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How Overprotective Parents Set Their Children up for Failure

Grace loves to write commentaries on psycho-cultural and sociocultural dynamics in their myriad forms.

Overprotective parents are only doing a disservice by sheltering their children from life. They are preventing their children from exploring and enjoying the normal things of childhood.

Overprotective parents are only doing a disservice by sheltering their children from life. They are preventing their children from exploring and enjoying the normal things of childhood.

Why Sheltering Children Prevents Them From Coping in the Real World

More and more studies have confirmed that children of overprotective parents are risk-averse, have difficulty making decisions, and lack the wherewithal to become successful in life.

Furthermore, children of overprotective (OP) parents cannot deal adequately with hardships and other frustrations of life. In other words, they have a very low tolerance for frustration and crumble at the first sign of difficulty. Kids need to face challenges to prepare for the real world!

What Is Overprotective Parenting?

  • Sheltering
  • Constant Supervision and Micromanagement
  • Prevention of Taking Responsibility
  • Excessive Catering and Over-Consoling
  • Controlling of the Social Sphere
  • Excessive Caution
  • Creating Dependency
Sheltering children only makes them extremely dependent and unable to cope in the real world.

Sheltering children only makes them extremely dependent and unable to cope in the real world.

Protecting Versus Overprotecting Your Child

I remember when I was in eighth grade, there was a boy whose mother took him to school every day. There was nothing wrong with the boy and he was an honor student. The other pupils in the class found it totally absurd and ludicrous that a mother would take her 13-year-old child to school.

He was constantly derided by the other children, and called a mama's boy or worse. If his mother did not take him to school, his father did! Even the teachers disrespected him, calling him an infant. When the weather was bad, he stayed home from school.

This boy never participated in school events as many of them were unsupervised. His parents insisted upon being present at his every move. Of course, he never had any friends while in the eighth grade. The other children thought that he was too peculiar and babyish. Some of the other boys consistently bullied him to no end. Everywhere he went was with his parents. This is clearly abnormal for an early adolescent who should be forming some type of friendship and independence.

What Does Helicopter Parenting Mean?

Helicopter parents, cosseting parents, cosseters, bulldozer parents, or lawnmower parents are terms used to describe intrusive parents who are overly involved in their child's progress in life, especially in education. According to expert Alicia Bradley, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and adjunct professor:

"This term is used a lot with adolescents or even adult children [and refers to] trying to always be involved in every aspect of that child's life, not just in a supportive way, but in a controlling way. Many times this can be difficult for the child and end up causing stress or tension in the relationship."

If helicopter parenting is detrimental to children, when and why did it evolve? Former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, Julie Lythcott-Haims, details the events spanning from the 1980s which contributed to the evolution and coining of the term "helicopter parents." This decade was characterized by an increase in child abductions throughout the U.S. and included the abduction of Adam Walsh which gained national attention and pushed Congress to create the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 1984 later saw an increase in the popularity of the "playdate," during which kids were no longer left unsupervised by parents. By 1990, child development researchers Foster Cline and Jim Fay formerly coined the term "helicopter parent."

There are parents who believe that children should never experience frustrations, difficulties, and other perils in life.

There are parents who believe that children should never experience frustrations, difficulties, and other perils in life.

Actions, Intentions, and Traits of Overprotective Parents

Sheltering

Oftentimes, overprotective parents believe that they are doing the best thing for their children. Parents often shelter their kids from the "harsher," "more difficult," and "less desirable" aspects of childhood. According to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in which 190 children were examined for anxiety and co-concurring child behavior symptoms, "Maternal overprotective parenting was significantly higher in the group of children with behavior disorders . . . ." The study suggests that OP parenting styles negatively impact behavior in the long run, despite the parents' intention for their children to have the best life that can be offered.

Constant Supervision and Micromanagement

These children are often not free to indulge in unsupervised activities like other children. Their parents are of the school that the best activities are supervised ones. Parents who constantly micromanage deprive their children of free will and prevent them from becoming proactive adults.

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Prevention of Taking Responsibility

OP children are not assigned household chores and other responsibilities because their parents contend that these are anathema to a carefree childhood. Children who are not given responsibilities, not asked to pitch in, and not self-reliant, fail to thrive in standards situations.

