A new study out of Australia found that overprotective moms may hinder their child’s growth and development. According to the study from the Telethon Kids Institute, children whose mothers are highly protective are more likely to be overweight or obese by the age of 10. The study followed more than 2,500 children from age of 4 to 11. The lead author of the study goes on to explain that the increase in childhood obesity rates coincides with the increase in parental worry and fear. They use the example that more parents are driving their kids to school.
The Protectiveness Parenting Scale was used to rank parents’ degrees of protectiveness in three main areas:
- How difficult a parent finds it to be separated from their child
- How much they try to protect their child from problems or difficulties
- How difficult it is for them to relinquish control of their child’s environment as they get older.
The Science Network of Western Australia reports that moms who scored moderately high on the scale were 13 percent more likely to have overweight or obese kids and moms who scored high on the scale were 27 percent more likely.
This type of study can be both helpful and harmful. Yes, we need to release our tight grip on our children as they age, allow them to experience life and explore their worlds, but we still need to be cognisant of the dangers that can present themselves to our children. Because a study warns that being overprotective can lead to health issues doesn’t mean you should push your child out the door and send them on their merry way. There are many factors that go along with the lives parents lead. Where do you live? Is it safe to send your child out into the yard or allow them to walk to school? Are there safety precautions you can take that would allow you to give your child more freedom but still support their safety (never let them walk alone, organize groups of children in the neighborhood to walk together)? We live in an age of information overload and this can lead to unwanted (and oftentimes unwarranted) worry. Just scrolling through your Facebook feed can bombard you with some truly terrifying, heart-breaking stories of accidents or harm brought to children. It can make any parent (even one not prone to worry) become overly concerned with even the most innocent daily happenings.
Unfortunately, studies like this can also create a backlash on “helicopter parents” who are accused of hovering over their children, giving other parents, friends, or family members ammunition. People love to comment on the parenting style of others. They love to add their opinions to the mix, often without invitation. So how does a parent balance being protective with allowing their children to grow and flourish in a comfortable, safe environment? By following their gut. Parents are going to be faced with millions of decisions during the course of their child’s life and worry is par for the course. They will question their choices and doubt their decisions but the one thing they have to continue to have faith in is themselves. Read these studies, digest them, think about how they apply to your life and your decisions and then forget them and move on. Make your own decisions and be confident. As our parents always love to remind us, they didn’t have any of these warnings and studies and cautions when we were growing up and we all survived.