Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: The Problem with Overprotecting Children

When one becomes a parent one experiences unprecedented emotions. Perhaps one of the strongest is the sense of responsibility, the need to care for and protect the most precious thing in life. Almost all parents really want to provide their child with the conditions that will make him feel safe and help him enjoy a life without problems.

But there is a fine line between the supportive and the overprotective parent.

In the case of the latter, parental interventions do not help the child to develop normally on a psycho-emotional level. In fact, the very opposite happens. They create many and serious problems for the child, as overprotective parents tend to control every aspect of his life, experiences, or knowledge.

Children of overprotective parents have difficulty making important decisions without their parents' consent, and this often makes them dysfunctional adults.

This is because overprotective parents tend to make their own decisions about their children's lives, rather than allowing them to make their own decisions. They fear that their immaturity can be dangerous and believe that their role is to prevent the dangers and catastrophic consequences that their children's wrong choices may have. In this way, however, they prevent their children from becoming independent and taking on the consequences of their actions.

Children of overprotective parents do not adequately develop certain life skills, such as effective communication with others.

For example, when parents define or control their children's company, they deprive him of the opportunity to learn to judge who is a good or bad friend for themselves, what they need from their social contacts, what they can get, and what they can offer in their associations. Growing up there is a high probability that they will pursue addictive behaviors and become addicted adults.

Children of overprotective parents often experience high levels of stress and that can lead to depression or other mental issues. They learn early on that they please their parents when they follow their instructions, otherwise they will have to deal with their dissatisfaction, which can be intense.

For example, they struggle to stand out in school with their academic performance, because it makes their parents happy or they may even study something they do not like, if their parents think this is best for them. They often feel anxious not to disappoint the people who do everything for them, with whatever consequences this may have on their psyche.

Finally, children of overprotective parents find it difficult to understand who they really are and often have low self-esteem.

When parents decide to make decisions for their children, to solve their problems, to protect them from difficulties and problems, children do not gain a sense of self. They are unable to make even the simplest decisions, and this prevents them from understanding who they really are, what they want, what their strengths and weaknesses are.

As they grow older, they feel increasingly unable to cope with the demands of life and may become socially isolated, especially during the difficult years of adolescence.

Healthy relationships between parents and children are crucial to how children learn to see themselves and cope with life. Love, tenderness, and effective communication are the key to a parent-child relationship, as is healthy boundaries.

Parents should encourage their children to explore and try new activities. They need to allow their children to make mistakes, to feel frustrated, to experience failure, and to learn to overcome it. If the parents themselves do not consider their children capable of coping with the difficulties of their age, then they themselves will find it difficult to gain confidence in themselves and in their abilities. Maybe in the end it is better to stand next to our children and not on top of them. 

Stavroula Tsoutsa is a Certified Holistic Professional and Life Coach, Certified Heartmath Coach/Mentor, and Certified Points of You practitioner.


Dear Stavroula, I am married to a wonderful man, who was born in the United States to Greek parents.


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