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phoenyx's avatar

Where do you draw the line between protecting your children and allowing them to experience things?

Asked by phoenyx (7385points) June 28th, 2008

I wonder if I’ve become over-protective.

What if Siddhartha had never seen the old man in the crowd?

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23 Answers

elchoopanebre's avatar

I don’t believe there is a blanket answer; you have to take it case by case and see how you feel about each individual instance in which they want freedom and you want to be protective.

MissAnthrope's avatar

The last line is in reference to the book ‘Siddhartha’.

I think this is a question for the ages. Parents constantly battle the two. Having worked extensively with children, from experience, I would say that the more you can allow your child to explore, the better. I think it’s important to always communicate with children and explain what’s dangerous and why. Don’t just say “don’t do this” or “stop doing that”—at certain ages, kids don’t really grasp the abstract, so you have to say, “If you do this, this will happen” (i.e. if you play with this knife, you will get cut and maybe have to go to the hospital). Kids understand a lot more than many adults give them credit for.

Being over-protective is perhaps more damaging, in my opinion, than the opposite. You really, really don’t want to inject too much anxiety into a child’s life if you can help it—they may develop into an anxious adult (and thus affect their entire life).

Humans have a strong curiosity to explore the world, kids in particular. I wouldn’t prevent them from climbing trees, even if you see the potential of them falling out and landing on their head. I have found that adults worry a lot (myself included) and if we let our worries prevail, kids would have a lot less freedom to learn, use their bodies, etc. In addition, I have discovered that when I keep my mouth shut and let the kids climb and such, they usually impress me with their abilities. Most children have strong fear responses and will not attempt things they can’t handle.

As elchoopanebre said, there’s no blanket answer.. for one, some activities are inherently more dangerous than others. Also, each child is different in terms of abilities and mental advancement. I think the only answer is to challenge yourself as a parent to let your child have as much freedom as possible.

scamp's avatar

@AlenaD Thanks for the explaination. I didn’t read the book and had no idea what she was talking about.

MissAnthrope's avatar

No problem. :)

Also, I wanted to add that accidents happen, even when you’re being as careful as you can. So my opinion is that you can’t stop living your life, exploring, or trying new things because there’s a small chance some freak occurrence might happen.

It’s like never leaving the inside of your house because there’s a chance you might get hit by a car. Or not staying in your house because there’s a chance someone might drive through your living room. What I’ve learned as I got older is that sometimes freak accidents happen, but you can only do so much to prevent them. You can’t possibly anticipate every possible thing that might happen, and you shouldn’t, because think of all the other lovely things about the world you could focus on instead. Sometimes things just happen, and no amount of worrying will stop them. :)

phoenyx's avatar

Sorry, yeah, the description is a little too much stream-of-consciousness and not enough explanation.

scamp's avatar

It’s ok. I guess it makes sense to those who have read the book. I am just out of the loop on this one.

kevbo's avatar

Maybe the question is “protecting them from what?” Ultimately, they will spend much more of their life navigating and negotiating the world as an adult. Is sheltering them from a challenging experience as a child really “protecting” them from developing the ability to overcome obstacles in adulthood? I believe many successful people are that way because they dealt with difficulties in childhood. I wouldn’t continue to wish tragedy on children, but successfully overcoming a challenge and (bottom line) managing to stay alive and retain the use of body parts teaches great lessons.

Also, I don’t have kids in the interests of full disclosure, and I don’t know whether I really answered your question.

nocountry2's avatar

My parents, who loved me very much, were unfortunately extremely overprotective, a fact that I grew to resent and as a result was not very willing to confide in them until I was older.

arnbev959's avatar

It depends on the intelligence of the child.

babygalll's avatar

You can never be too careful/too protective with your kids. You are there to protect them as long as you can. Kids today grow up too quickly. Let them live their childhood as long as they can.

flowerchild's avatar

My parent were very strict and overpertective of me when I was growing up. I do have some resentment because of it. I now have 2 teenage daughters that I have allowed to do way more things than I was ever allowed to do. They know their limits. My girls and I have a closeness that my parents and I do not have and I believe it is because they communicate with me and I with them.