Excessive Catering and Over-Consoling

Children who are excessively catered to expect everything at the drop of a hat. Patience and resiliency are not something that is learned from over-indulgence. A study published by the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford Univerity found that coping with early life stress expanded regions of the brain that help control resiliency. For instance, a child who is consoled for receiving a bad mark on a paper does not benefit. Instead, the lesson should be character building and further prepare the child for the future. Rejection is a part of life and offers a good opportunity to teach a child the power of bouncing back.

The Differences in Reported Stress Levels Across Generations

The American Psychological Association commissions an annual study termed Stress in America. 2015 data revealed that younger generations are experiencing more stress than older generations: "On average, Millennials and Gen Xers report higher levels of stress than Boomers and Matures... and have done so since 2012."

Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., explains how secure and relaxed parenting styles help to keep cortisol levels low in children, reduce stress, and encourage the development of self-soothing techniques. Dr. Dewar adds that this style of sensitive, responsive parenting is thought to enhance problem-solving abilities, attention skills, and school readiness.

Reported stress levels are on the rise in younger generations. Parenting styles that reduce stress levels will help prevent children from floundering in the stressors of life.

Reported stress levels are on the rise in younger generations. Parenting styles that reduce stress levels will help prevent children from floundering in the stressors of life.

Controlling of Social Sphere

Parents who control their child's social sphere hinder them from branching out on their own and developing essential social skills that will later serve them in the adult world. By worrying about the influences of other children, parenting styles, and lifestyles, sheltered children miss out on learning how to embrace and adapt to differences in opinions, preferences, and life choices. Underexposing a child makes them maladapted to the real world.

Excessive Caution

When a parent incessantly worries, tracks, or snoops on a child (via cellular devices, social media, or by reading private content such as written diaries), the child loses their sense of individuality and sense of self. The parent tries to pacify their fears by digging into their child's private life rather than developing a healthy relationship founded on trust and open communication. Parents who worry about catastrophic events and bar their child from living life raise an adult who will be risk-averse later in life.

Creating Dependency

Overprotective parents are invasive in other ways. They solve problems for their children that the latter are often capable of solving themselves. They infantilize their children by making them feel incapable of charting their own course. In fact, these parents are making their children extremely dependent and infantilized past an appropriate age.

The overprotected child will likely not learn the skills needed to form their own identity and learn how to solve problems independently. They will not know how to use critical thinking skills to handle different life situations. Their frustration tolerance can be low and anxiety can be high.

— Alicia Bradley, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

How Overprotecting a Child Affects Them at School

Traits of an OP Child in School:

  • Dependent on Teachers
  • Labeled a Difficult Student
  • Lacking in Maturity
  • Sense of Entitlement
  • Easy Target for Bullies
  • Labeled Misfits
  • Academically Ahead, Socially Behind
  • Lacking in Knowledge of Age-Appropriate Life Situations

Dependent on Teachers

Teachers are not especially pleased with OP children. Teachers often have to assume quasi-parental roles with these kids, doing things such as tying their shoes and performing other tasks that they should be performing themselves. Many teachers voice utter dismay at the backwardness of overprotected children. These are the children who have poor or nonexistent social, emotional, and survival skills.

Labeled a Difficult Student

Furthermore, such children are often the most difficult pupils around. These children often expect teachers to mollycoddle them as their parents have done. They get quite a surprise when teachers treat them like their other students. Oftentimes, these children cannot adjust well to the school environment where some sort of independence is required.

Lacking in Maturity

Children of overprotective parents are often years behind in maturity in comparison to their more free-range peers. Teachers further remark that these kids are highly dependent and insist on being assisted as much as possible. Teachers do not have the time to individually assist each child as there are often many kids in the classroom setting. In other words, overprotected kids are quite problematic for teachers.

Sense of Entitlement

Because of their upbringing, sheltered kids have a sense of entitlement and feel they should have their way. They were not told by their parents that they are not the center of the universe and they must learn to cooperate with others. Because they have a high sense of specialness, they often become quite unhinged when situations are not in their favor.

Easy Target for Bullies

Many such children are often prey for school bullies because they did not develop the social and street-savvy needed to survive the school environment. Bullies usually target children who are quite defenseless and extremely vulnerable. In other words, bullies do not attack children who possess self-confidence, social and street-savvy, because they know it would be a losing battle. In a study of 197 kindergarteners published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, researchers concluded that:

"Relations between shyness and certain indices of maladjustment were stronger among children with mothers characterized by higher neuroticism, BIS sensitivity, and an overprotective parenting style . . . . "

What Is BIS Sensitivity?

