Being too involved in your child’s school life and friends circle could be stopping them from learning important life lessons on how to deal with conflicts and disappointments. Nowadays, parents are always ready to step in and stand up for their kids at the first sign of difficulty but letting them handle tough situations by themselves can help them learn how to choose and fight their own battles – a useful tool for their future.
“In the school where I work, some parents will deal directly with a kid who they think harmed their child, or they’ll contact school officials if their child gets a bad grade and criticize them for hiring the child’s teacher,” Thomas Winterman, a school counselor and clinical mental health counselor in Panama City, Florida, told Yahoo Parenting. “It comes from a good place; all parents want to protect their kids. But interfering can backfire, because it prevents kids from learning to solve problems on their own and becoming independent adults,” added Winterman.
Parents who are over protective and over-involved in their children’s lives are sometimes referred to as “helicopter parents,” who hover over their children like a helicopter. Some of the reasons why parents behave like this are:
- Anxiety about teh future: parents keep hearing the message that the world is very competitive, for university admissions and jobs, and they feel like they must do more to make sure their children can compete.
- Fear of harm: Worry about physical or mental harm that could befall a child is motivation for some to try to overprotect their children.
- Reaction to their own parents and upbringing: Some parents who feel that they were neglected or not loved enough as children may overcompensate with their children.
- Example set by other parents: Seeing other parents who are very involved in their children’s lives may provoke feelings of guilt and drive parents to behave similarly.
While the reasons why parents may become overprotective are understandable, they still need to evaluate whether they are really helping their child. Instead of being there for support and advice, and guiding their child towards making good decisions and solving problems, parents who take it upon themselves to tackle every difficult situation may end up not preparing their children to fight their own battles and make their own way in the world.
Child experts counsel that kids don’t need all their problems solved for them. Rather, parents need to teach them how to deal with the highs and lows of life. Showing them support and letting them handle uncomfortable situations on their own can help build important life and emotional skills.
“Parents are their children’s teachers. If you always swoop in and save the day, you prevent your child from figuring out a way to solve or get over the problem,” Jeannette Sawyer Cohen, Ph.D., a New York–based clinical psychologist, said.
This doesn’t mean you should just sit back when your child is in a tight spot. Talk to them about the situation and how it can be solved. Give them your thoughts and listen to their opinions as well. Then let them deal with it and give them the confidence that you will be there to help them should they need it.
“This way, you’re a safety net for when a situation gets out of hand,” says Winterman. If the situation escalates, or your child is being bullied, then it is time for parents to step in.
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