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15 Things We Shouldn’t Stop Kids From Doing

15 Things We Shouldn’t Stop Kids From Doing

All children are naturally curious about any and everything the world has to offer. Kids are literally real-life “noobs” who find every new experience interesting, intriguing, and exciting. They react to positive and negative stimuli with extreme emotion because they essentially don’t know how else to react. Simply put, children live all of their experiences to the fullest, whether good or bad.

As we grow older, we remember less and less about what it was like to be a child and to be constantly amazed at the world around us. And once we have kids of our own, we start thinking that they should simply act like we do. We need to remember that children are still learning about life and everything it encompasses. And we could definitely learn a thing or two from them while we’re at it. Think twice before intervening when children do any of the following:

1. Crying

Our first instinct when a child cries is to run to them and find out what’s wrong. While it’s definitely okay to show that you care for a child, you shouldn’t try to stop them from crying altogether. Crying isn’t comfortable; if they could stop, they would. But sometimes they just need to let it out. And it definitely doesn’t help the situation if you’re standing over them demanding they tell you what the problem is over and over again.

2. Laughing

I know, who would stop a kid from laughing? Of course, laughter isn’t always appropriate under certain circumstances, and it’s important to teach your children about these situations. But like crying, laughing is an involuntary response that can’t be controlled at times. When I worked with children, I never got upset with them for finding something so funny that they couldn’t stop themselves from laughing. Isn’t life supposed to be fun? Instead, I’d ask them to leave the room to compose themselves, but there was no reason to get upset with them for catching a case of the giggles.

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3. Fooling around

Alright, so this is a little more controllable, but what’s the point of life if you’re going to take it so seriously? Don’t you remember what it was like to be a kid and so carefree that you actually had the time and energy to goof around? I’m not saying you should let your children act inappropriately, but what’s so bad about hiding in a clothes rack at Target to mess with your sister? When’s the last time you had that much fun at Target? Like I said before, maybe we could learn something from our little rascals.

4. Jumping in puddles

Watch this video, and you’ll immediately want to take your kid outside and dance in the rain. Okay, so their shoes will be wet, and you might have to wash them. I’m sorry you’re the adult, but as old Blue Eyes says, “That’s life.” This is another one of those moments that you forgot is actually fun to little kids. In their own way, they’re experimenting with their surroundings. Let them have their fun while they’re young enough for it to be socially acceptable.

5. Making a mess

Whether or not they mean to be, kids are messy little humans. But again, what’s the worst that could happen? Perhaps you’ll have to scrub the floor, do some laundry, or repaint the entire house (okay, maybe not that last one). But if your kid spills paint on her shirt while she’s creating a masterpiece for the fridge, can you really get upset with her? If they’re being careless, that’s one thing. But mistakes happen. Don’t discourage your kids from getting their hands dirty in the name of art or science. Those worms aren’t going to dig themselves up, you know.

6. Reading

You’re probably thinking, “Who would stop a kid from reading?” Sadly, I’ve heard plenty of other adults tell students to put away comic books and take out “a real book.” Okay, so they were reading, and fully engaged in their reading, and you want them to stop and read something that you consider interesting instead? What if I told you to watch wrestling instead of So You Think You Can Dance tonight? I bet you’d choose to just not watch TV at all. What do you think a kid will do if you restrict what he’s allowed to read?

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7. Playing an instrument

I’m looking at you, Homer Simpson. When kids start showing an interest in a musical instrument, parents usually feel a mix of excitement and trepidation, knowing they’ll be dealing with squeaky scales and repetitions of Hot Crossed Buns for the next month or so. While you should definitely put a limit on how late your child is up practicing his tuba, you should never discourage him from picking it up when he feels driven to practice. Even if it interferes with your after work nap time.

8. Focusing on an interest

This goes along with the last two sections. There was a popular commercial a few years ago in which a girl’s parents and teachers constantly dissuaded her from learning about science, power tools, and other so-called “manly” things. How can children ever break the mold and grow into adults that will change the world if they’re constantly being told to fit in? Just because a kid is into something you don’t think they should be into doesn’t mean you should stop them from pursuing their passion.

9. Arguing with a friend

I’m not saying you shouldn’t monitor the situation when you realize two friends are having a fight, and you should definitely never let it come to blows. But children need to learn to sort their arguments out on their own. You can certainly act as a moderator, but you should let both parties come to the realization that they both were most likely somewhat at fault, and that they can also both put their differences behind them and move on.

10. Doing homework

Seriously, who would stop a kid from completing their obligation to school? But, remember all the other things we sign our kids up for in the name of preparing them for life? “Hurry up and finish your work, you have karate and baseball practice tonight! And you can’t do it in the morning because you have choir!” Sound familiar? I know, we want our kids to experience as many things in life as possible, but we can’t let them burn out, and we certainly can’t force them to shirk one obligation in favor of another.

