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Home > Support > Mothering > Am I overprotecting my children?
 
 
Question:

Dear Rita, I am somewhat upset and even questioning our choice to homeschool in response to a statement made by a dear friend recently. She has compared me to her daughter-in-law at times, someone with whom, unfortunately, she does not have a good relationship with. Both her daughter in law and myself are products of less than quality mothering and tend to "overcompensate" with our own small children, and are somewhat "overprotective". Her daughter-in-law's children are not school-aged yet, ours are 4 and 6, we homeschooled this past year for kindergarten, really enjoyed it and plan on continuing this year.

My friend and I were discussing an activity that I want to sign up the kids for this summer, and how I thought I would have to be there at the class or my daughter would act up and not be able to handle my absence, as she really has not had to experience that so far. Our friend assured me that she would be fine, and that it's necessary that I leave her, it helps with independence, socializing etc. I agree with that, but was also somewhat shocked and saddened to hear her say that the overcompensating that I and her daughter-in-law do, in our protectiveness, is as damaging to our kids as the neglect we experienced growing up. She, as a former highschool teacher, also suggests that this type of parenting creates unbearable teenagers later on. This is not coming from just anyone, our friend is a wonderful woman, overflowing with God's gifts and talents, someone I look up to very much and respect.

I don't want to take it too personally, and if it had been coming from a different person, it may not have affected me much at all. This has, however, made me think about my parenting, and the possibility that homeschooling is really another venue for my "overcompensating, overprotectiveness" and could it really be harmful for them. I know in my heart, that all the extra attention my children receive from me, just cannot be as harmful as neglect. They are so loved and they know it, I don't see how that can be bad in itself. But, I do wonder though if I, we, are overdoing it and somehow keeping them from their full potential, creating monsters that can't function without their mommy around, social outcasts of sorts.

I know that they are going to have to get out into the world, and handle things without me. But at these young ages, I didn't think it was hurting them to keep them with me so much. After hearing the somewhat brutal statement from our friend, I am having some doubts. I try so hard not to spoil them, not to give into their demands, punishing as appropriate. I have been trying for about two years now not to over-coddle, to try to make up for running every time they cried etc. when they were babies. I feel sometimes as though I just love them too much for their own good, and need to "let go" as was suggested by my dear father-in-law when I told him we were thinking about homeschooling last year. In fact he begged me not to "do that to these kids". He also mentioned that I may be overcompensating for my childhood. It does sound convincing at times, I have to admit!

In addition to this comment made by my friend and others, another reason I worry about keeping them home so much and not socializing enough is that my daughter still has the most excruciating tantrums, and she's almost 5. My son on the other hand is so very easy to take care of, it's almost always smooth sailing with him, the contrast is startling. Just for additional background information, they both see other kids their age about one day a week for play.

I guess I am looking for reassurance in our decision to homeschool and any suggestions on how to reduce my level of smothering but still give our kids the love, guidance and protection that they need at this young age. It appears that others find this balance more naturally than myself. I would very much appreciate your prayerful opinion.

In addition to my apology for the length of this letter, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for sharing all of the letters sent to you and your responses. I know that your Q & A page was the deciding source of inspiration I needed to begin homeschooling after a year or so of indecision and anxiety over the idea. I can only imagine how many other's lives you have touched in this way with your Gift.

Answer:

Dear Mom,

First let me say that if all the moms in the world had at the heart of their concerns, how to be better, more attentive moms who were eagerly engaging in the lives of their children and who took to heart the needs of their children as well........there would be no need for all the services that are employed to help children and parents who are struggling with parenting issues due to a lack of concern for the welfare of the child. I sense from your letter that you have a loving and docile spirit that strives to become a better parent despite the parenting you received. I think that it is a holy and loving witness of the Lord's work within you that you do not have a spirit of animosity for those areas that may have been remiss in the parenting you had during your childhood. It is a sign of the Lord's ability to work within you that you do not hold the mistakes of your parents at the center of your life and in so doing have in effect forgiven them for these mistakes. Jesus always blesses and rewards us when we go forward away from hurt and into forgiveness.

Are you smothering your children with attention? I think that that is first and foremost an issue between your husband and yourself. You two are the anointed persons from the Lord's designs who are being asked to parent the children with which you have been gifted. Jesus is working with you both and empowering you with His wisdom to make the choices necessary as they present themselves. It is a slippery slope of hurt that we must descend when we begin to judge one another for our differences of parenting style. It is not as though you are asking other parents to compensate for your choices. I do not sense that your choices are causing you to fret unless someone judges those choices harshly. In other words your parenting seems to work for you and for your children. I think that it is a dangerous area to fast forward to possible challenges. Jesus tells us that today's concerns are enough for today. He meant that to focus our lives around what may or may not happen in the future is to lose sight of the moment with which we are asked to live.

