It’s natural for parents to want to protect their children. But when does this need to protect become too much?
An overprotective parent can be identified as someone who is overly involved in their children’s life. They might be constantly restricting them from independent experiences or intruding the privacy of their teens. According to studies, overprotective parenting can hinder the child’s ability to be self-sufficient, leading to dependency and self-esteem issues later in life.1 Children who are used to their parents doing things for them and being the saviour in difficult situations might lose out on skills and experiences that are necessary for their development.
Additionally, they may rebel to break free from their parents’ control or be more secretive and distant to hide certain things from them. Eventually, both parties would get frustrated with each other and the parent-child relationship suffers.2
In this article, TOUCH Counsellor, Ms Doris Kong, shares some tips on how to avoid being an overprotective parent and let your children grow to become independent and confident adults.
“Parents need to be aware and acknowledge their overprotective trait,” says Ms Kong. If you find your children, or even your spouse, lamenting about you being too controlling or overbearing, take the time to consider their claims instead of dismissing them.
It is also a good practice to reflect on your experiences as a parent. Ask yourself, ‘Have I been doing things for my children that they can do themselves?’, ‘Have I allowed my children to independently explore and face new challenges?’, ‘Have I been overly involved in my children’s personal affairs?’3
Acknowledging that you have the tendency to be overprotective is the first step in the right direction.
FIND THE UNDERLYING CAUSES
According to Ms Kong, the overprotectiveness of parents can be due to various reasons. For some, it might originate from experiences with their own parents. They could have inherited overprotective beliefs and behaviours that have been normalised. Or perhaps they grew up with a lack of structure and, as a result, tend to be overly involved or strict to create a different upbringing for their children.4
Overprotectiveness can also come from a desire to control. Parents whose personalities are high in neuroticism may be prone to excessive worrying. This prompts them to seek control in every situation to gain certainty and assuage their anxieties.5
Having a better understanding of what makes you overprotective will not only help you face the issues more effectively, but will also help in setting more reasonable expectations and boundaries for your children.
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR CHILDREN
Firstly, it is good to explain to your children why you may have overprotective tendencies or trust issues. This is especially useful for older kids, who could gradually learn to be more empathetic and not simply get frustrated by your protectiveness.
Communicate the expectations, boundaries and consequences that you want your children to abide by. Ensure that they understand and agree to the terms. Treat them respectfully and trust that they will uphold the agreements that you have established together.
Additionally, do consider any concerns or disagreements that they might have. Having open communication and learning about their ever-changing needs are crucial in supporting their development.
ADAPT TO YOUR CHILDREN'S DIFFERENCES AND NEEDS
Parents with multiple children would know that not all kids are the same. Therefore, it would not work to enforce the same methods and rules to all, expecting them to behave similarly.
“Different children, different strokes,” says Ms Kong. “Some children need more time and guidance while others don’t. When dealing with different personalities, communication is key. Find out what makes them tick and employ different methods to cater to their needs.”
Above all, always exercise discretion, wisdom and fairness. Try not to make comparisons between your children and be ready to adapt. If something is not working, be flexible and reflect on what you can do to better support your children.
After having the right discussions with your children, it is now time to let go.
It may be hard but it helps to take a longer-term view of your parenting goals. Instead of focusing solely on the current needs of your children, visualise them as independent, confident and thriving adults in five, 10 or 15 years. Ask yourself how you can guide and develop them into capable individuals who can solve problems on their own.
Additionally, remember to exercise self-care and let go of anxieties and stresses, says Ms Kong. If the need arises, there is always professional help available to support you in your personal and parental journey.
Want to know more about parenting or any family-related support? Contact TOUCH Integrated Family Group at 6709 8400 or click here to find out more.
TOUCH Integrated Family Group (TIFG) is TOUCH’s newest service group, set up in January 2020. TIFG focuses on Family Resources to help families cope with different stressors along their life course, transition of roles in Family Transitions, Relationships & Growth, and building Family Resilience.
With TOUCH’s multi-service experience in meeting the needs of disadvantaged children, youth-at-risk and vulnerable families since 1992, TIFG aims to equip families with resources and enable them to build resilience. This is done through an integrated suite of services to support the family as a unit, with emphasis on education, intervention and advocacy.
1Ungar, M. (2009). Overprotective Parenting: Helping Parents Provide Children the Right Amount of Risk and Responsibility. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 37(3), 258–271. doi: 10.1080/01926180802534247
2Lish, R. A. (n.d.). The Relationship Between Parenting Style And Adolescent Psychological Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis. doi: 10.2986/tren.088-0087
3Tartakovsky, M. (2018, July 8). Are You an Overprotective Parent? Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/are-you-an-overprotective-parent/
4Your Parenting Style Defined: What Determines It and Why! (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.positive-parenting-ally.com/parenting-style.html
5Coplan, R. J., Reichel, M., & Rowan, K. (2009). Exploring the associations between maternal personality, child temperament, and parenting: A focus on emotions. Personality and Individual Differences, 46(2), 241–246. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2008.10.011