This is a guest post by Debbie Pribele, BA ECE
Where is that line that you cross between protecting and overprotecting your child? As with most things, there is no black and white “line” but a fluctuating “grey area”
What is that grey area?
On the one side we have safety. For the most part, that is pretty clear – keep your children safe from severe falls, cuts, burns, bites, and the list goes on.
On the other side we have life, filled with challenges and skill building.
What do I mean by that? We learn through experiences, whether that is first hand or by watching others or by being told. Our self-esteem is developed through our achievements, whether is it end-result successes or just knowing that we tried and that we did our best.
Resiliency comes from being confronted with challenges and finding strategies to overcome them, work around them, or cope with them and move on.
All of these skills (and more) come from having challenges in our lives. The grey area is that mush in the middle where we, as adults, often don’t know whether we should step in and protect our children or stand back and let them muddle through a situation on their own and develop the skills mentioned above.
Entering the Grey Areas
When we enter into that grey area and protect our children, although we are keeping them safe, we may also be robbing them of the opportunity to develop their knowledge base, to enhance their self-esteem and problem-solving skills, and/or strengthen their resiliency abilities. And if we intervene too often (and out of the grey area and right into the area of “life”) we might also be heading them into the realm of “life is all about me” and “one solution problem-solving”.
I was first awakened to this by a parent of a two year old. The little girl had fallen off a riding toy and her legs were all tangled up in the toy. I went to help her out and her mother intervened and said, “She is all right. She will figure it out.” And she did. A little twist this way, a little twist that way, another twist, pull, and shove, and up she got, back on the toy and off she went.
Importance of Creative Thinking
Just think about all the creative thinking she had to do in order to get out of the predicament she was in. If I had stepped in and rescued her, it would have been me who was doing all the thinking as I inadvertently encouraged her to be dependent on me to solve her problems.
Then, how do we, as parents and educators, know when we are in that grey area and how do we know which way we should lean: safety or opportunity?
First of all, using the wise words from “Funniest Home Videos“: “put down the camera” – if it is an obvious safety issue, or if in doubt, protect the child! No second thoughts, no after thoughts or guilt feelings. Keep those young ones (and older ones) safe!
If there is no urgent need to intervene then take a moment to think about the situation.
- What is your intention and what is the child’s?
- Why do you want to intervene?
- What might happen if you do and what might happen if you don’t?
- What is the child trying to do?
- How can you help him/her learn how to be successful at the task?
- How can you help him/her decide when to seek help and when to not try this on their own?
Is the child capable of overcoming the challenge?
- Could he/she be successful if given a little time to think about it, a little encouragement, guidance, and/or a little practice?
- Is this a good time to let them spread their wings a little bit and see how they manage, with perhaps a little assistance from you?
- Speaking of capable, is it developmentally appropriate for your child?
- Does your child have the physical, intellectual, emotional and/or social skills to manage in the situation?
Knowing your Child
Knowing your child, at what point is the expectation too much?
Here is another grey area – that line between being able to be successful at overcoming a challenge and, thus, enhancing their self-esteem and the situation being too frustrating for them resulting in a melt-down and negative affects on self-esteem.
Parentings Grey Areas
Parenting is filled with grey area situations and unknowns. As I like to say, we are an expert on our children as babies when they make it into toddlerhood and we are an expert on our children as toddlers when they reach preschool age… and so on and so on.
Hindsight is 20/20 but we don’t live in hindsight. All we have is this moment and all we can do right now is do the best that we can.
We give “a little twist this way, a little twist that way, another twist, pull, and shove” and next thing you know the children are all grown up and moving out of the house. And during the process we (hopefully) become a bit wiser, we enhance our self-esteem and problem-solving skills, and we strengthen our resiliency abilities, just like our children do when they are met with challenges!
Are you over-protective?
- Are there times when you could step back and empower your child?
- What skills would you like to see your child develop?
- What “golden opportunities” can you let unfold while you stand back with baited breath, ready to jump in when needed?
- Just another something to think about. Oh the joys of parenting!
We thank Debbie for sharing her thoughts with us. You can find her on the web: