By COLLEEN GAPUZAN
What are you listening to? Who are you texting? What are you watching?
As a teenager, you probably were asked those questions at least once from a parental figure or guardian. If you were not, you might as well consider yourself lucky.
Overprotective parenting (OP) is the act of constantly sheltering and supervising a child to protect him or her from any potential risks or dangers. Although many overprotective parents only intend to protect the people they love, parents must recognize that there is a fine line between protection and overprotection.
Ultimately, overprotective parenting can hinder children’s personal growth and diminish their trust in their parents. Furthermore, if overprotective parenting continues into a child’s teenage years, it can establish detrimental attitudes and behaviors that may impede their success in the real world.
Yet, many parents confuse overprotection with love without understanding the consequences that their behavior may have on their children. For example, a psychology study shows that children raised under OP grow to be risk-averse and indecisive, lacking the crucial skills to become successful in life.
Essentially, one of the biggest setbacks of OP is that children are deprived of independence. Instead of nurturing a child and allowing them to grow and mature, OP creates a relationship in which the child becomes excessively dependent on the parent. Take, for instance, a 16-year old who wishes to acquire a driver’s license. Although the child may be responsible enough to drive, his or her parents may be plagued with doubts that their child is simply “not ready” and forbid him or her from obtaining a license. Such action can be damaging later down the road when a teenager must solve a problem or face a challenge without depending on others, by themselves. In particular, young adults may be hesitant to participate in certain events because they did not have adequate experience to make their own decisions. Thus, it is vital for teenagers to learn and grow independently to prepare for adulthood.
Above all, OP overlooks the significance of maintaining a healthy relationship between parent and child. While OP “grounds” itself in ensuring a safe and secure environment for a child, it can also foster an unhealthy bond that limits true openness and vulnerability in the relationship.
Fundamentally, a key factor in maintaining a healthy parent-and-child relationship is trust. Even though teenagers may not necessarily always see eye to eye with their parents, sustaining a harmonious bond is highly valuable. In order for a child to gain the trust of their parents and vice versa, both parties must step back on certain occasions to encourage open communication. For example, if parents allow their child to explore interests and engage in social activities during his or her leisure time, the child would be more likely to trust his or her parents and open up to them. If parents constantly bombard their children with questions about their whereabouts 24/7 or scroll through their text messages expecting the worst, how are they supposed to open up in terms of being vulnerable? Inherently, when a parent incessantly worries or tracks a child through cellular devices, social media or personal diary entries, the child ultimately loses his or her sense of individuality.
If parents yearn for our trust, they should also do their part as well. OP limits teenagers’ freedom, compelling many of them to engage in risky behavior when presented with an opportunity. In fact, the most rebellious teenagers are usually the sheltered ones who are kept under a tight watch by their parents. When the parents are more lenient and trust that their children have good judgment, they may gain more trust and respect from their child.
Although this argument should not apply to all circumstances, parents should take into consideration the negative effect OP has on a child’s mental health. An annual study conducted by the American Psychological Association displayed the various stress levels between children over the years. In the study, Dr. Gwen Dewar explains secure and relaxed parenting will ultimately lead to a more responsive upbringing with children and reduce stress between both parties. Subsequently, parenting styles that reduce stress levels will help prevent children from floundering in the stressors of life.
Overprotective parenting is detrimental in more ways than one, and OP parents are only damaging their children. Instead of trying to assuage their fears by excessively digging into their child’s life, parents should focus on developing a healthy relationship founded on trust and open communication.