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Over-Protective Parents

My blog about jousting with my daughter’s suitors prompted some valid concern by readers. “Are you being over-protective?” they ask. It’s appropriate that we open ourselves up for a critique on this score. It’s a hard balance and we need help striking it. We’ve all watched in horror as the cod…
By Seth Barnes


My blog
about jousting with my daughter’s suitors prompted some valid concern by readers. “Are you being over-protective?” they ask. It’s appropriate that we open ourselves up for a critique on this score. It’s a hard balance and we need help striking it.

We’ve all watched in horror as the coddling mother allows her intimidating four year-old push her around. Similarly, we’ve squirmed when some over-bearing parent has publicly humiliated their child in the grocery store or parking lot.

I believe in risk taking. It’s the only way kids learn. Throw them into the deep end, I say. But you have an obligation to support them and to ensure that they’re not going to drown in that deep end. In the name of “not being overprotective,” a lot of parents fail their children and put them in situations where they haven’t been adequately trained yet. Train ’em well, then turn ’em loose, I say.
 
We sent our two 17-year-old girls to Africa and Mexico for the better part of a year to minister in the slums. You can’t get much more low down and nasty than that. Yet the experience changed their lives.

In past blogs I’ve advocated limiting TV watching or making young men seeking a daughters’ affections pass through the parental gauntlet. Am I contradicting myself? I don’t think so, and it’s because one of the top duties we have as parents is to help our children acquire wisdom. They learn to discern not by parents removing all boundaries, but as we give them gradually increasing opportunities to make more decisions themselves.

I look at it this way. At the age of one, parents have got veto power over 95% of what a child does. In order to teach responsibility and discernment, they need to give up veto power at a rate of about 5% a year (my estimate). By the time a child reaches 17, a parent should have veto power over say, 15% of their life.
 
By that point, as a parent, your ability to protect them is a function of your relationship and very little else. Try and control with authority or with money and you’ll engender bitterness.
 
There is a parent who is currently emailing and calling me on a regular basis about his 23 year-old daughter who is on a project with us. He worries too much and needs to release more. Yes, she may be doing things differently than he would. But, let it go – she has to make her own mistakes now. Most of us as parents are out of balance in that area.

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