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11. Trying things on their own

Many kids don’t want to admit that they need help doing something. Most kids don’t think they need help, and will try to go about doing something their own way time and time again until they’re physically and mentally exhausted. I’d often see kids working on a math problem, knowing they’re doing it incorrectly, and let them finish anyway before I intervened. They learn much more by trying, failing, and trying again than by being caught before they fail in the first place. Let them scrape their knees when trying to ride a bike; it will make mastering the skill that much more rewarding for them when they finally do get it on their own.

12. Expressing themselves

Be honest: If your 13-year-old son came home with a green mohawk, how would you feel? I imagine your first thought would be, “What are people going to think if they see my son and me together?” Let kids experiment with who they are. Again, they’re new to the world, and simply trying to find their way through it. And if they simply follow in everyone else’s footsteps, they run the risk of becoming another office drone. They have their entire life to toe the line for their boss and society in general; let their voice be heard while they’re still young.

13. Being weird

As if dying your hair green isn’t weird enough. But again, let them push the limits of social boundaries. John Waters is a bit weird. Robin Williams was too. And I can’t imagine what Jim Carrey was like as a child. He was probably a nightmare for his parents and teachers. But I also bet they (at least some of the time) let him get away with some ridiculous stuff. Kids don’t have to fit any kind of mold yet; again, that’s for boring adults with boring office jobs. They’re not there yet. Let them experiment with their weirdness, and see where it gets them.

14. Playing

You should probably know by now that play is the work of children. And, ironically, when children play, most of the time they’re emulating “grown up” jobs. They play house, teacher, doctor. They build things. They dig for stuff. When you think about it, isn’t it amazing that kids find the stuff we think of as boring work-related tasks interesting and entertaining? Too often, we beat it out of them (not literally, I’d hope) by putting them in various structured activities (like I talked about before). Let them have time to play and find their true passion on their own.

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15. Growing up

This whole article was about letting kids be kids, so this part probably comes as a surprise. However, I think most parents reach a point where they realize they had forced their kid to grow up too fast, only to want them to stay young forever. They’ll always be your baby, but they won’t always be a baby. Once the time comes for them to get their license, graduate high school, and move away to college, it’s time to start treating your kids as what you’ve always prepared them to be: responsible young adults.

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm1.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

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Published on July 23, 2020

11 Signs You’re an Overprotective Parent (And What to Do About It)

11 Signs You’re an Overprotective Parent (And What to Do About It)

Have you ever followed your child around the playground? They may have been a toddler and you were worried they would take the wrong step and fall off the jungle gym. Therefore, you followed your toddler around, keeping them within arm’s reach so that you could prevent them from falling or having an accident.

I have been that parent at the playground in the past. With twin boys who had no fear as toddlers, I would follow them onto playground equipment because I was concerned for their safety.

After a few months of doing this, I stopped. I came to realize that children need to learn through their own experiences. They will fall, but they will also learn how to avoid danger and make calculated judgments about risks through their experiences. If I was always there to stop them from falling, they wouldn’t learn to stop themselves.

They had to learn things on their own. Of course, as a parent, it is still my responsibility to not place them in situations where they could be terribly injured.

For example, we started at playgrounds that were intended for children under the age of five. We didn’t move up to the big playgrounds until they were old enough and aware of their behaviors and the risks involved in playground play activities.

Why Parents Become Overprotective

The intention of overprotective parenting is well-meaning. These types of parents are highly concerned about their children’s safety and decision making. Their ultimate goal is to protect their child from harm. Parents should be concerned about the safety and well-being of their children.

However, on the flip side, parents should also be teaching their children about risk and responsibility. Those lessons are best taught through life experience. If we are always following behind our children, ready to catch them at a moment’s notice, then we aren’t allowing them to learn about risk and responsibility.

Unger, a researcher on overprotective parenting, suggests that parents should allow children to participate in activities on their own that are considered low-risk.[1] This means allowing children to engage in activities on their own that provide “manageable amounts of risk and responsibility.”

Unger cited that parents have become increasingly more protective of their children and are much more watchful of their children’s activities than previous generations.

The problem with being an overprotective parent is that the child misses out on the opportunity to build responsible behavior skills, build autonomy, and develop self-esteem. Their confidence can be undermined when mom or dad are always watching and guiding their behavior.

They can develop a sense that they are unable to make their own good decisions because they are never allowed to do so in life. Their confidence and self-esteem are hindered when they aren’t allowed to do things on their own without their parents hovering or watching over them.

What Are the Signs of an Overprotective Parent?

