Over on the Creating a Family Facebook and Twitter page we have a question of the day. A couple of weeks ago, we asked the following question: “As a parent after fertility treatment or adoption, do you think you are more over-protective than other parents?
I thought for sure that most people would say that they were not more over-protective because that is not something that I thought people would readily admit. Boy, was I surprised. Of the people who responded on Facebook and Twitter, all but one said that they were more over-protective than their fertile friends.
How Much “Protection” is Good
I think the reason I was surprised by people freely owning up to being overprotective is that it seems clear to me that being overprotective is not good for our kids. While it is possible that the commenters were just being exceptionally honest, it is probably more likely that in addition to being honest, they also don’t perceive being overprotective as a bad thing.
To a certain extent the line between protection and overprotection is in the eye of the beholder, and even those of us who want to avoid over-protective parenting struggle with identifying that line. For example, where would you draw the line in these situations?
- Letting your 8-year-old walk to a friend’s house two blocks away by himself.
- Letting your child ride her bike down a steep hill with the above average possibility of a wipe out?
- Letting two fifth graders walk to school by themselves?
- Letting your fourth grader use the stove by himself after you’ve taught him to be safe?
- Letting a 9-year-old play at the park by herself while the mom works at a nearby McDonalds? (Recent case in the news where Child Protective Services was called and the child is now in foster care.)
Allowing our Kids to Take Risks
Maybe it’s because my kids are older and I’ve seen more of the down side of overprotectiveness, but I strongly believe that we need to let our kids take risks. Children need time out of our sight to make decisions, to fall down, to fail, to get into spats with friends and resolve them—or not, to soar. They need to learn to run interference with their teachers and they need to learn that sometimes life and teachers are unfair, and there is not much you can do other than move forward. Overprotective parenting robs our kids of these opportunities.
I read this quote from the author of Free Range Kids, Lenore Skenazy:
“There’s been this huge cultural shift. We now live in a society where most people believe a child can not be out of your sight for one second, where people think children need constant, total adult supervision. This shift is not rooted in fact. It’s not rooted in any true change. It’s imaginary. It’s rooted in irrational fear.”
Does Attachment Parenting Lead to Overprotectiveness?
I worry that our emphasis on attachment parenting may be fueling some of this over-protectiveness. I see them as two different things, but I’m not sure that is how it is playing out in real life. I’d love to hear from some of our attachment parenting folks about how they see the distinction.
So, I ask you—as someone who had to work really hard at becoming a parent, are you more overprotective than other parents?
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Add Your Comment
Only one said they weren’t more overprotective? Wow. Just. Wow. I agree that over protectiveness is detrimental. It’s also stifling. Said as someone who has been there and doesn’t want to do it to my kids.
Geochick, I was surprised to.
My parents weren’t overprotective – we roamed around the suburb on our bikes and found our own way to and from school. We did play a lot with neighbours the same age (including the riding around on our bikes and going to and from school) which might make a difference. An “overprotective” parent might be more likely to let their child walk to and from school if a few other neighbourhood children were keeping them company. Part of our trip (in the mid 70s) was through bushland which is rather scary considering that about 4-5 years later, someone was arrested for exposing themselves there – again though, there were usually 3-4 of us. If I was going to be walking to school by myself, I used to choose the more “public” route. My parents both worked so dropping us to and from school wasn’t an option.
One thing that I think aparents can be overprotective about is when it comes to tell their child their “story”. Mine were pretty good. However, sometimes I see today’s APs come up with all sorts of stories to “soften the blow” and I just think “be honest and truthful and keep within the facts” – your child can take it and will appreciate it in the end. (of course it goes without saying that one should be age appropriate)
I have a feeling that many of the respondents are interpreting “more overprotective” as meaning “more protective” or strict. I say that because I was reading an article about overprotectiveness and quite a few commenters said they were overprotective when in fact they weren’t, they were just strict.
To me overprotective parenting means helicopter parenting and I wonder if you asked the same people whther they considered themselves “helicopter parents” whether they would till give the sameanswers.
Good point CB. “Helicopter parent” has a universal negative connotation, which is why I intentionally avoided it. But you’re right–we each define “overprotective” differently. I see a lot of parents who are afraid to let their kids fail.
I was 45 when I finally conceived my daughter and was able to carry her to term. Do I think she is a precious gift? You betcha! I also don’t think I am over protective. I think as an older mother I am better equipped to make wise decisions about parenting her. I have given her a fairly long leash most of her life. Now as a robust 10 year old my daughter is allowed to fail. She is allowed to make decisions/choices that are reasonable for a 10 year old to make. She is expected to discuss situations with her teachers to bring about solutions. She is allowed to walk in our neighborhood to friend’s houses by herself but knows she must be communicating her changing whereabouts with me. She is a great girl:-)She is my joy!
Kimberly, sounds like you’ve found the right balance.
I am definitely over-protective at times. We have a child by adoption and birth, so I don’t think my reactions stem from the fact that I was once infertile. We did however experience a significant adoption loss of our first child after having her for three months and BM changing her mind. After experiencing that, I am much more over-protective – the whole “fear of another loss” thing. My oldest has a life-threatening peanut allergy, so that has put me on an extra level of “on-guard.” But I try to coach myself every day having a balance of roots and wings for the kiddos!
[Balancing roots and wings] I like that. Loss affects how we parent. I think the best we can hope for is being aware of that fact and constantly being on the look out for our tendencies, since I think kids thrive when given the opportunity to fall down and fail.
I would say yes and no. I have not left my son (4) with many people other than my mom or a very good neighbor because he has never liked being left by us. However he broke his elbow from swinging on the monkey bars 8 weeks ago. We let him stretch the boundaries doing physical things but I still let him come into our room every night and feel like I allow it because I wanted to be a mom so badly and we have only adopted once successfully (adopted embryos but miscarried recently). He may be our only one so I feel like that also makes us more protective and more likely to spoil him.
Amy, I understand completely the urge to spoil when you’ve worked so hard to get him and he may be your only one, even though it sounds like you’d like to have more. I’m glad you aren’t overprotective on physical things.