Do you make your toddler wear a space suit so he doesn't catch germs from other children? Do you screen his new friends with a rigorous interview process? Is he prohibited from playing outside because you're worried he'll get dirty? Are you constantly checking his bedroom during the night, to make sure he hasn't been abducted by aliens? You may believe your constant vigilance is loving, but such overprotective parenting could prevent him from developing into an independent and emotionally healthy adult .
1. Never Learns From Mistakes
Your tot will never learn from his mistakes if you're constantly finishing his art projects, putting his puzzle pieces in their proper places, apologizing for his rudeness to your in-laws and fixing his other wrongs. By constantly intervening because of your own anxiety, you're not allowing him to learn through trial-and-error so he can develop better skills and make more appropriate choices in the future. Allowing him room to make mistakes shows you respect his need for autonomy and that it's OK to be less than perfect -- mistakes provide important opportunities for his growth.
2. Emotional Problems
Constantly fretting over your little one and preventing him from engaging in activities that you believe involves risk -- even one as minor as playing on a slide -- could lead him to internalize your fears and make them his own. He may grow up feeling unhappy, vulnerable, insecure, fearful, anxious or hypochondriacal, and view the world as a dangerous place. It might be difficult for him to take risks, because you never taught him that they're a necessary part of life and often the route to great rewards, Even small challenges and obstacles could feel frustrating and overwhelming. Conversely, your overprotective parenting might lead him to believe he's invulnerable, which could lead to dangerous and extreme risk taking.
3. Overly Compliant
You may believe being cautious is for your toddler's own good, but by not permitting him to ride a tricycle (fear he'll fall), play outside (fear he'll skin a knee), learn how to swim (fear he'll have an accident), enjoy treats on Halloween (fear of poisoned candy) and engage in other children's activities, you're tamping down his autonomy. He may have tried protesting, but since you're never willing to compromise, he finally gave up. As a result of his own needs repeatedly being dismissed, he doesn't know how to stand up for himself. Being an overly compliant adult could have negative repercussions in his work and relationships -- even choosing a controlling partner who makes all decisions for him, just like you do.
4. Lack of Responsibility
If you always make things right for him, your child will never learn responsibility and accountability. For example, when he gets caught stealing a playmate's crayons and comes home crying, if you scold his preschool teacher for reprimanding him because he's just a "little boy," he'll never be taught responsibility for his actions. Or, if you call your tot's playmates to settle arguments or defend him to another parent after he hit their kid -- he won't learn accountability. Your toddler will continue to believe he can behave any old way he please, because Mommy will always step in to rescue him.
5. Letting Go
Instead of always monitoring your little one, take a step back and allow him to begin making decisions on his own without your interference. Show that you trust his ability to tackle tasks without constant supervision, which will help build his confidence. If he makes mistakes during a task, don't try to fix them. Mistakes are part of his journey to self-discovery, and lead him to develop the persistence needed to succeed in the face of obstacles. In time, he'll learn that his life is created by his own choices, not the ones you make for him out of your own worries, anxiety and fears.
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