Can children be overprotected?

Straight Talk

The Question

Do you think children can be overprotected?

– Amy from Michigan

The Answer
Part 1: Consequences of Overprotection
Part 2: Balance and Communication

Consequences of overprotection (Part 1)

The short answer is YES; I sure do think children can be overprotected. Eventually they have to face life outside the bubble and sometimes they are ill equipped for what is ahead if they were shielded too much. This is a very hard issue for parents who must constantly weigh potential risks and decide which side of the balance to come down on.

Let’s make sure we are talking about the same thing however. Certain risks are never worth taking. The physical and emotion safety of every child must obviously be protected. So of course a house must be “child proofed” for babies and toddlers. Children must be shielded from abuse which means parents have to watch more closely who they are with and where they are playing.

I will assume all that is taken for granted. What your question is really talking about is the degree to which we “control” a child’s life experiences. Is there a way to protect a child from the world and still make sure they don’t grow up totally clueless? I think there is.

I have seen the result of quite a few young people who grew up in too protected an environment spiritually. They were only allowed to have Christian friends, attend Christian schools, and all activities were from within the umbrella of their church. They never heard any bad language; didn’t have any “streets-wise” and had very little idea about the cornucopia of choices that would eventually hit them.

But guess what? They grew up and went off to college. Oh my! Many of them had no equipment for handling the freedom and the secular and worldly lifestyle. And many of them didn’t make it – spiritually that is. They dove off into the world like thirsty camels.

Next: How can I balance what they experience?

Balance and Communication (Part 2)

I think the answer to preventing overprotection is honesty and communication. When you are saying no to an inappropriate movie for their age level, how about telling them why in a very straightforward way? Here is what this movie is about and here are some of the things that are shown in it and here’s why you don’t want to have these images in your mind.

How about exposing them to what they will see in adult life but in a controlled way? For instance, after they hear some bad language, stop and say; “This is how a lot of people talk. We don’t talk this way and here’s why. But you are going to hear this language all your life and you are going to need to make a decision someday about whether you will use it or not.”

When I was a child, my parents served wine on Thanksgiving and Christmas – just those two days as far as I can remember. We were each given a few drops even when we were pretty young. As you grew older you were allowed to have a few drops more. We felt very grown up and special but we understood that drinking could affect you and that’s why we got such a small portion.

I know drinking any alcohol is a controversial topic to many Christians but I’ve always thought my parents were very wise in this area. I respect the way they taught me about the proper use of an adult item. It was never “forbidden fruit” to me.

Some children are more susceptible to peer-pressure than others and that definitely needs to be evaluated with each decision about where to protect and where to expose. One child may be able to handle “the world” better than another. So lots and lots of talking are needed.

I often used the drive home from various events to “de-brief” my daughters. We would talk over all that we saw or heard and I would ask them many questions about what they thought about it. I tried to be realistic with them about what life was all about and what it would be like when they were adults on their own.

My final suggestion is to pray, pray, pray. No one can protect your children better than God. No one loves them more than God – even you. And remember; “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)