We have few children. Our country’s birth-rate has dropped to 1.38 children per woman and, as a consequence, children have become the centre of the family. Lack of time and too much tolerance and permissiveness have led to an overprotective environment which can be just as damaging as an authoritarian one. However, it is very easy to correct this situation and can be achieved if the parents become aware and change their attitude and certain rules of the game…
Some parents confuse the feeling of emotion with too much protection. When we refer to overprotected children, too attached to mummy or too clinging, we should understand that the responsibility lies basically with the parents, who by their ways of behaving have established such a tight bond with their children that they even find it difficult to be apart from them.
What are the symptoms of overprotection?
Detecting the problem is not easy when you yourself are experiencing it and, what is more, not all parents are overprotective in the same way. Some families might identify themselves as having the following behavioural patterns:
- They give excessive care from the earliest months. They anticipate the baby’s discomfort by always picking the baby up and they try to avoid letting the baby cry, because it makes them feel anxious and guilty.
- They do not give freedom of movement. They suffer a lot imaging risks when the children go on a trip, play in the park, or do any other commonplace activity which they believe to be dangerous.
- The talk about their children in a possessive way: ‘he won’t eat for me’; ‘he’s crawling for me now’, and ‘he has let me down. They experience all the good and bad things as if these were happening to them, not the children.
- They do not teach their children habits appropriate to their age because they find it difficult to accept that they are growing up. They do not let them help with the household chores, do errands, or go to the shops…
- They tend to make excuses for their children’s mistakes and put the blame on others: the teacher does not explain properly, the other children annoy them, etc.
When there is an overprotective environment, children grow up in a state of immaturity and dependency on the parents. This can increase the risk of their reaching adolescence with low self-confidence and as adults continuing to display dependent behaviour, which makes them anxious and unhappy. How can we encourage their independence?
5 tips to stimulate their independence through emotional development
1. On their own, even if it does not turn out well the first time. Let them take care of their chores and personal hygiene on their own (depending on their age). With time, they will learn and will feel proud of having done it themselves.
2. Everything can wait. Allow them to be the ones who ask for the things they want. Responding immediately to their demands will not help them value things and will make them impossible to satisfy.
3. At home, there are differences. Teach them that each one of you has your place within the family and the relationship between mummy and daddy is different to the one the parents have with the children. This also means they should sleep in their own beds.
4. Make sure they understand that you trust them. Do not avoid them having to deal with ‘difficult’ situations and encourage them to try new experiences (trips, camps, new friends, etc.). You will see their self-confidence grow.
5. Every action has its consequences. Explain that they are responsible for their actions and must accept the consequences. Find a way to talk to them about the setbacks they will experience and give them tips, but let them come up with solutions and strategies themselves to improve things.
We recommend you read the following book to obtain more information: El arte de educar con sentido común (The art of raising children with common sense, in Spanish) by Manuel Fernández Antón Published by Planeta.