Parents with overly protective tendencies think that they are helping their child. Their goal is to protect their child, but it goes to the extreme. Below are some ways that a parent can be overly protective.

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This type of behavior can end up harming their child’s development when one or more of these behaviors is present. There are likely other ways that a parent can be overprotective of their child, as this list is not comprehensive.

These are examples so you can assess your behavior to determine if you need to loosen up overly protective parenting habits.

  1. You choose your child’s friends or direct them toward friendships with particular children.
  2. You don’t allow them to do activities on their own. For example, not allowing them to walk the dog in front of your home even though you live in a safe neighborhood and could even watch them from the front window.
  3. You are constantly monitoring your child. For example, you show up at their sports practices often to check in and see how they are doing or you go online to check their grades every week to ensure that they don’t have any missing work in any classes. If they do have missing work, you make sure that they get it completed and turned in before their final grade can be affected.
  4. You prevent them from making mistakes when you can see that they are going to make a low-risk mistake. For example, not allowing your five-year-old to put ketchup on their pancakes because you know they are going to dislike it and ruin their breakfast. You won’t allow them to chose to make such a mistake because you know that they will cry and get upset and you want to prevent them from becoming emotionally upset.
  5. You don’t allow them to go to friend’s homes without you.
  6. Sleepovers at other homes or camps are never allowed during their childhood.
  7. You drill them with questions about their life when they are out of your sight, such as wanting to know about all the details of their school day every day when you pick them up from school.
  8. You guide them to the extent that they are prevented from failing. For example, not allowing your teen to try out for the basketball team because you know that they will not make the cut.
  9. You make their decisions for them. For example, you don’t allow them to choose whether they can walk to school or ride the bus. You drive them and do not allow for any decision outside of this because you want to keep them safe.
  10. You are always volunteering to serve in their school classroom or chaperone the school trips because you want to “keep an eye on what is going on in your child’s class”.
  11. You do not allow them to have secrets or privacy. For example, they are not allowed to have a locked diary that you do not read or you don’t allow them to lock their bedroom door ever.

Why Being Overprotective Is Not a Good Idea

Kids learn from natural consequences. If they are not allowed to have natural consequences because their parent is continually protecting them from failure and harm, their development is being hindered.

For example, let’s look at a child named Sally who is 13. She is a child who is overly managed by her parents and is not allowed to go to sleepovers or even go to another friend’s home. Her parents are worried about stranger danger and what can happen if they are not with their child.

Sally is allowed to have friends at her home, but her parents are always watching the kids. Whenever Sally and her friends begin to disagree, the argument is squelched before the children can even begin to work things out between themselves because Sally’s parents will intervene and solve the problem.

Sally is never alone with friends outside of school because her parents are always present. The presence of her parents in her socialization is hindering her development.

She doesn’t know how to work out disagreements between her peers because she has never been allowed the opportunity to even try. Her social skills are lacking because parents intervene to direct her behavior while she is with her friends.

Kids Need Space and Time

Kids need space and time to be independent while they are children. If Sally were to be left alone with her friends, her friends would eventually push back at her bossy behavior when her parents are not present.

However, because Sally’s parents are always present she gets away with being overly-bossy to her friends. She is not learning about the natural consequences of her bossiness but someday will when it may be difficult to change her behaviors as she is older in more set in her ways.

It is easier to learn through natural consequences at a young age. Sally will likely end up going to therapy as an adult because she can’t keep friendships intact. Her bossy behaviors and lack of awareness have led to her having severed friendships repeatedly as a young adult.

She will have to work with a therapist to uncover the reason why she is losing friends and then work to change her behavior to learn better ways to act towards her friends in the future.

Effects of Overprotection

There are a variety of effects of overprotective parenting. It is often dependent on the methods the parent utilizes and the extent of the overprotective behavior.

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For example, let’s look at Tina who is a girl age 10. She wants to run and participate in her school’s after-school competitive track program. However, she is not allowed to participate in after school activities because her parents are worried that she will be exposed to boys and may start having relationships with the opposite sex too young.

Another concern is that a boy may “take advantage” of their daughter, so they want to protect her from being exposed to boys outside of school and their supervision.

The problem with this is that Tina is missing out on participating in a sports activity that could help her develop friendships. She is also missing out on the opportunities associated with being a part of a team, working hard physically to compete, and developing sportsmanship skills.

Her parents are well-meaning, but their over-protection is preventing her from participating in a sports activity that she deeply desires to engage in.

There are other effects of overprotective parenting. Below are some examples.

Examples of Overprotective Parenting

This list is not comprehensive, as every parenting situation and family is unique. However, this list can help provide some insight into the detrimental effects that overprotective parenting can cause.

