Are we really asking the right question?
Instead writing in generalities or concepts I feel it’s much more powerful and valuable to share actual situations or questions I encounter from our parents. I get so many parenting questions along the same lines. Here is part of a recent email from a mother with a very common question (I have changed the names):
“. . . My daughter Kreslyn is very shy and reserved around other people and I'd like her to build some confidence before starting kindergarten in the fall. She was born with hearing and speech problems and is also an only child so I suppose she's always been a bit overprotected. Sometimes I don't feel like I'm challenging her enough. But since she's so sensitive it can be hard to know when is the right time to push and when to let things let go. I guess I want to make sure I do everything I can to help her reach her potential and teach her that the best things in life come from doing things that are difficult. . . “
Here is part of my response back:
“. . . You can tell Kreslyn I was also very shy when I was young. Shyness is near and dear to my heart. I wish someone had taught me when I was young that shyness is just a fear. I love to teach children and parents the phrase “Every time I back away from a fear the FEAR gets bigger, but every time I power through a fear YOU get bigger!” Being sensitive is a very good thing in all children but it should never be allowed to be an excuse or crutch for backing away from anything.
Here is the key to how you (and we) can help Kreslyn - Make Kreslyn face discomfort often and make sure she powers through it. Then make her do things she does not want to do often. Both have to be done consistently and frequently. Then the intensity of these emotions need to be increased with success and time. This builds “strong” children. Our program is specifically designed to do both in every class our students takes. Doing the opposite develops weak children. Tell Kreslyn karate is hard work. Kids need to skin their knees and eat dirt!
Don’t worry it is very natural for mothers to protect their children. Parents have to work hard to stand back. I am sure you have seen this on the internet recently: “First child eats dirt. Parent calls the doctor. Second child eats dirt. Parent cleans out his mouth. Three child eats dirt. The parent wonders if she really needs to feed him lunch.. . .”
So, lets finish by getting back to the original question of this article – “Are we over protecting our child?”
Let’s start by backing up a little. When human babies are born they practically need someone 24/7 to care and do almost everything for them in order to survive. Thank goodness mothers are hard wired to do this! The hormone oxytocin and the drive to nurture is strong in mothers.
But this can work against us as our children grow up. Add to this the excessive and counterproductive fear and paranoia we have for everything from abductions, to flu’s, to school shootings, to bad weather. No wonder we never let them play outside on their own, we solve all their problems and cover them in anti-bacterial lotion?
I believe the question is not “Are we over protecting our children?” but instead “Are we SHIFTING our roles as parents as our children grow and develop?”
If we treat and care for our children like we did in their first six months of life they will become weak. A good case in point is the human immune system. The immune system, like everything else, becomes stronger with stress. If constantly exposed to bugs and viruses a person’s immune system becomes healthy and strong. What makes us sick is not the bugs and viruses, it is the inability of our body to fight them off. Stress makes everything about us stronger! You need to shift your role as a parent so your children get the progressively higher levels of stress they need in order to grow strong.
Okay, here is the key. You need to make these role shifts as a parent to raise strong, independent and successful children: You must go from Caregiver/Teacher to Manager/Coach to Consultant/Mentor. When the shift occurs may be different for each child but I think if you are perceptive it will be easy to tell.
So, the real question is: Are you shifting your role as a parent? Are you and your spouse still treating your 8 year old more like a six months old? How about your 13 year old? Now about your 18 year old?
Yours for stronger kids,