Parents only always want the best for their kids. Moms and dads make numerous sacrifices, both big and small, to provide for their families. Their best intentions, however, can lead to too much parenting, resulting in an overly sheltered child.
There can be times where a parent, whether she is aware of it or not, shields a child from experiencing frustrations and may go to extremes in the name of safety. It doesn’t come without consequences.
“If you’ve always rescued your child from facing his own battles and sheltered him from responsibility, he’ll lack the experience and confidence he needs to get by in the real world,” Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do, writes in an article for Psychology Today.
Here are ways you may be raising an overly sheltered child without knowing it:
1. You (unknowingly) instill a “victim mentality” Imagine your child has just lost an art or singing contest. He’s heartbroken and in tears. What do you say to console him? Phrases like “Mas magaling ka pa sa nanalo!” and “Kawawa naman anak ko” may not be the best things tell your child. Instead, acknowledge your child’s feelings and efforts, and encourage him to find ways to turn the situation around.
“Rejection, failure, and unfairness are part of life,” writes Morin in an article for Forbes. “Getting cut from the soccer team or failing a class doesn’t make your child a victim.” Children need to go through negative feelings and experiences to prepare them for the real world ahead. An overly sheltered child may easily buckle when faced with failure or rejection. On the other hand, a child who is mentally strong will know not to wallow in misfortune, but he will learn to see opportunities in his struggles.
2. You avoid talking about difficult topics It's not easy to talk to your child about violence, drugs, death, and sex, but it's necessary. Lacking awareness and the proper guidance may lead your child to be more susceptible to the harm you were trying to protect them from in the first place. Knowing how to spot sexual abuse, like inappropriate touching from an adult, for example, is the first step to preventing it from happening.
“Don’t view education and knowledge as dangerous or harmful,” says Samantha Rodman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, in a column for Huffington Post. It’s better if your child learns about difficult topics from you. As long as you don’t force the issue and the conversation is age-appropriate, answering your child’s questions on difficult topics is okay, said Rodman. Children’s books are an easy way to start the conversation with your child. Click here for books we recommend.
3. You go overboard when it comes to safety When your child is ready to let go of your hand at the playground, you need to let go. Children are naturally curious about the world around them, and the need to explore and play earns them scrapes and bruises. “Our fear of children being harmed (mostly in minor ways) may result in more fearful children,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of early-childhood education at Queen Maud University College, according to The Atlantic.
“In the real world, life is filled with risks – financial, physical, emotional, social – and reasonable risks are essential for children’s healthy development,” said Joe Frost, a safety consultant from John Carroll University, in a 2006 research paper on the subject.
4. You overly protect a shy child It’s understandable how a mom of a shy child would agree to let her child cling on to her for the entirety of a children’s party. It’s difficult to watch a shy child struggle to make friends. Some children find it more difficult to warm up to others and there’s nothing wrong with this, but building and developing social skills are necessary as well.
“If we protect a shy child from having to interact with others we build on that initial predisposition making it harder for her to cope. Equally, if we ignore her temperament and throw her in at the deep end, we undermine what little confidence she has,” said the U.K. BabyCentre. The key is to find a balance – to encourage your child without pushing her too much. Get tips on how to do just that here.
5. You fix your child’s problems for her When your child gets a low grade on her report card, is your first instinct to set up a meeting with the teacher to have it changed? “Many parents are willing to overextend themselves in catering to their children and excessively meeting their needs. They then feel surprised or resentful when their children grow up feeling unable to care for themselves,” said Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, in an article for Psychology Today.
Children who have had their parents solve all of their problems for them risk growing up unprepared for the challenges of adulthood, said Morin. For example, this leads to parents accompanying an adult child to a job interview, and adult children who come running to mom or dad when they get into disciplinary trouble in the workplace.
Morin added, “Offering your words of wisdom can be helpful. But that’s different than taking over and doing things for your child.”