One of the most important roles of a parent, especially during a child’s younger years, is protection. Animals and humans alike are instinctually driven to protect their young from danger, and other potential threats. However, at some point a parent must know when to bring a child close, and when to let them “fly the coop.”
That being said, it is completely appropriate for a parent to want to ward off any potential harm that could come upon your child. The question becomes at what point does a parent’s potentially overprotective ways actually inflict harm on the development of their child? At The UCLA Family Commons we help parents navigate common obstacles that come with the process of growing not only as individuals, but also together as a family.
Whether it be in Social Skills, Martial Arts, or during a family coaching session, we frequently remind parents that not only is it not possible to protect their children from experiencing life’s tough times – they shouldn’t. Research repeatedly supports the need for children to experience stress in order to become resilient. If we don’t allow our children the opportunity to “bounce back” from stress – later in their life, they will not have the skills or strength to handle it on their own.
If you enroll your child in martial arts because you feel he or she is too sensitive, be mindful they are developing strength and confidence through that hand-to-hand contact. As a parent your role is to support your child after a difficult class and encourage them to get up and keep going. By not jumping in to interfere, you model the strength you want them to develop and reinforce the values you target for them.
Similarly, if your child is taking social skills classes so they may learn to better navigate relationships and interact with their peers, resist the urge to get involved in a social challenge they may be experiencing. Allow your child the opportunity to practice the skills they are learning in the group as opposed to immediately rescuing them.
Many parents are left wondering how they can protect their children without becoming overly involved. As a parent, enrolling them in these classes is the safeguard on its own. You’re providing them with the tools necessary to face the world ahead. As you have likely experienced in your own life – there will be obstacles, mean people and dangers. At The Commons, our model urges parents to help their children develop strong decision-making and problem solving skills so that when they are on their own, they have a tool kit on which they can rely.
One day, they will move on into the wild by themselves. While you will always love them and instinctually want to protect them – remember you can’t protect them from growing up.