Overprotective parents cause for all kinds of problems in kids, essentially through preventing them from learning how to handle difficult situations on their own, an indispensable skill for all people. Through the removal of risks, challenges, fears, and hurt feelings children are stripped of opportunities for growth and development necessary for their growth into more freedom and independence. Many kids are treated as exceedingly fragile in multiple ways, and through this treatment they are made to be so. In order for our emerging youth to be the strong independent people they need to be in this evolving world, they need to have parents that give them opportunities to learn how to solve problems for themselves, which often requires failure before success, something we’ve come to reject.
Allowing our kids freedom to grow and learn on their own is critical for their development, as well as their current lives. A 2013 UK study directed by Professor Dieter Wolke found that “Children with overprotective parents were 10 per cent more likely to be bullied. Positive parenting traits (authoritative parenting, communication, involvement, support, warmth and affection) made children 19 per cent less likely to be bullied.” Life isn’t always friendly, there are situations where you have to stick up for yourself, despite others doing you wrong. These are lessons best learned early to be employed throughout your life, because bullies do not go away despite involvement from authority figures. Everyone has spats of dispute in their life, and has to find a way to deal with them. Beyond handling social issues, simple problem solving is something that I see young people struggle with quite often when they are without help from an older person. This reliance on external aid directly leads into learned helplessness and an inability to solve problems with critical thinking on your own, an important life skill. I’ve seen high school students often come across situations where instead of looking for a solution on their own first they immediately ask a teacher or adult how they should do something, and while this may come from not wanting to do something wrong, it makes you wonder what some people would do without people constantly around them to help them throughout the day.
I am not trying to say that parents shouldn’t be there to help their kids deal with difficult or stressful situations, but there is a big difference between solving their problems for them and solving their problems with them. In the report of the study on bullying Professor Wolke says, “children need to deal with stressful situations in mild doses to learn how to cope.” I think this is accurate, in that parents shouldn’t be leaving their kids to figure it all out on their own, but shielding them off from all resemblances of difficulty makes for a person who is unable to handle hardship and will cause lots of problems later on in their life. Raising a child is not easy, and there are a lot of lessons that you have to try and teach your kids for them to grow into strong young people, but dealing with difficulties is a part of life, and as they grow older, no matter how protective you are through their youth, they will be confronted with these realities. There is a necessity for young kids to have some independence in their problem solving and social interaction in order for them to be able to deal with whatever life throws at them. The overprotective coddling parenting styles of today’s age stifle the learning in young people and cause them to be unprepared for challenges they will face later in life, but it is hard to manage that balance of being overbearing and letting the leash too loose. So the question is how do we allow kids to learn things independently yet keep them safe and healthy? It’s hard to say what really is the best way to promote independence while still upholding a safe tether.