Why Children of Overprotective Parents Are Slated to Fail in Life
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 it.
What Is Overprotective Parenting?
- Constant Supervision and Micromanagement
- Prevention of Taking Responsibility
- Excessive Catering and Over-Consoling
- Controlling of the Social Sphere
- Excessive Caution
- Creating Dependency
Signs of Overprotective Parenting
Protecting Versus Overprotecting Your Child
I remember when I was in eighth grade, there was a boy whose mother took him to school everyday. 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."
Actions, Intentions, and Traits of Overprotective Parents
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.
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 is 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 a 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.
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.
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.
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
Challenges at School
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.
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.
Challenges in the Teenage Years
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
OP 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.
Challenges in College Life
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.
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.
Challenges in Work Life
Traits of an Adult-Child
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 which the parent is very involved in even though that "child" is considered an adult in societal eyes.
The Adult-Child Complex
The OP 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.
Challenges in Relationships
Overprotected Children Tend to Struggle in Relationships
OP 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
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.
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.
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.
Slotted for Failure
Overprotecting a child essentially sets them up for failure in school, college, work, and relationships.
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 backwards 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 is 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."
Why OP Children Drop Out of College
During the college years, many OP children cannot reasonably adjust to the rigors of college life. This is especially true if they elect to attend school away from their parents' domicile. Because the university is a more independent and unstructured environment than either grade school, junior high, and high school, the typical overprotected student cannot survive, thus they often flunk out.
Why Adult-Children Struggle in the Workplace
In the work world or the "real world," OP children are quite abysmal failures. They often do not possess the skills necessary to thrive and survive in the workplace. They possess no or low self-confidence, no initiative, and a low tolerance for frustration and hardships which is often commonplace in the work environment.
Furthermore, the supervisor is not their parent but someone who expects them to contribute and pull their weight. Many of these children end up being terminated from their employment—not once but several times. More often they become quite unemployable.
Why Adult-Children Struggle With Relationships
Overprotected children fare worse in relationships where equality is required. They are often at the extreme passive end of relationships as they were raised that way by their parents. Oftentimes, because of their extreme lack of social skills and their passivity, they are drawn into relationships where their partner is more dominant than they are.
Even though these relationships are quite abusive and Svengali-like, they prefer to stay in the "safety" of such relationships than to develop a backbone and have a more fulfilling relationship.
The Importance of Raising Independent, Happy, Successful Children
Overprotected children end up to be failures in life in more ways than one, and OP parents are only damaging their children and either do not or refuse to acknowledge this. Many kids remain in their infantile state until it is quite too late to change! Learn to let go as a parent and let your children grow up. Let us raise our children to be fully functioning and independent adults!
Tips for Raising Independent Children
- Encourage Trying: Encourage your children to try new things, branch out, and get out of their comfort zone. Celebrate effort independent of outcome. If it's trying a new sport or a new activity, celebrate the fact your child gave it a try.
- Encourage Contributions: Invite your children to be part of the team and encourage them to make age-appropriate contributions. Have them help with walking the dog, putting the dishes away, or helping a sibling get to school in the morning. Responsibilities help children learn the value of trust and teamwork.
- Encourage Problem Solving: Rather than getting involved at the first sign of conflict or challenge, let your child work it out themselves. Don't always give the answers away. Encourage them to communicate and analyze the situation. What if they are forgetting their soccer shoes on the way to the game? Ask them what they can do to help themselves remember (e.g. leaving the shoes at the front door the night before).
- Build Confidence: By teaching your kids new tasks every week, you encourage them to develop their repertoire of skills. Learning new skills increases confidence and helps them to take those skills with them into adulthood.
- Let Them Choose: Rather than arranging everything for them, allow them to make decisions for themselves. For instance, ask them, "Red shoes or black shoes?" or "Orange juice or apple juice?" By encouraging the power of choice, you help them to develop skills as an independent thinker. Independent thinking is another means of helping your child to develop leadership skills.
- Average Stress Level by Generation
- Adult Children
- 6 Tips for Raising Independent Children
- Prefrontal Plasticity and Stress Inoculation-Induced Resilience
- Former Stanford Dean Says Overparenting Leads to Kids Being Unprepared for College
- Maternal Characteristics Linking Child Shyness to Psychosocial and School Adjustment . . .
- Overprotective Parenting and Child Anxiety
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams