Is Protecting Your Kids Bad Parenting?

Father at table in red shirt at right holding spoon baby in chair is trying to grab

For all the parents out there, you know the instinctive desire to protect your kids at all costs. Whether you work to keep them safe from bad people or want to go after anyone who mistreats them, the urge to protect them is strong. However, some research has started questioning: is protecting your kids bad parenting?

The Need for Protection

There is a very strong reason that we have the urge to protect our kids. Unlike many other species, they are unable to take care of themselves for quite a while after birth. Their diet is limited, their limbs are useless, and they even struggle to hold their head up for weeks.

As infants, children need someone to look after them, care for them, and protect them.

So is protecting your kids bad parenting? Well, maybe. Yes, we definitely need to protect our kids, but there are some times that protecting our kids does more harm than good. A great example is with the terry cloth mother experiment in the University of Wisconsin.

Monkeys and Kids

I’ve spoken about this experiment before, so if you want more detail, you can find it here.

The simple overview is that researchers took young rhesus monkeys and created two manufactured wireframe “mothers” for them: one with a soft terry cloth exterior and one without. Both were setup to dispense milk.

When the young monkeys were scared or worried, they went to their “mothers” for comfort. The monkeys with terry cloth mothers where able to hold on to their mothers for comfort and grew up well adjusted. The ones with wireframe mothers were unable to find support and grew up angry, antisocial, and aggressive.

What does this have to do with protecting kids or the question “is protecting your kids bad parenting?” The simple answer: protection is not always what kids need. They need something else entirely.

Spoiled, Entitled, Overprotected

We’ve all seen the kids who are spoiled or feel entitled. We’ve heard that they had everything handed to them.

Sometimes, in an effort to be protective, parents are overprotective. They know they grew up lacking, so they make sure their kids never do and give them everything. Or their kids face a challenge that causes them pain, so they solve it for them.

Is protecting your kids bad parenting? When it goes this far, it’s counterproductive for sure making kids struggle to treat people well, and leaving them susceptible to con artists and people that tell them what they want to hear.

What Kids Need

So what do kids need? They need support. They need someone to hear them when they struggle. They need someone to listen when things are tough. They need hugs and affirmation. They need good advice when they ask for it. They need someone to believe in them.

We protect our kids from things they aren’t ready for, but support them as they take on life’s challenges on their own. The older they get, the more they should be ready for, and if they aren’t, we need to ask ourselves what we need to adjust in our parenting to help them.

It’s not for us to make our kids’ problems go away. It’s for us to support and encourage them through their problems. That’s what they need, and that’s what will prepare them to become amazing adults.

David Bishop

David is CEO of Cedowin Productions, dedicated to helping you live your best life through positive habits. He has inspired tens of thousands to improve habits and communication through books, articles, workshops, and apps.

He is the creator of AweVenture, helping families enjoy fantastic, active experiences and Zombie Goals, literally making building healthy habits a game. He’s authored several books including How to Create Amazing Presentations, 7 Steps to Better Relationships, and The Man in the Pit, which helps people who have loved ones struggling with depression.

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