BIS sensitivity or behavioral inhibition sensitivity helps to regulate aversive motives, during which a subject moves away from an undesirable stimulus. OP children of BIS-sensitive parents find it difficult to try new and different situations and they are often risk-aversive themselves. They tend not to be adventurous and are quite timorous regarding life situations.

Labeled Misfits

OP children are often not respected by their peers because of their infantile mannerisms. Their peers consider them utter misfits. Such children do not have the bounce and competitiveness that children from free-range environments often possess. They are often needy and dependent at an age when gradual independence should occur.

Academically Ahead, Socially Behind

Oftentimes, OP children are years behind in development in comparison to their peers. Of course, when parents excessively infantilize their children, it makes them socially, emotionally, and psychological retarded. Even though these children earn high grades, they lack common sense. Other children sense this and these children are often targeted not only by bullies, but other stronger children.

Lacking in Knowledge of Age-Appropriate Life Situations

These kids are sheltered and not aware of age-appropriate life situations. An overprotected 13-year-old often acts as if he or she is several years younger than their actual chronological age. They are also overly dependent upon their parents as they were seldom, if ever, allowed to independently explore their social environment as other children do.

Teachers find that overprotected children tend to be overly dependent and deficient in decision making and judgment skills, and lack accountability and responsibility.

Teachers find that overprotected children tend to be overly dependent and deficient in decision making and judgment skills, and lack accountability and responsibility.

The Consequences of Treating Teenagers Like Children

Overprotected teenagers are often lost in comparison to their more free-range peers and tend to be:

  • Outcasts and Pariahs
  • Dependent and Risk-Adverse

While their free-range peers are free to explore adolescence in all its intricacies, the overprotected teenager is either kept under a severely tight rein or overly scheduled in activities of their parents' choosing. They are treated more like children than like the burgeoning independent adults they are becoming.

These teenagers often have quaintly inappropriate curfews for their ages while other peers have more relaxed curfews. Many overprotected teenagers become resigned to their parental influence, just accepting it as their lot in life. Oftentimes, overprotected teenagers accept their overprotective environment as normal. Some are so infantilized and passive that they believe that they can do nothing about it.

Outcasts and Pariahs

Overprotected teenagers are more at a loss in the high school environment than their counterparts in either elementary and junior high school. These teenagers often have nonexistent or extremely poor social skills. This makes them outcasts and pariahs among their peers. Teachers furthermore find such teenagers distressing and disturbing to say the least. These teenagers are emotionally underdeveloped in many ways.

Dependent and Risk-Averse

OPed teenagers are the most dependent and risk-averse teens around. Because many of them had no freedom and time to indulge in unsupervised behavior, many of them become quite unhinged when presented with an opportunity to participate in independent behavior. Teenagers who are the wildest and the most rebellious at gatherings are usually the sheltered ones who were kept under a tight watch by their parents.

Overprotected teenagers are on a very tight rein. They have a more restrictive environments than other teenagers.

Overprotected teenagers are on a very tight rein. They have a more restrictive environments than other teenagers.

Overprotected Children Do Not Possess the Life Skills Needed for College

During the college years, many overprotected young adults find it extremely difficult and onerous to adjust to college or university life and are often:

  • Socially Unrelatable
  • Likely to Become Unhinged
  • Incapable of Living Independently
  • Unable to Make Decisions

Alicia Bradley, LCPC and adjunct psychology professor explains:

"If [a young adult's] sense of identity is not formed, they may not know how to make some important decisions when they are getting out on their own, such as what field they want to get into, how to manage having a job and being a high-functioning, independent adult."

This applies especially if they elect to attend a school away from their parents' domiciles.

Socially Unrelatable

Overprotected college students are often the bane of their more independent peers and roommates. The latter do not understand how the former is oftentimes quite immature and do not possess essential life/survival skills every adult should have.

Likely to Become Unhinged

Many overprotected teenagers are under such extreme restraints that at the first opportunity when they are away from their parents, they become totally unhinged and wild. Bradley adds:

"[OP children] may also hold some resentment towards the parent for not allowing them the ability to grow and develop like their peers. This can cause a strain in the relationship and that child may begin to push back and engage in some risky or undesirable behaviors."

Incapable of Living Independently

These are the young adults who possess very little or no sort of life skills. They are often a horror to the more responsible roommate who was raised to be independent at an early age. Many OP children, once they reach college age, find it arduous to live on their own without their parents.