1. Lack of Self-Esteem Development

If children are not allowed to try things on their own, they cannot build self-confidence and self-esteem.

2. Lack of Autonomy

If a child is always accustomed to having a parent around and supervising their behavior, they can become dependent on the decision making of their parents because they are never allowed to be alone or do things alone.

3. Anxiety

A child who is never allowed to try to do things on their own can become anxious when they are finally allowed to try things out on their own. They worry about making mistakes or failing because they have continually had a parent to help them avoid mistakes and failure.

4. Lack of Responsibility

When parents are always helping and guiding their children to an extreme, children will fail to develop their own responsibility skills. If they are never held responsible for anything, how can they develop a sense of responsibility?

5. People-Pleasing Tendencies

Youniverse explained that children who have overprotective parents who constantly direct their children’s behavior end up seeking the approval of those in their life.[2] These children will grow up accustomed to someone always telling them what the “right behavior” looks like.

If they don’t have that praise or comfort of someone saying they did things right, they can become anxious or depressed. They become people-pleasers who seek the appraisal of others.

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6. Risky Behavior

When children are raised in an overly protective home, they often engage in risky behavior when the reigns are lifted. They haven’t experienced the failures associated with low-risk situations at a younger age because of their overly protective parents.

Therefore, when they get older, access to high-risk situations becomes more easily accessible, and without understanding high risk versus low-risk situations, they engage without the wisdom of previous experiences.

Because of their inexperience with risks in general, they may engage in high risk because they are unaware of consequences.

7. Diminished Development Regarding Fear, Social Skills, and Coping Skills

Psychology Today explains that children with overprotective parents have developmental issues, such as not being able to deal with stress and poor social skills.[3]

For example, a child who isn’t allowed to play on a playground because the parent wants to protect their child from injury is prevented from learning about risk-taking on the playground and the bumps and bruises from consequences.

Such a child may grow up to either having too much fear because it was instilled by their parents or have no fear because they have no concept of high-risk versus low-risk behavior.

8. Lack of Immunity

The Psychology Today article also explained that children who have overly protective parents that do not allow exposure to germs can become children who have a compromised immune system. Exposure to germs as children is needed for them to develop a healthy immune system naturally.

When parents are disinfecting everything the child encounters and not allowing exposure to germs (e.g., not allowing them to go to a petting zoo or to play in the sandbox because of the germs in those places), they can be stunting their child’s ability to develop their immune system.

9. Control Freaks

Children who have been parented by control freaks learn this behavior from their parents. Parents are the primary role model of behavior for their children. If children see their parents acting as though they must have control over others and every situation at all times, then they too will learn to behave in this same manner.

What to Do If You Are an Overprotective Parent

If after reading this content you feel that you may be an overprotective parent, there is hope. You can change.

It begins with loosening the reigns of control over your child in a calculated and reasonable manner. Allowing for low-risk behaviors and the consequences involved can help your child become more independent.

There is definitely a balance to protective versus overprotective parenting. Allowing for activities and exposure to experiences that are low-risk is a good way to start.

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For example, allowing your child to play on age-appropriate playground equipment (without following them) is a good first step. They will experience some bumps and bruises, but this is a part of normal development and learning about consequences.

You will want to research authoritative parenting methods if you feel you are an overprotective parent. Overprotective parents tend to be authoritarian parents.

Here is a LifeHack article I previously wrote about authoritarian parenting, so you can understand the drawbacks to this parenting method: Authoritarian Parenting.

Authoritative parenting is not control-based parenting. It involves teaching consequences naturally, allowing age-appropriate decision-making, and having conversations with children rather than dictating for ultimate control and compliance.

MSU Extension provides some great guidelines for authoritative parenting.[4] Below are some of the behaviors they described with authoritative parenting methods:

  • Provide reasonable, age-appropriate expectations for children.
  • Stress and anxiety for children can have positive outcomes, as they are allowed to experience these feelings in small doses as children. They can then build their coping skills and ability to deal with stress and anxiety through experience.
  • Encourage independence, as it helps children build their confidence and self-esteem.
  • Allowing for failures when they are young helps them learn how to pick themselves back up and try again. Developing this ability at a young age regularly will help prepare them for bigger failures when they are older, such as breakups, failed classes, or losing a job.

Final Thoughts

It is never too late to work on our parenting skills. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, therefore, we can always be working on improving our parenting methods.

We all want our children to be successful, happy, and competent as adults. It does not happen overnight. Parenting is a continual process of trying daily to help our children live and learn through their own life experiences.

If we try to protect them every step of the way, then they are not being allowed to truly experience life.

Allow for age-appropriate experiences and allow for failures so that they can learn how to pick themselves back up and try again.

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Featured photo credit: Sue Zeng via unsplash.com

Reference

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