Let's look at you and your children apart from the advice you have received. Ask yourself some questions. Does my daughter's temper tantrums impair my ability to go out in public with her, shop with her, visit with my friends, etc ? Does her temper cause me to lose my patience and therefore set a bad example for my children? Do you see her behavior as an impediment to her engaging in activities with other children? Do you see her behavior as wrong? Is her behavior one that you would like to change in order to help her be more pleasant and happy?

These are the real issues at stake. Not the feelings of a friend, your in-laws or semi interested parties who want to give unsolicited advice. I would suggest that you speak with someone who 'does not have a dog in this fight' (that is a old southern saying). Talk to your health care provider. Ask this person what is the limit of normal with regards to temper tantrums and behavior such as you are concerned about. Read up on the normal behavior of a 5 year old and see where the challenges are and what you can do to help your daughter.

Mothering is a demanding, personal, sometimes sorrowful, joyful work that asks of us more than we could have ever imagined when we were not parents. How many the times I have fully understood the stands my mother and father took, but only after I had traveled the journey to the point they were when they took the stand. What works for one mom may not work for another. Overprotective. That is a hard one to call. Let me tell you a story. I have a dear friend who lives up in the mountains. Her cabin sits literally on the edge of a mountain. In fact she has a lovely little sitting area under the trees that looks out over the gorge and the valley. Breathtaking. Scary for me however when I had young children. I was always a nervous wreck at her house. I just knew one of the children was going to leap off the mountain to their death. :) She would tell me not to worry but it never did any good. She would tell me that she raised her children on this mountain and they did fine. Still I could not let them out of my sight. One day she visited me. I live in the city on a street. She could not relax on the front porch because she just knew her children were going to run into the street and get hit by a car. She was nervous watching the children play in the yard for fear that a car might jump the curb and come into the yard. I suppose you know the moral of the story. Each mom has her own concerns. We must learn to respect those concerns as we would want to be respected.

I do not like balloons for children. Under no circumstances do I like to see children play with balloons. When my little children would be invited to birthday party I would always go, because I knew there would be balloons there and I was concerned about their safety. (I have a friend whose little sister died on her birthday from aspirating a popped balloon.) Was my fear irrational? Not to me. I did not ask that all balloons be banished from the party but in the same respect I wanted to be there to ensure that my children would not come into harm from a popped balloon. My children are grown and the time I spent going to birthday parties seems tiny now. Those same children I was concerned about are happy adults now. They go everywhere from Madagascar to Los Angeles and all parts in between (and I bet there are balloons where they go! Am I crying day and night because they are not home with me? No. I am happy that they are independent and enjoying life. Do I feel the need to survey the rooms they live in for stray balloons? No. Hee,hee.

Pray. Ask the Lord to give you His loving wisdom as is accepted from the Holy Spirit. Ask that you have a heart that will forgive the unkindness and a docile spirit that will allow you to learn from others. Remember that when we ask for a docile spirit it is then that the Lord can teach us. We want to be taught each day by the most loving of teachers.

You are a loving and caring mom. Accept the anointing of the Lord and go forward into your parenting. It is a wonderful journey filled with many adventures.

Go forward. You are going to do great. Let us pray together an Act of Contrition asking the Lord in His great mercy to forgive us those times we judged one another. Amen.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn

P.S. We do not homeschool because we are striving to be overprotective. This is the hardest issue for people to understand. Homeschooling is about following the Lord's call upon our lives. The persons who assume that you are homeschooling from a need to protect your children are just a bit confused about the vocation of Catholic homeschooling.

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Dear Rita, Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply, I didn't expect to hear from you so soon! I actually came to the computer to send you a note instead. I know everything will be fine. I am not sure why this affected me so, I guess hearing the word 'overprotective' one more time from a respected source was the last straw. Thank you for putting things into perspective. Your words always do that for me. I will keep a copy of your encouraging letter as well, for the next time I second guess myself. You are a dear friend to many, God bless you.

Dear Mom,

Thank you as well for your sweet letter. Your letter was a blessing to me. Each time I read a question I am uplifted by the holy witness of moms who are working in the same vineyard that I find myself working. Jesus is so good in that His love draws us one to another. It is this mutual sharing and quiet resolve to do the Lord's will that becomes the strength from which we draw. Jesus has promised that His strength will be our strength as well. What an awesome and comforting thought. Keep me in your daily prayers and remember to go forward into challenges knowing that it is the Holy Spirit who empowers you.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn

   
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