It’s a natural reaction. As a parent, you want to do everything you can to keep your children safe and free of harm. But can an overbearing parenting style spell problems for a child later on?
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According to one recent study, it’s possible.
The study looked at 422 children and followed them over a period of eight years — at ages 2, 5 and 10.
Researchers found that over-controlling parenting of a child at age 2 was associated with poorer emotional and behavioral regulation at age 5. Likewise, the children who had better emotional regulation at age 5 were less likely to have emotional or social problems at age 10, and were also more likely to fare better in school.
Children have to learn for themselves
Pediatric psychologist Vanessa Jensen, PsyD, did not take part in the research, but says parents should allow their children to make mistakes.
“It is important to let your child make mistakes,” she says. “If you are the parent constantly bringing little Johnny or little Judy back in as soon as they’re going too far from the nest, like a mamma chick — there isn’t the chance to make mistakes. And we all know that we learn from mistakes.”
We’ve all seen the parents who look like they’re hovering a little too much, but Dr. Jensen cautions about being quick to label parents who are trying to respond to their child’s needs.
“Often times, you have a parent who is simply responding to their child’s behavior and needs, she notes. “Also, it is important to be somewhat protective, and to be cautious, especially in our current culture.”
Not all children have the same learning style
Different children require different parenting styles, even siblings within the same family, Dr. Jensen says.
“If a child is more outgoing — more impulsive or more likely to get in trouble — then you may need to be a parent who puts more limits on,” she says. “If your child is more cautious and stays closer to you, you might be the opposite — you might want to encourage them to take more risks.”
According to Dr. Jensen, the most important aspect of parenting style is to know what a child’s challenges and strengths are, and to be able to adapt the parenting style to the needs of the child.
It can be helpful to reach out to other parents for advice, but not in a judgmental way, especially for a first-time parent. Talking to the parents of a child’s peers about what they allow at certain ages can be beneficial for parents who are concerned about being too protective or too lax in their parenting styles.
Complete results of the study can be found in Developmental Psychology.