Do you experience a minor heart attack every time your little one trips or gets a tiny scratch? Do you sacrifice your ‘me time’ to ensure that every little thing in your child’s world is as perfect as it could be? Do you feel anxious when your young one goes out to play [without you] at a close friend or neighbours house? If so, then you need to take a break!
The problem with overprotective parenting is that many think it’s the correct method to use. Such parents consider their parenting style to be a result of their love for their offspring and no amount of reasoning as to why being overprotective is bad, makes sense to them. When our emotional brain is in the driver’s seat, the rational brain finds it difficult to take control.
So, how exactly does this sort of parenting affect a child?
Our self-confidence rests on the foundation that we are fine on our own. Adults who grow up under this parenting style feel incompetent and insecure in the absence of their parents. They miss the constant attention and expect similar adulation to be given to them in every relationship they get into. Excessive dependence on others and lack of self-direction are also some of the possible consequences, since the child becomes dependent upon their parents for every little thing.
The psychology behind confidence development is the same for adults and children. The more you achieve, the greater your self-confidence. Feeling competent sets the foundation for the development of a psychologically secure and confident individual. An overprotective parent tries to keep their child in a cushioned world, as opposed to letting him try out his skills in various activities. In contrast, a parent who has a balanced parenting style provides various opportunities for the child to try out his developing skills and gain a sense of achievement. We can see the joy on a child’s face when he is able to button his own shirt or climb a tree. This joy is equivalent to the happiness an adult experiences when he gets a salary hike or fixes an important business deal. Small tasks completed independently are achievements for children. However, some parents see these small tasks as unimportant because they look at them from their own ‘adult’ perspective instead of understanding how completing that small task could make the child feel.
So, making your child independent is necessary for the proper development of her personality. This is not to say that children don’t need supervision; they do, but it all depends on the parents to know when to
step in and when to stay out and observe from the sidelines.
On the other end of the continuum is neglectful parenting, in which children are not considered important enough to receive attention or time. Such parents also justify their parenting style by stating that they are making their children independent. But nurturing independence requires a parent’s positive involvement, not the lack of it. Insecurity and a feeling of inferiority often accompany children brought up with a neglectful parenting style, since they are rarely made to feel worthy. Children need their parents’ love, time and attention and neglectful parents often substitute these basics with expensive toys or outings. Since they enjoy material X authoritarian X neglectful X overprotective X parenting stylesobjects, they feel that their child too wants and needs material goods more than he needs their positive involvement and attention. Reading a storybook to your child, accompanying your child when he is playing or watching his favourite TV show or simply talking to your child about his day and experiences are some ways to make a child feel worthy and wanted. Letting a child watch TV for long hours alone is one of the things neglectful parents do as they don’t want to deal with the child.
Ten-year-old Divya wants to play games on her dad’s laptop even though its way past her bed time. When her mother tries to cajole her into sleeping, she gets angry and throws a tantrum. Divya has learned that mom hates to see her angry and she uses this to get her way every time.
Some grown-ups love the feeling of being needed by their little ones. Their otherwise meaningless lives get a sense of meaning and they hold on to their young ones tightly for this reason. No matter what happens, they don’t wish to lose the love of their child. This results in excessive pampering and giving in to their child’s immature and often incorrect demands, which makes the child feel more and more powerful. Unable to control their little ones’ tantrums and misbehaviour, they continue to give in. Teaching the child about correct and appropriate behaviour as well as values is neglected and his emotions are given excessive importance.
Permissive parenting is a weak parenting style, in which the child gets spoilt and develops an excessive sense of self-importance. Such a child gets used to controlling others and getting things done according to his way, rather than through understanding and co-operation. Respecting others’ desires and opinions is a trait they don’t possess. In extreme cases, individuals brought up this way cannot accept “no” as an answer. No wonder we have so many cases of young boys throwing acid on girls who refused their romantic overtures.
Authoritarian parenting is a style of parenting that can be best described as becoming akin to a ‘Hitler’. It is the ‘my way, always’ approach, which is based on the belief that adults know more than children and therefore must always be ‘obeyed’ without any dissent. Such parents might ensure the
‘law’ is obeyed, but how fair are such laws? And what does it do to the sense of self of
Authoritarian parenting diminishes the value of the child in his own eyes and makes the child timid, scared and diffident. They are conditioned to please and obey people in authority, but lack the basic sense of self that allows an individual to build his own roads to success. In extreme cases, it can cause severe damage to a child’s personality.
Involving the child in the decision-making process achieves the exact opposite of having the child simply follow orders. It is important to discuss the rationale of various options with your child and help him arrive at a decision that is optimum. This approach requires significant amounts of patience and love, but it is worth the effort when you see the positive results. Thinking about various options and understanding the pros and cons of each one, results in development of creative as well as logical thinking in your child’s brain. There is no damage to the child’s sense of self either, as he is made to feel in control. Guiding your child about the right decision if he makes a wrong choice brings desirable results.
Authoritarian parents consider children to be incapable, unintelligent or immature, which is how they justify the way they bring up their child. Scientific research has now proven that children’s brains grow at a faster rate during the early years and the kind of environment and experiences they have affect the way the child grows.
Most people use a blend of two or more styles according to the personality of their child and the situation they are in. So, what exactly is the right parenting style that can yield the best results? Affectionate, yet firm parenting seems to be the answer. This parenting style makes the child feel loved and secure and makes him aware of the boundaries and limits within which he needs to stay. Inappropriate behaviour is handled through counselling as opposed to harsh discipline and the child is given plenty of positive feedback to enable him to grow into a well-rounded personality.
This was first published in the October 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.