Parents can love, protect too much
Many parents have difficulty making the distinction between loving their children enough and loving them too much.
They become so wrapped up in their children they try to take control of every aspect of the child’s life. Certainly it is normal and healthy for parents to want to help shape a child’s future, to encourage healthy values and urge him to live up to his potential.
But some parents become so much a part of a child’s life, they do not give him breathing room and opportunities for experiencing hardships, rejection, and even less-than-complete success.
These parents assume a rescuer’s role. Because of their intense love, they want to save the child from the hardships they had to endure. Frequently, over loving and overprotecting go hand in hand.
Most parents are able to distinguish the overprotecting aspect. But they frequently overlook how their expectations place a great burden on the child. When a child hears statements like “I know he won’t let me down, he wouldn’t do that, he never gives up,” the child may develop an overperfectionistic lifestyle and belief system.
When this persists into adulthood, it causes problems such as a strong need for control and approval and a fear of ambiguity.
Loving, but giving that child the freedom of separateness is the key. True loving develops when a parent loves a child because of his own qualities, not because the child is an extension of the parent.
Rescuing a child from all his mistakes creates a person with an unreal perception of the world. It deprives that child of the tools to make corrections or learn from experiences.
Sometimes over loving takes on characteristics of smothering. The parent wants to be involved in everything the child is doing. When the child reaches adolescence and seeks the inevitable and normal separation, the parent not only is hurt, but frequently panics. The parent desperately tries to recapture the closeness he felt in the child’s earlier stages.
What is the anecdote for over loving? It is letting go.
• Parents have to back off, to let children make choices. Continuing to select your child’s clothing each morning is an example of this overprotection.
• There are enough big things in life parents must be involved in. These include their children’s non-involvement in drugs, choice of friends, the hours children keep, involvement in church activities, school organizations, etc. If parents use their efforts on the big events and allow the child to make decisions on other aspects of development, the child feels less over controlled.
• Parents should realize that ambiguity, with feelings of bitterness and hostility, can develop as a long-term outcome of overprotection. The parents then may develop guilt feelings, which cause more problems and emotional difficulty.
• When parents understand the right kind of love to give a child – an unconditional, healthy feeling between parent and child – too much love won’t happen.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright 1987