hearkat's avatar

I have raised my son to be very independent, by allowing him to make choices and learn from the consequences if his actions. As he demonstrated more and more responsibility and sensibility, I allowed him more and more freedom. At one point he hated how strict I was and often told me I was the meanest mom ever. Now he is 17 and he appreciates the way he was raised and can see how much more mature he is than his peers, and better prepared to be an adult; plus he is willing to openly admit that the idea if being completely on his own is scary… to me, that is maturity in and of itself.

shockvalue's avatar

I’ve always found this video to be spot on: Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do

charliecompany34's avatar

your heart will tell you when to let go. it will not be easy, but it will be timely. remember when you were a child and it will help you release your own.

thebeadholder's avatar

There is a very fine line between keeping them protected and safe and letting them go out and experience life. My parents were very strict, I didn’t tell them anything and I did everything anyway. They were SO afraid of life after losing their daughter at 18 and became so overprotective of me. All I wanted to do was rebel. My children are very young. My boy is so cautious about everything and my little girl wants to experience everything no matter what the cost (two very different personalities). I am not sure what the answer is here. Teach them values and morals…to be good, honest, respectful individuals and pray that the rest will fall in to place. So much of it is out of our hands.

skfinkel's avatar

When ]they are very young, you are in charge of their safety. Yet they still have to have challenges and explore. The best way to do this is to have an environment that is pretty safe for them, and give them lots of freedom within that to explore and wander. It’s important for them to know they can be trusted, be out of your line of vision, and for you to know they are safe.

When they are older, it’s more daunting for parents—especially when cars, alcohol, and other people’s children are in the mix. It seems here the best thing is to let the kids know that they are responsible for their own safety—and they need to be smart and still be able to have a good time.

Raising children is a challenge! Lot’s of examples written here about overprotective parents with children doing what they want anyway—and creating big gaps in communication as they go. No easy answers.

generalspecific's avatar

as a 17 year old girl with pretty over-protective parents, I would say that you just need to let them learn from their mistakes. I happen to be the “wild child”, always wanting to try everything new and be my own person.. and I’ve done some stupid stupid things but I don’t regret them at all, because now I know what not to do in the future. I lost my virginity right after freshman year, but now I’m a “born-again” virgin, I don’t even deal with relationships if I think that’s how they’re gonna turn out because I know I’m not emotionally ready. I’ve also done drugs and I know my parents hate it but that’s a whole other story. and on the other hand, my sister is almost 16 and hasn’t done anything bad ever—no drinking, drugs, sex, cussing, bad grades.. and my parents never had problems with her. it just depends but I’m sort of thankful I made those mistakes early in like, because now it’s like “oh, well that sucked. won’t do that again.”
ahh I dunno, just my two cents.

Mrs_Dr_Frank_N_Furter's avatar

I’m in Espana and my mom let me drink a Sangria (with alcohol(only half though)). At home she and my dad let me try there wine and beer. They do that so when I get older I won’t drink illegally and get in trouble.

charliecompany34's avatar

my wife can be very protective of our three sons no matter the age. as a father, i try to explain, well, that’s just boys. but in any event, there is a threshold where you do let go. when he or she gets a job, has a car, is in college, offers YOU money for gas, there’s your “let-go ” card. when to stop being protective? well, that’s delicate. it varies depending on where you live. inner city? keep an eye on them. suburbs? still keep an eye but relax just a little bit. just moved from the city to the suburbs? “WATCH FOR RAMPANT FREEDOM SYNDROME.”

allow your kids to experience simple things. ok last year, they rode bikes on the sidewalk. but why this year do they want to ride in the street? like curious dogs, the more freedom you give them, the more they’ll venture without a watchful untethered leash. your parenting will determine how far is too far.

YARNLADY's avatar

This is one of those “it depends” kind of questions. Since the abilities of the parents and the child are so different from one family to the next, there is no way to give a specific answer. In general, we stick to the let him go unless he’s going to hurt himself principle. I’m always watching him, below the age of four, and mostly in the same area as he is until the age of 8. I was lucky in that my kids always brought their friend over to our house, so I’m thinking I used the right balance.

The worst part was making a mistake with my oldest son, and then going overboard the opposite way with the youngest.

flutherother's avatar

I used to like climbing trees as a kid and I liked it when I saw my kids doing the same. My heart was in my mouth at times when they got high up and I hoped they wouldn’t fall and they didn’t.

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