Leah*, mom to a 14-month-old daughter, admits to being praning when it comes to her child. She says she even finds it difficult to leave her kid alone with her husband for long periods of time. “I can’t help it! I’m always worried that something bad might happen to Ashley* when I’m not around.” To date, Leah still hasn’t been able to leave the house without her baby or go on a date alone with her husband since she gave birth. “I have no one trustworthy enough to leave my baby with!” she reasons out.
She confessed that her fears are rooted on a bad childhood experience when her mom went out on a date with her girl friends. “My one-year-old baby brother fell down a long flight of stairs because our dad forgot to close the safety gate. I can still remember the horror I felt as I watched Luke* rolling down from the second floor of our house,” she emotionally relates. “Another time, Luke almost got run down by a neighbor’s car because Dad let my brother play on the sidewalk while he was washing the car. Don’t get me wrong, I love my dad, but I won’t allow the same things to happen to my child.” Similarly, I had a neighbor who was so overprotective of her daughter. She usually ends up scolding her toddler whenever she accidentally scrapes a knee, bumps her head, or gets dirty. “Ayan kasi! Bakit ka ba pumunta-punta doon!” she would rant and proceed to lightly spank her child’s hand or bottom which, I guess, stems from unreasonable fear for what she imagines could have been much worse if she were not there to intervene.
Unhealthy practice According to Violeta V. Bautista, M.D., child psychologist and family therapist at the Care and Counsel Wholeness Center in Quezon City, “When you talk about ‘over,’ it means it’s exaggerated and goes beyond what is healthy child-rearing pattern. It’s not going to have growth-enhancing facilitative effects on the child,” she explains. “Anything that is exaggerated more than what is necessary is neither going to be healthy nor helpful for the child.”
She acknowledges that no parent would like to intentionally hurt or cause dysfunction to his child but that “it happens with overprotection. It counters the [parent’s] very wish or motivating factor.” Dr. Bautista portrays that behind overprotection is the desire to love, to ensure health, and to foster the welfare of the child. However, “It is very ironic as overprotection frustrates exactly this very intention.”
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She then describes several signs of over-protectiveness:
When a mother will not get time out from child care; cannot leave the house; or refuses to leave her child even when there is adequate care available. In other words, when a mom denies child care even from competent caregivers and wants to be with the child 24/7.
When a mother worries too much such that she cannot enjoy being out or doing other things outside childcare despite the child being in the hands of proven, reliable caregivers. She has exaggerated fears about what will happen to her little one when she’s not around or when the child is exposed to new experiences.
When a mother enforces too many dos and don’ts that are constricting growth and are not warranted by the developmental stage of the child. For instance:
Prohibiting the child from playing in the monkey bars even under supervision and when his motor competencies already allow him to be able to do so
Taking many foods out of the child’s diet when such foods are actually healthy for the child
Prohibiting play for fear of bad influences or of the child getting sick which deprives the child of social interaction
Over-sanitizing the child’s environment to the point that she constricts the child’s world and range of experiences that are necessary for him to grow