In my first Parenting And Paranoia blog post, I talked about the many things we, parents, act paranoid about our kids. Here, let’s look at the destructive effects our parenting paranoia has on our children and what we can do instead of instilling fear into them.
“American childrearing over the last few decades has transformed expected parental anxiety about the safety of one’s child into paranoia,” wrote Molly S. Castelloe, PhD. Parenting paranoia isn’t just limited to the feeling that the world’s a dangerous place for kids. Fearing that your children will fail, that they’ll get hurt, and that they’ll make mistakes are part and parcel of it, too.
The Effects Of Paranoid Parenting On Kids
Overprotective parents are setting their kids for FAILURE. Why is that?
- Instilling fear in them will make them fearful of the world in general. Children are like empty sponges to water – they’ll soak up whatever you teach them, whatever they get from you. If you instill fear in them at a young age, they’ll bring that sense of dread with them as they grow up.
Remember that song Because Of You by singer Kelly Clarkson? It may be a lover-related song, but that pretty much sums up your kid’s future dilemma when she grows up under overprotective tutelage.
- Doing things for them because you’re afraid they’ll fail or because they can’t seem to do anything right will only give them a sense of entitlement. Let me give you a real scenario. I had a relative with a brood of five, the youngest being the only girl. Growing up, she babied her and treated her like a princess. Her youngest stayed with her mum until she was 40. Eventually, the woman got married to a widowed farmer. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last long. The man returned his wife to her family. It turned out; he had to do the house chores after spending his day in the field because she wouldn’t do them. He even had to do the cooking. Though leaning on the extreme, the situation is a classic example of entitlement borne from a parent’s overprotectiveness and love. Joel L. Young, MD, explained, “It’s challenging to send your child out into a hostile world, knowing he or she may fail, face ridicule, and struggle. Rest assured, children must struggle to grow and learn. Saving your child from consequences and challenges now only ensures he or she will face more challenges down the road.”
- By overprotecting your kids, you’re hindering the development of their decision-making skills. Limiting their exposure to “good” brings about a myriad of adverse health and mental consequences. Accordingly, there are two kinds of stress – chronic which comes from constant worrying, abuse, neglect and so on, and acute, that burst of adrenaline we have in response to something frightening, dangerous or competitive. The former is constant while the latter is short-lived. The first one is the kind of stress we should steer clear from; the second one a regular part of our fight-or-flight response. Acute stress is the “good kind of ”
Experts say that when we are incredibly protective of our kids, we limit their exposure to acute stress, something they need to develop their decision-making abilities and their risk-taking skills. Furthermore, studies show that acute stress factor in brain building and the development of social behaviors. If you limit your kids’ exposure to it, they’ll most likely grow anti-social and hyper-aggressive.
- Paranoid parenting opens kids up to bullying. Bullies are most likely to target kids who are very dependent on their parents, a result of being overly protective. Their peers see them as misfits and abnormal making them vulnerable targets.
Paranoid Parenting: What To Do Instead
- Remember this: being vigilant and alert don’t equal to being paranoid. Paranoia is fear that’s bigger than the real thing, a warped-up worry. Know your concerns and keep them in perspective. You should also be aware that news portals tend to sensationalize news, make them appear larger than they seem.
- Allow your kids a sense of freedom. We have to loosen our reins on our children as they go because, eventually, they’ll leave us to live lives of their own. Don’t prolong the inevitable.
- Do positive reinforcement in place of scare tactics. We’d word our “when you’re lost” instruction this way: “Don’t ever talk to strangers because they’ll snatch you and take you away, and you won’t see Mommy and Daddy ever again.” However, it’s best if we use a more positive approach when giving life lessons to our kids. A positive reinforcement sounds like this: “Go to someone who can help you like a security guard, a police officer or someone who works in the place (like an attendant if it’s a mall).” Let us equip our kids to be smart and street-wise in this world instead of creeping like mice in fear.
- Lastly, If you believe your fears are becoming excessive, talk to someone about it. It could be your church pastor, or you could go to a therapist. If you’re wary of physical counseling, you can seek help online through therapy websites like BetterHelp. Don’t burden your kids with baseless fears that they can bring with them when they grow up. Don’t let your parenting paranoia affect and hurt them.
“Parenting is a balancing act. There is not a playbook that can tell us exactly what to do on every step of the parenting journey. We want to avoid doing things for them that they can (or should) do themselves,” reminded Mike Brooks, PhD. “While we want to help them succeed, we have to be careful not to live vicariously through them.”