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Are We Overprotecting Our Kids?

In the last 24 hours, I’ve happened upon some articles and videos talking about overprotection of kids.  This has gotten me thinking about what I’m doing as a parent, how I was raised, and what I see happening.

Competition Is Getting A Bad Name

There’s a very general trend right now to diminish the importance of winning and competition, or at least that’s my perception.  I keep hearing news about how schools aren’t having an honor roll anymore, kids are getting trophies just for participating in something, and how it’s all about just feeling good.  I’m all for kids feeling happiness, but I’m concerned about how the difference between success and failure is starting to get watered down.

I joined the competitive speech team as a junior in high school, which was late by our school norms.  It was a state winning team, and I was only doing it because my dad promised to get our family a computer (this was back in 1988, so that was BIG).  I was totally freaked out by how much better everyone else seemed to be.  I was totally new and most of the team had experience in big time meets.  I wanted to quit about a month in.

During one evening of particularly terrifying practice, I knew that I either had to walk off the stage and face my coach asking what I was doing (and then face my dad), or gut it out and keep fighting.  I decided to keep fighting – it was really uncomfortable and I felt like I would never get better.  I was thrown into a couple of big-time competitions shortly after that.  No one was more surprised than me to learn that I had placed third overall in my event.  I had several other first place wins those two years, including a state title as a senior.  And it felt great because of the journey it took for me to get there.

I knew I was expected to put up with some discomfort and fear of failure, or I’d have to face my father and his disappointment in me for not persevering.  If I’d over-valued my self esteem during that momentous speech practice, I’d have quit in a second and not looked back.   It would have been a shame if my parents had overprotected me from his “mean criticism”, “high standards”, or “devaluing competitions”.  That coach was one of the most influential people I’ve ever known in my life, and there are hundreds of his former students who strongly echo my opinion.

Kids Roaming Not Far From Home

I was raised on an acreage in eastern Nebraska.  We were by a fast highway, but the house was set pretty far back.  We had a creek about a quarter of a mile away, over the hill through the field behind the house.  We used to go “creeking” when I was in elementary school for several hours at a time.  Sometimes, my sister and I (or me and a friend) would walk a mile or two on the old railroad bed.  A few times, I even walked a couple of miles all the way to “the farm” (my uncle’s house) by myself.

Now, I don’t consider myself a great big wanderer as a kid.  By mid-summer, the fields around us usually had crops growing in them, I was a little far from town, and we didn’t have close neighbors.  Plus our yard was plenty big enough to satisfy.  But that contrasts a great deal with where I live now.  We’re in a small Nebraska city in a suburban neighborhood.

I’d love to let my 9 and 7 year old walk to school, since it’s just two blocks away.  However, we have a fair amount of parent drivers in SUV’s and minivans that simply drive way too fast on the one street my kids would have to cross.  The street curves in a way that makes it hard to see, the crossing street has the right of way, and the parents simply drive too fast.  Imagine, the one reason I hesitate to let my kids have a little more independence is because of parents.  Hmmm.

What Do you Think About Overprotecting Kids?

So these are kind of a random collection of thoughts on parent overprotecting their kids, or what can happen when you let them have some freedom and tough experiences.  I’m still trying to make my way on this with my own kids.  My husband doesn’t like them being out in front wtihout supervision, so we have some work to do.  We’ll be moving this year to a different neighborhood, so it will be interesting to learn about the opportunities for independence there.

What about you?  Were you raised with greater independence?  Do you do that with your kids?  Or do you protect them more?

Are We Overprotecting Our Kids?

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2009). Are We Overprotecting Our Kids?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 May 2009
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