Are We Overprotecting Our Kids?
Posted on August 27 2018
When I was a kid, rough and tumble on the school playground was part of everyday normal child behaviour. In fact, if you didn’t come home with grazed knees, the occasional nosebleed or ripped clothing at least once during your childhood, had you really had any fun at all?
Risk taking and going on adventures is all part of being a child. However, fear of litigation, judgment on our effective parenting skills, the endless paperwork and the occasional hospital visit has caused the education system and parents of today to do a 360-degree turn on what is acceptable and natural child behaviour.
Instead of rough-housing, we’re promoting restricted play, and instead of tag, we’re encouraging board games. Have our parenting and teaching methods gone overboard? Are we really protecting our kids or are we limiting their opportunities?
If you - like many other parents - are beginning to realize that wrapping our kids in cotton wool could be doing more harm than good, then it might be time to change our behaviour. Here are just a few of the many ways in which you can loosen those reigns, invite freedom into your home, and set about learning new effective parenting skills for the benefit of both your children and your family.
Don’t Give Them all the Answers
Parenting is all about raising your little humans to become decent bigger humans. However, knowing how to do that properly is what keeps many of us up at night. Children, as you know, don’t come with instruction manuals, but there are of course many helpful articles online to provide insight and advice so you can learn effective parenting skills.
Something I’ve come across time and time again is that it’s helpful to guide your children to the answers, rather than giving them then. Not only does it teach them independence, but it also teaches them to stand on their own two feet and take responsibility for the outcome of any decisions that they make.
For example, let’s say that young Timothy was running through the house and slipped and fell over. Grazing his knees, he then came running to you. Rather than telling him off for running in the house, you can ask him what the result of his actions was. Before long, he will learn that if he does something he shouldn’t be doing in the first place – such as running, then there will be consequences that might not be pleasant – falling over. He’s going to remember not only this moment but the overall message: actions have consequences.
In a world of helicopter parenting, it’s important to take a step back, think about your own childhood experiences, and let them experience the world in the same way you did. Normal child behaviour is to want to explore, satisfy their curiosity and find out about the world. Don’t be so quick to stop that natural behaviour in its tracks.
If young Billy wants to ride his bicycle on a bumpy pathway as opposed to that spongy, soft, non-injuring grass, then let him. You can be by his side, but you don’t have to show him the benefits of riding on grass opposed to asphalt.
If he wants to climb that high tree, branch by branch, then let him. He’s learning useful skills, risk-taking, and independence, and you can be close at hand if he needs your help. Exploration is a natural child behaviour so don’t be afraid to let it shine through every once in a while. As a parent, it’s your job to let your child know the world is their oyster, and if you put up barriers at every turn, you’re contradicting that very statement.
Don’t Push for Perfection
There’s no denying that we all want our kids to do well. In fact, some parents see their kids straight out of the womb and believe they’re going to be the next best brain surgeon or rocket scientist. While that might be true, you need to let your child decide that for themselves. Of course, you can be a guide, but don’t be the decision maker.
From an early age, your child will show talent in a particular area. They might be an avid drawer, a sports-mad soccer player, a writer, or a builder. Even if you had hoped they would work for NASA someday, it’s crucial to encourage their dreams rather than flatten them. Help with their homework but don’t do it for them.
Don’t push them into taking subjects they don’t feel they are good at or want to do, and don’t pressure them into extra-curricular activities or special schooling opportunities they don’t want to be a part of. You might feel like you’re doing what’s best for their future, but your children will only feel immense pressure to succeed for you, not for themselves.
Let Them Fail
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: watching your child fail at something, knowing you could have done something to prevent it. However, failure is a necessary part of success. If you don’t fail at something, you’ll never know what it’s like to have to try harder, do something again, or persevere. Therefore, as a parent, you need to take a back seat and let your children fail without interfering.
Failing can be a learning opportunity for both you and your child. Once they’ve made that wrong decision, you can then both focus on correcting it, finding out what went wrong, then putting steps in place to make the right choice. Failing is ultimately an exercise in correcting a mistake, and it’s a beneficial process for both you and your child.
Being a parent is one of the hardest, most rewarding and nerve-wracking jobs you will ever have. While every fibre of your being is telling you to tape pillows around them, keep them inside at home and do everything for them so they never get hurt, you can’t. As a parent, you have to show your children the way of the world, and unfortunately, the world can mean having to do things for yourself, feeling the cruel pain of failure, and working out things for yourself. It’s all too easy to want to overprotect our kids, but that’s doing nothing to benefit their future.
Are you guilty of overprotecting your children? Have you loosened the reins? How did you take a step back and give your children their freedom? We’ve love to hear your tips and tricks.