The Consequences of Overprotecting — Ideas for Training Up Our Kids

As parents, we are given the incredible opportunity to train up our children. From toddlers to college students, each stage brings joys and challenges. Most parents want their children to succeed in life. How well are we preparing them for the future? Are we doing things that make it difficult for them to thrive?


Most parents love their children. They hate seeing their child in pain, so they do whatever they can to protect them. Unfortunately we can’t escape pain. We don’t do our children any favors when we try to keep them from experiencing ALL pain. We need to help our children learn how to deal with the harsh realities of life. Certainly we want to try to protect them from destructive pain, but how much pain is too much?

You might be thinking, “Is it really that bad if we are overprotective and solve our kids’ problems?” Overprotecting and solving all our kids’ problems has negative consequences in the future. One of the chief complaints from business leaders regarding this new generation, commonly called “Millennials,” is they can’t take constructive feedback.  Millennials have been known to not only pout, but also quit when they hear constructive criticism.

Many universities are at a loss about how to deal with this generation of students. Peter Gray, Ph.D. recently wrote an article “Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for Colleges.”  He has done extensive research with institutions across America and here are a few of his conclusions:

  • Students are afraid to fail; they do not take risks; they need to be certain about things. For many of them, failure is seen as catastrophic and unacceptable. External measures of success are more important than learning and autonomous development.
  • Faculty members, individually and as a group, are conflicted about how much “handholding” they should be doing.

Dan Jones, past president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors states,

Students haven’t developed skills in how to soothe themselves, because their parents have solved all their problems and removed the obstacles. They don’t seem to have as much grit as previous generations.

The universities and the marketplace are watching our children struggle with everyday problems and are at a loss on what to do. What are we to do?

Equipping our children for life’s challenges:

God has called us as parents to train up our children.  We are to prepare them to deal with life’s challenges. This doesn’t mean we don’t care and support our children.  No, it means we are to equip them. Here are some quick thoughts that will help you train up your children.

– Our role as parents is to help our kids explore, discover and develop skills. We want to encourage them to try new things.

– Give them the freedom to fail. We need to teach our kids that “failure needs to be our mentor, not our tormentor.” Failure is a part of life. We need to teach them to grieve failure or loss and learn from the experience.

– Our kids need both truth and grace in their lives.

  • Truth:  Sometimes as parents we idealize our kids and act like they can’t do anything wrong.  We jump to their defense when we need to allow them to experience the consequences of their choices. When we excuse or minimize improper behavior we are teaching them to be self-centered, entitled, dishonest and irresponsible.
  • Grace:  We need to distinguish between acceptance and approval. God accepts as we are, but he doesn’t always approve of all our actions. Sometimes when our kids make mistakes or act inappropriately we can respond harshly.  Our kids can feel like they can never measure up.  Grace always needs to accompany truth.
  • When we discipline, the goal is learning, not making them pay for what they did. Consequences need to fit the crime. If we feel ourselves flooded with anger, take some time to cool off before you address the issue. Think through what might best help them learn.
  • I have found it best to sympathize with their feelings, redirect attitudes, and discipline behavior.

– Give them the resources they need to develop and grow. Don’t become a helicopter parent — a parent that is always hovering and over-involved in your child’s life. Don’t be a stage parent – someone whose focus is making your child a star. This is an indication that your child’s success is more about you than about them.

– We need to recognize what stage of development our kids are in and treat them accordingly. Becky and I have developed “Four Stages of Parenting” that corresponds to child development: Caregiver, Manager, Coach and Consultant. If we are still “Managing” our high school or college age sons and daughters, we are going to run into major conflicts with our teens and we won’t prepare them to deal with life. I encourage you to read Becky’s blog post “Four Stages of Parenting” for more details.

Here are a few questions to think about:

-How are you helping your kids explore and develop new skills?

-Is failure a mentor or tormentor in your family?  How can you help them learn from failure?

-We need to balance grace and truth with our kids. Which do you tend to lean towards? What can you do to balance your interactions?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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