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?
P.S. Join us on our social networks for more questions and discussions like this. We have a lot of fun talking about these type of issues and offering each other support.