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3 Ways to Walk the Line Between Protective and Overprotective

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I remember the day I realized I was an overprotective mom. “Can I play soccer in the cul-de-sac?” my 13-year-old daughter asked one afternoon.

“Who are you playing with?”

“Bryce, Brayden, and Jacob,” she answered.

“Um, no,” I replied automatically. “Three boys? No.” And an argument ensued that ended in tears. Why all the drama over a simple soccer game? I didn’t know two of the three boys she listed—and because I thought I was keeping my young, naïve teenage daughter safe, when, in fact, I was being an overprotective mom. I want to be a mom who is protective just enough. You know, like enough that my kids make it to adulthood in one piece, without crossing that fine line into helicopter mom territory. Here are three L’s to keep you from stepping over the line from protective to overprotective mom.

Learn

Sometimes overprotective moms are actually disconnected from their kid’s world, and therefore they assume the worst in every situation. So before you jump in to protect, take a step back and get reconnected. Does the music your teen listens to sound awful as you hear it from his or her bedroom? Get to know the music firsthand before jumping to conclusions. Are you afraid that your child’s friends are a bad influence? Invite them over and get to know them. Had I gotten to know Bryce, Braden, and Jacob, I quickly would’ve learned that I had nothing to worry about.

Ask yourself this: “What do I need to learn about my child at this stage?”

Limit

We know kids need limits, as much as they may not like them. (I mean really, who likes limits?) But instead of just giving orders like a drill sergeant, talk about your expectations and why they are needed. And if you aren’t sure whether you’re an overprotective mom whose limits are too strict, do some homework. Talk to your friends and neighbors, read articles, and listen to parenting podcasts to give you a good frame of reference.

Ask yourself this: “Have I set reasonable limits and talked to my kids about them?”

Live

The prefix “over” means “above or too much.” If you are trying to protect your child so much that you can’t relax or your child is missing out on life because of what might go wrong, then you may be overprotective. Think of Marlin in Finding Nemo. Out of the best intentions, he protected Nemo too much. Neither one of them could truly “live” because there was so much fear. Overprotection happens when we are operating primarily from fear rather than from wisdom. In the end, Marlin learned that “bad” things could be valuable growth experiences for Nemo.

Overprotection happens when we are operating primarily from fear rather than from wisdom. Click To Tweet

Ask yourself this: “Am I living from a place of wisdom or fear? Am I letting my child live his or her own life, trusting that the hard things will bring growth?”

Moving from Overprotective Mom to “Just Protective Enough”

That’s what this is really about—learning to let go of control as your kids grow up. It’s like holding the rope for someone who is repelling; you’ve got to let it out a little bit at a time as he or she navigates down the mountain. And we have to let go, or our kids will get stuck on the side! We have to trust that they will make it down. All the bumps and bruises along the way will only make them smarter and stronger and give them some stories to tell their own kids someday.

What do you think is the difference between a protective and an overprotective mom?

ASK YOUR CHILD...

What is one thing you can’t wait to do by yourself when you’re grown up?

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