Journalist and writer
"Education is also character: you have to let children do things for themselves."
An argument against overprotective parenting, which damages children.
As parents, our job is to protect our children and help them to grow as people. However, nowadays this natural form of protection, which merely involves parenthood in an inclusive sense, has been confused with hyperprotection. Parents are being made to believe that in order to perform their role well, they must ensure that their children never get upset, experience a contradiction or have to deal with frustration. This means that, to be a good parent, you more or less have to be your child's bodyguard. As a result, your child become untouchable.
Education means letting your child find their own way by giving them tools so they can start to become more aware, grow and gain autonomy. If you run around after your child all day in order to protect them, you might make them anxious and less able. You're stopping them from developing one of life's basic tools, which is the ability to be autonomous. This means that, by overprotecting them you're failing to protect them properly.
Of course, you must always keep an eye on your children, but that doesn't mean that you have to get involved in their lives all the time. If your child falls over in the park, don't run to their rescue like Usain Bolt because all you're doing is preventing your child from learning how to get up themselves. As a parent, your job is to observe and take notice, but also to let your child develop of their own accord.
One of the characteristics of a hyper-child is an inability to tolerate frustration. Hyper-children are the result of hyper-parenting. This way of bringing up children, often employed by the upper and middle classes, is popular in the west and involves hyper-attention, hyper-protection and being overly concerned about your child. You might say that it's a monstrously intensive way to bring up a child. The product of hyper-parenting is a hyper-child who is unable to deal well with frustration.
Parents who raise their children this way think they have to tell them how amazing they are and never say no to them so they can learn to deal with their emotions and develop great self-esteem. However, if you do this, rather than helping your child to develop self-esteem, you're creating a narcissist. Being able to manage your emotions well means you have to be able to understand your own positive and negative emotions, as well as those of others. Another way to help your child deal with frustration is to offer alternatives.
Children have a need to play; however, this model of hyper-parenting overloads children with lots of scheduled extra-curricular activities that take place in structured environments, and as a result they have less time to play. A child's right to play is recognized by the United Nations and any teacher worth their salt will tell you that playing is a crucial part of childhood. By playing in a free and unstructured way, either alone or with others, children learn how to work in a team, to be creative and how to deal with frustration.
Education also means helping your child to develop their character. Children need to develop their character in order to be able to apply what they've learned. We need to teach our children how to be brave. By overprotecting their children, parents are failing to help them deal with their anxieties and as a result, children are very fearful nowadays. Parents must teach their children how to be brave, how to empathize and how to be resilient by letting them do things for themselves. Not big things, just little things, like packing their own school bag.
Excessive attention means systematically doing things for your child that they can do for themselves. The best example of this is homework. Nowadays, helping your child with their homework is considered normal and the sign of a good parent. In fact, some say that doing homework together has even replaced the act of eating together as a time to gather as a family. However, by doing this, you're doing your child's homework for them.
Establishing limits does not mean saying no to your child all the time. A limit would be not to allow a teenager to keep their cell phone in their room when they go to bed because electronic devices are not conducive to sleep. Learning to deal with limits helps children discover how to cope with frustration.
Find out more about Eva Millet
- Eva Millet is a journalist and writer who specializes in education and parenting. Ms. Millet is the author of the books "Hyper-parenting" and "Hyper-children". She warns that extreme overprotection is creating a generation of young people who are anxious, reliant on others and unable to deal with frustration and offers ways to combat this phenomenon. For example, she says that we should trust our children and help them to develop their character.
- Is it true that students are suffering from anxiety?
Anxiety is a characteristic of hyper-children and adolescents that has been normalized. The psychologist Stella O’Malley told me that she views these teenagers as Instagram swans; they're magnificent and incredibly beautiful. They travel the world and are all really lovely; however, inside they're nervous wrecks who are often scared of school. In the Anglo-Saxon world, an increasing number of children are unable to go to school because they're too scared. Last year, a report from the American Association of High Schools indicated that 62% of American students had suffered an episode of extreme anxiety during the school year. The latest report issued by the National Drugs Program stated that one in six adolescents had taken anti-anxiety medication in the past year. The reason they're taking drugs like Diazepam and Valium is because they're anxious about an exam or the breakdown of a relationship. Aspects of life that were previously considered tough but normal and that you had to learn to overcome are now being treated with pills. This is one of the consequences of an overprotective upbringing.