You may joke you’re the kind of mom who forces her kid to put on a cardigan because you feel cold, but the reality is your attempts to protect your child – or even to take charge of certain areas of her life – may be doing more harm than good.
According to verywellfamily.com, “control-freak parenting”, although well-meaning, can pose certain dangers.
Control kills creativity
Yes, you know that leopard have spots, but did it occur to you that a leopard with rainbow squiggles is a sign that your child is giving vent to her imagination? Steer her too firmly into the mainstream, and you’ll teach her that if she doesn’t do things the same way they’ve always been done, she’s on the wrong track – and that kind of thinking has absolutely no place in in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Worse still, you’ll get her thinking that making mistakes is something not to be tolerated – another sure dampener on the quest for curiosity and knowledge-seeking.
Control kills natural learning
Of course, it’s not ideal to go to school without a jersey in the middle of a cold snap. But, the thing is, once your child has made that mistake, she’s unlikely to do it again. Loosen the reins a little, and she’ll have all the advantages of learning about consequences – and finding her own solutions will, in turn, help her build skills like conflict resolution, resilience and self-efficacy.
Control is exhausting
Would you enjoy being forced to go out every night of the week? No. Nor does your child relish the prospect of endless extra-murals. It’s tiring, and takes away time for natural exploration and play (which is, incidentally, the best form of learning).
What the expert says
Education psychologist Jenny da Silva notes that over-controlling, helicopter parents may inadvertently raise children who are too timid and scared to reach out on their own. “They may become dependent on their caregivers for basic needs, like bathing or homework, which they should be able to do themselves,” she warns. She adds that they may be over-reliant on their parents and unwilling to handle tasks and responsibilities on their own. This may, eventually, see them struggling to set boundaries or develop a strong self-identity. Plus, they often lack confidence in their own abilities.
The ultimate outcome?
“Children battle to regulate their emotions and behaviour, and find it challenging to adapt to social situations. This may lead to social anxiety because they are unconfident about their own behaviours, and uncertain how others will respond to them. They may also feel a sense of entitlement, because they have always been at the centre of their parents’ universe. Plus, because they haven’t been taught fundamentals around sleep and nutrition, they may experience health issues in later life.”
Jenny adds that the answer doesn’t lie in relinquishing your parental responsibilities entirely. Children of under-controlling parents experience just as many challenges. “The key is to bear in mind your child’s age and developmental stage. As much as we want children who are independent and able to function on their own in society, we don’t want to place undue pressures and responsibilities on their shoulders. We ultimately want children who are self-sufficient, but who are also able to take responsibility seriously.”
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.