Unable to Make Decisions

These young adults are extremely dependent and are unaccustomed to independent behavior and decision-making. According to an article on PsychologyToday.com titled, "The Effects of 'Helicopter Parenting:'"

"College-aged students whose parents are overly involved in their academic lives, or whose parents created rigidly structured childhood environments, are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. They may also experience academic difficulties."

Many of these students have parents who choose their school and their majors in the hopes that everything will be smooth for them. They also find it onerous to use independent judgment regarding their college courses and in everyday life, however, many of these overprotected students flunk out because they clearly do not possess the prerequisite independence to survive and thrive.

Traits of an Adult-Child

In the workplace, OP children as adults are incapable of using independent and logical judgment regarding their tasks. They are not self-starters and depend on their supervisors or superiors to tell them what to do.

In the workplace, OP children as adults are incapable of using independent and logical judgment regarding their tasks. They are not self-starters and depend on their supervisors or superiors to tell them what to do.

How Overprotected Children Are Hindered in the Workplace

In the work world, overprotected young adults fare even worse. The signs of an OP potential hire include:

  • Parents Who Attend the Job Interview
  • The Adult-Child Complex
  • Lack of Independent Thinking

Supervisors and superiors are neither going to tolerate nor placate this infantilized adult. Many employers express dismal horror at incoming prospective employees whose overprotective parents come with them during interviews.

Parents Who Attend the Job Interview

This was never done before. It used to be when a prospective employee goes for a job interview, he or she went alone. Nowadays, there is a "new" style of parenting that the parent is very involved in even though that "child" is considered an adult in societal eyes.

The Adult-Child Complex

The OPed child's parents appear at their child's job interview, informing the interviewer of how special their child is and the skills that can be contributed to the company. Of course, many interviewers are quite nonplussed at this. They figure, and rightly so, that something is quite amiss here. This adult-child is quite immature and would be bad news for the company. The prospect of this adult-child getting a job is now dismal to none.

Lack of Independent Thinking

If an adult-child is hired, they are going to be an immense burden on a modern corporate team. These adult-children make poor employees. They possess no concept of initiative nor independent thinking. They constantly want to be told what to do as befitting their familial environment. These employees are clearly not promotable. On the contrary, these employees are more likely to be fired or serially fired. Overprotected adult-children are more likely to be unemployable than their peers who were raised in a more independent environment.

Overprotected children, as adults, are often the more passive ones in relationships, whether platonic, romantic, or committal. They expect to be taken care of.

Overprotected children, as adults, are often the more passive ones in relationships, whether platonic, romantic, or committal. They expect to be taken care of.

Overprotected Children Tend to Struggle in Relationships

OPed adult-children tend to wind up in defunct relationships, during which the following happens:

  • (The OP Adult-Child) Is Extremely Passive
  • Parental Involvement
  • Imbalanced Dynamics

Extremely Passive

Regarding relationships, these adult-children are often extremely passive in any relationship they go into. Most of the relationships, whether it is platonic or romantic, do not last very long.

Parental Involvement

No person wants to compete with the omnipresence of a parent or parents regarding relationships. People often avoid relationships with such adult-children as the relationship can be called vampiric in more ways than one. These people are viewed as babies and no one wants to babysit an adult.

Imbalanced Dynamics

Many adult-children, because of their lack of savvy or social skills, enter into abusive relationships when their partner is the more dominant and/or parental partner. Even though this relationship is often abusive and unequal, these adult-children reluctantly remain in such relationships because they do not possess the means to dissolve it.

The Consequences of Overprotecting Children

Why OP Children Fail in School

In conclusion, overprotected children are slated for failure in school and in life. These children are so infantilized by their parents that they cannot survive the school environment. Teachers view the child as emotionally, socially, and psychologically backward even though they can be academically prodigious.

Other children avoid OP children because of their needy and dependent nature. They are often a target for bullies because of their lack of social skills and street smarts.

Why OP Children Struggle With Socializing

Overprotected teenagers do not possess the skills that other teenagers possess. They are often not capable of indulging in independent social activities which are necessary in their development. Many overprotected teenagers are given harsher and stricter curfews than their peers.

Oftentimes, the only non-school activities that OP teenagers indulge in are those mandated by their parents or supervised by adults. Many parents believe that the teenage years are highly vulnerable and it is best that their teenagers be supervised as much as possible in order "to stay out of trouble."