articles / Family life

When does safe become overprotective?

Once or twice over the seven years I’ve been a mom I have been told either to my face or passively that I was an overprotective mom. At one point that slightly bothered me, but now I’m apparently old enough that it doesn’t bother me.

“Overprotective” and “helicopter parent” are frequently thrown around when talking about setting boundaries where some parents give the green light. Especially now in 2016 there are some very clear lines being drawn for some parents where lines are starting to blur with others. The way that people were raised in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s are just not going to cut it anymore.

So the question is, when does being safe and trying to protect your children turn into being overprotective? Who gets to make that decision?

This morning I went to drop Josiah off at soccer camp. When we got there I let Samuel walk, but his hand was always being firmly held by mine. Even when he was trying to sit down I still had my hand on him or I positioned myself so he couldn’t get up without me having a grip on him. Another mom next to me had a toddler that looked younger than Samuel. She didn’t have a hold of his hand, have him on a leash (yes, I have a leash), and she didn’t even look to be watching him very closely.

This mom and others nearby might have been silently thinking how overprotective I was being and that I need to loosen up. However, anyone that knows Samuel, knows that you cannot let go of his hand in a public place or he will be gone. Seriously, gone. He is one of the fastest kids I know. It’s not that I’m being overprotective of him, it’s that I know my child and know that the way to keep him from danger. The other mom (hopefully) knows her child and knows that he will stay close. Some kids are like that and some kids are not.

I am very cautious about Josiah and Samuel riding the 4-wheeler at my mother-in-law’s house. I do not feel like children should start out riding from birth because it starts the uphill progression of them wanting to drive it sooner than later. When they are riding it I want it to be driven at a low and safe speed and no typical 4-wheeler “kid” fun will happen when they’re on it. There is now a kid-size 4-wheeler at her house for the kids to drive. It is set at 5 MPH and Josiah WILL wear a helmet until further notice when he is driving it.

Some may see that as a little extreme. However, my younger brother wrecked a 4-wheeler when he was very young. Not only was he being reckless because that’s what young boys do, but he ended up seriously hurt and had seizures for a while afterward. A local 13-year-old boy a few years ago was riding his 4-wheeler and although he was considered a proficient driver at his age, the 4-wheeler flipped in a ditch and killed him. I’m sure that boy’s mom wouldn’t consider my boundaries overprotective.

Since I was young sleepovers have been popular, especially in the late-elementary to junior high age group. I went to two group sleepovers before I hit junior high and I had two group sleepovers. Aside from that I rarely ever slept over at someone else’s house. Josiah is 7 years old and aside from his grandparents he has only spent the night at one person’s house and that was a close personal friend that I’ve known since high school. At least until he’s way older, there’s no way that he’s going to be spending the night at someone else’s house.

There are people that think sleepovers are a right of passage and to deny a child of that is just being overprotective. However, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are sexually abused before their teen years and that’s just the reported cases. Children are most vulnerable between 7-14 years old, the age that most kids have sleepovers.

I can’t tell you how many people — boys and girls — that I know that said someone’s dad or brother or sister molested them at a sleepover. Or that they “experimented” at a sleepover. Do you know how many kids get their first drink of alcohol, watch their first rated R movie, see their first pornographic magazine, or done something else dangerous/promiscuous while at someone else’s house? The 1 in 5 and the 1 in 20 would agree that preventing a child from being exposed to sex, drugs, or alcohol at an early age is much more important than a sleepover. If you’re still not convinced, ask yourself this: Do you know how many sex offenders are in your city and have you ever looked to make sure you didn’t know one of them? Then think about the fact that each of those offenders had a “first time” when they weren’t on someone’s creepy radar.

So I’ll ask you again, when does keeping your kids safe become overprotective?

Is it overprotective to keep your child rear-facing until 1 year old? Two years old? Or is it simply understanding the science and realizing that for maximum safety it is best to keep them rear-facing until at least 2?

Is it overprotective to keep your child within arms distance in crowded, public places? Or is it common sense to know where your child is given the number of children drowning in pools, falling into places they shouldn’t, getting hit by cars, or getting abducted by strangers (the chances of that are only 1% but it’s still a chance)?

Is it overprotective to not allow your 16-year-old to go out on dates alone instead of a group or family setting? Or does it make sense given the number of teenagers getting pregnant or catching an STD?

My parents were frequently coined as “overprotective” and at times it was a bit frustrating. I can honestly say though that I was never exposed to sex, drugs, or alcohol at an early age. I didn’t have my first drink of alcohol until I was almost 18 and I’ve never been drunk. My husband is the only man that I’ve gone beyond kissing with. I enjoyed my childhood (even though I had to wear my seatbelt and a helmet) and although there were a few frustrating moments I enjoyed my teenage years despite my “overprotective” parents. I pray every day that my children will be able to say the same things when they get older.

Sometimes tragic accidents and life changing events just happen. Sometimes they can be prevented. If they can be prevented without hindering my children’s ability to grow then I’m probably going to err on the side of caution.

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