep writing it's good to have you here...cheers

    • ZayMarie profile image

      ZayMarie 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Well I'm still young , 17 to be exact. Almost an adult by law and I'm currently going through exactly what this article is about. I'm a good kid and my dad won't even let me simply go to the movies with my friends or sometimes even out of town with our own FAMILY. The section about higher stress levels is VERY true. I never understood why he was so protective but the section on parents looking back at their own childhood gave me a clue . I'll have to print this off and show it to him.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Glad you find the tips helpful jpcmc and it's so normal to feel over protective of one as little as your daughter...and don't worry you'll find the strength & wisdom & courage to cope in the years a head...we all do...cheers

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      These are very important tips. As a new dad, these will definitely help. I must admit, I'm a bit over protective when it comes to my daughter. She's just 1 year and 1 month but I do need to let her discover so she can learn better. I just can't imagine how it will be several years from now.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Thanks for your comment and vote boys and girls can be so different can't they...and kids with allergies are so worrisome and difficult when they are young...I feel for you as we are an asthma/hay fever family too...take care, cheers.

    • profile image

      Beachlife 5 years ago

      having 2 kids one 16 and the other 9, my 16 yr old is perfectly content staying in while my 9 yr old wants to run the neighborhood. I teach my kids to be reasonably responsible, like if your going out tell me and say where you are going. my oldest has a cell takes 5 seconds to text me when she goes someone place else. my son on the other hand just flies out the door and freaks me out because he has so many allergies, I need to know where the boy is at until I'm sure he has full understanding of his allergies, he is learning but he is still young. Great hub voted up

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Thanks so much dwachira for dropping by & votes...very much appreciated...cheers

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      When we are young, we always wish we had that freedom but then we grow up and we realize the freedom limitation was a blessing to us. Great hub, voted up, useful and shared.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Thanks Natasha, I wrote this as I was thinking about the freedom we had when we were kids to just roam about and enjoy life freely and to experience natural age appropriate risks that many parents won't even contemplate allowing their kids to have these days. It's a common sad fact that overprotected kids either never take risks & live in a bubble existence or leave home early. Thanks for your insightful comments :)

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I'm halfway through a master's in education and we were talking about 'helicopter parents' in class yesterday. I see it all the time where I work - parents who freak out about their kids doing something totally age appropriate, like walking down stairs alone. I understand they are motivated by concern, but sometimes I feel like taking them aside and explaining how they're probably just harming their child by refusing to let go.

      Voted useful - I hope lots of people read this and take it to heart!