Some people nurture and protect and coddle till the point that kids can’t develop their own sense of identity and independence. Yes – you love your kid. But this kid has to grow up one day and hold down a job, run a household and survive in this world. There’s a reason why the word smother has the word mother in it. Some people just take it too far when it comes to the needs of their kids.
I talk to my good friend Charmaine Yam about this topic.
“Is there such a thing?” Charmaine says. “I’m not saying there’s not, but I’ve never thought about it. I’ve always thought that being nurturing is a good attribute. But now that you bring it up, there is such a thing as over nurturing. Somebody who over nurtures is someone who doesn’t have a good balance between nurturing and providing independence and autonomy.”
“When does being overprotected and over nurtured harm the child?” I ask.
“As you’re growing up,” Charmaine says, “you’d be somewhat dependent on mum and dad. If you’re overprotected, it’ll be a big learning curve when you become an adult. You won’t be able to deal with certain issues that come with being an independent adult. It can be disorienting for some adults when they’re on their own after high school.”
“Why do you think some people over nurture and overprotect their kids?” I ask.
“I think there are a few reasons,” Charmaine says. “Some people love being mothers and have people depend on them. They might like being indispensable to the child and that makes them feel more important. They probably think it’s good for the kids to have input and guidance. Some parents may not recognise that they have to adapt to their kids’ abilities as they get older.
“Parents might have personally experienced bad parenting and want to correct their own hangups through their kids. ‘I don’t want you to suffer the same that I’ve been through’. It’s normal for parents to want the best for their kids – so that’s why they may be overprotective and over controlling.”
“Someone who grows up overprotected – what are some of the issues they may have?” I ask.
“Making decisions for themselves,” Charmaine says. “For example, after I left home, I was scared of making the wrong decision since someone always made them for me. There was suddenly no fallback if I made the wrong decision. You might also have an unrealistic view of the world. You may not be used to meeting people who harm you directly or indirectly cause you don’t have the experience to deal with someone not acting in your best interests.”
“So what about those people on the other hand of the spectrum,” I ask. “The ones who are left to their own devices growing up and are not protected and nurtured but ultimately perhaps more resilient and tough?”
“Struggle is not something anyone deliberately wants,” Charmaine says. “But this makes you stronger earlier. You’re more resilient as an adult. I think this person might be more mature. I think there has to be a balance, though. There are detrimental effects to not having effective paternal roles cause you have to fend for yourself too soon.
“Ideally, a good parent would be someone who teaches you the principles of how to navigate life and is there to guide you without suffocating you. A good parent will know when to let go and let you gain your own independence. That’s different for different children.”
I do believe that kids need to be nurtured. But children also need boundaries and someone to be firm with them when necessary. I know it’s hard for a lot of people to willingly accept the day when their kids are grown up and no longer need them.
If you have raised a kid who can stand on his or her own two feet in this world without your input – you have done a great job. The fact that they no longer need to depend on you is a testament to that. Having said that – kids will always need their parents – just not the same way they did when they were two.