Bad News, Overprotective Parents: You're Really Messing Up Your Kids

According to Psychology Today, anyways. They recently published an article called “A Nation of Wimps”, which is worth a read if you’ve ever wondered if you’re raising a mini-ball of anxiety and neuroticism. Welp. If you’re sending them to school with a CamelBak full of hand sanitizer and giving them a medal every time they fart, you just might be. I feel like this overprotective bulls**t started with our generation and just got worse.

You know that awful roommate you had in college who always left dishes in the sink, piles of towels on the floor of the bathroom and turned the living room into a graveyard for fast food containers? That would be a product of the type of parenting we’re talking about here. On a related note, if you’re spending all your time bitching about cleaning up after your kids, here’s a novel thought: kick them in the ass until they learn that nobody is accountable for their existence other than themselves.

The scary thing is, though, raising a sh**ty roommate is the least of your worries. Buying into the notion of juvenile frailty and religiously hovering over your children at the playground is seriously doing more damage than you might think. Fact of the matter is – kids need to fail. They need to feel bad sometimes and I totally get that, as a parent, you want your little muffin to see the world through smiley-face glasses, but giving them a skewed perception of the real world isn’t helping them in the long run. It’s making them into prescription popping young adults with a mess of psychological issues like anxiety and depression. They’re kept in this bubble created by their parents, meant to protect them in their youth, without considering what’s going to happen when they get to college and realize that they’re no special snowflake and the world ain’t doing them any favors just for showing up. And here’s what happens: 15% of college students suffer from depression, according to The University of Michigan Depression Center. That’s pretty insane, when you think about how much time a lot of these kids have spent being over-monitored and sheltered from all the horrors of adulthood…only to get a big ol’ kick in the butt by the biggest bitch I know: life. 

Take. A step. BACK. You’re damaging your child’s damn brain. Literally. What them young churrins need the most is the chance to be stressed, to be scared, to be unsure of what’s going to happen next. They need to learn to adapt and grow and most importantly, they need to realize that while something might suck a whole hell of a lot, it’s not going to kill them. They need the opportunity to develop the tough skin that will get them through the black hole of awfulness that is adulthood. Do you want a fierce, self-actualized, confident kid or a floundering, mess of insecurity and self-doubt? Yeah, that’s what I thought. So CHILL with the texting every hour, calling each night, solving every problem and kissing every booboo. For your child’s sake and well, frankly, for the sake of the rest of humanity that will have to put up with their whiny bulls**t long after you’re gone. Let them fall, break bones, cry, scream, learn how to fight back, make sense of the world on their own terms and just let them be children. 

I grew up with a curfew, not a cell phone. My mom used to give me this Mickey Mouse watch, and honey, when that big hand was in between that mouse’s legs, my ass had better be home or my mom would firmly insert her foot into it. And you know what? I f***ed up. A lot. I made so many mistakes as a teen that I literally cringe and cover my face when my stupid brain decides to remind me of them (usually in the middle of a completely unrelated task). But I thank my mom for letting me make those mistakes.

I remember the first time I came home, blackout drunk, at midnight. I must have been 15, tops. My parents were in the basement and I slunk upstairs, hoping to go to my room unnoticed. Except I couldn’t quite make it to my room without puking my guts up all over the guest bathroom. I’m talkin’ so much vomit, the shag rug turned into a swamp. I don’t even remember anything after that. I woke up the next day with barf all over me…in my hair, in my eyelashes, in my armpits. I looked and felt disgusting. Baby’s first hangover. The only thing my mom said to me that morning was, “You jackass. I hope it was worth it. Go clean up the bathroom.” To this day, I honestly have never been that hammered. When I turned 19 (I’m Canadian, that’s our legal drinking age), drinking a bunch of vodka on a Thursday night was kinda old hat to me. I didn’t care to go buckwild at the campus bars every night of the week during college, because I’d already dipped my toes into the binge-drinking pool and it wasn’t THAT exciting for me. My parents kept my leash loose enough for me to do my own exploring and experimenting and figure out what I wanted out of life, instead of what they wanted for me. They trusted me to come out alright on the other side.

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  • Caroline Jeffery

    coincidentally, i just encountered one of these over protective parents in my working life, and YEP. mom’s fighting all the battles and all the little baby girl (15 years old) has to do is be a silent sheep in the herd.

  • Michelle Grove Shaffer


  • Monika Pierzchlewicz

    I don’t think that being an overprotective parent = raising a lazy wimp. My parents were definitely overprotective in the sense that I was not allowed to go to sleepover, my parents knew where I was and who I was with at all times, and I was not allowed to wander around by myself at the risk of stumbling into the wrong place with the wrong people. I have turned out to be a very respectful, motivated, successful, and social individual. As far as “getting a medal each time they fart”; that’s ridiculous and not overprotective= it’s mental and disillusioned. THAT will mess up a kid. I fought for my own medals by playing tennis full time after school and on wknds, and as a result winning tennis tournaments. Don’t misconstrue what “overprotective” truly means. My parents never fought my battles for me.

    • Meaghan Ramsey

      My parents were the same as your parents but that is not the kind of overprotective parent that the author is talking about. My parents never did things for me but my sister and I still snuck around behind there backs and got into a little bit of trouble that we could learn from. Now I see myself as much more independent than most of my friends and former classmates. There is a serious boundary and I think that’s what makes parenting so hard…you don’t want your kids to fail but they have to sometimes to learn how to succeed. Love the post!

    • Katy Littlejohn

      It sounds like your parents were protective, but not over-protective. Parents should have a certain level of protectiveness and the ability to say “no” even if they look completely mental and unfair in their kids’ eyes. It sounds like they’ve managed to do what every parent sets out to do: raise a well-rounded grown up. Kudos.

  • Katy Littlejohn

    You may have just solved the mystery of my roommate.

    “You know that awful roommate you had in college who always left dishes in the sink, piles of towels on the floor of the bathroom and turned the living room into a graveyard for fast food containers?”

    Yes. Yes I do.

  • Iona Louise Brash

    I think sometimes having overprotective parents can result in the opposite of a lazy wimpy person. Quite often i reckon the child will actually become resentful and rebellious due to feeling smothered and actually do as you did and get extremely drunk etc and live their lives how they want just to prove to their parents that the world is not as scary as they’re telling them and to give them space.

  • Katie Grimmer

    There’s a difference between overprotective and over-coddling. I parents were incredibly protective of me in regards to being out late and who I hung out with. But if I was caught in the middle of a lie or cheating at school, you bet your ass I was grounded for a month.

  • Jackie Portillo-Hyten

    I think “over-protective” can be misconstrued in this context. Every parent is protective but I think the real issue is knowing that boundaries exist and the significance of living within those boundaries. When, as a parent, you can’t differentiate between your life, your child’s life and where your place in your child’s life ends then there’s a problem. I think the psychological term for that is “enmeshment” and it can cause a lot of problems in the long run, especially, in your child’s relationships. Needing a play-by-play of your adult child’s every move is unhealthy for all parties involved. The only woman a grown man needs daily texts from is his wife not his mother. Distance and separation is healthy and boundaries are necessary.

  • I miss the outdoors

    Unfortunately my mom is one of those parents. It’s gotten to the point where she won’t even let me go outside anymore.

    • Lily

      Same. I’m 18.

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