The Protection Trap – Are we overprotecting our children hindering their development?

Parenting is the process of raising children and providing them with protection and care in order to ensure their healthy development into adulthood. However we as parents have taken the protection aspect a bit too far. We have become so over protective that sometimes it hinders the natural development of the child. I say this because we unfortunately observe this all around us. We felt the need to address this and share with Savi Montessori parents; that it is ok for children to take risk, fail and learn by trial and error. 

Environmental experience is critical to human development

Dr Maria Montessori

Lack of Risky Play

Environmental experience sometimes exposes children to uncertain and perhaps risky situations. However risk is an essential component of a balanced childhood. Exposure to healthy risk, particularly physical, enables children to experience fear, and learn the strengths and limitations of their own body. However, in today’s Parenting 101, children are not allowed to take any risks. Physical risks has become sort of a taboo. This is leading to a lot of subtle but critical issues. Children start to not trust themselves because they have never been in difficult situations. 

How many parents today allow children to climb trees? Answer is very few, because they might fall down and get hurt. But risky play is essential to life, children develop and calibrate their risk taking appetites based on their own experiences. Cut the risk out and children may not be open to take any risks even ahead in life. 

Mistakes are not accepted

Since ancient times, human race has progressed due to innumerable Trial and Error experiments. Even the scientific community first develops a hypothesis and then tests it out. Lot of times the hypothesis fails to pass the test. However failure is a big part of learning and gaining experience. But we do not want our children to experience any failure. We have to let the child try, fail and be unsuccessful in doing something and provide help only when they ask for it. Providing for all the needs of the child is part of parenting and responsibility of the parent, however the parent does not need to provide so much help that the child does not even make an attempt.

In Montessori approach, most of the activities in school have an element of trial and error. The teacher presents once and the child tries to figure out how to do the activity thereafter. The child literally makes mistakes all the time but eventually figures out the right way to do certain activity. This helps children experience the joy of discovery, figuring things out on their own through making mistakes and self-correction.

Avoid Uncertainty and mask the unknown

This is a particularly complex problem. Our society and lifestyle rewards removal of uncertainty from every situation. Fundamental problem exists when we want to bring our adult ideas to child’s world. It is natural that we want to remove any uncertainty for our children, however the issue is compounded when parents paint an unreal picture to mask the unknown. “I am sure you will make a lot of friends in the new school – you will have lot of fun”. Montessori approach would be slightly different where we would acknowledge the uncertainty but still be ok with it. “Hmm moving to a new school can be difficult to handle, I can understand your anxiety. However I hope that you will find something interesting in the new school, perhaps new friends, new activities that will help you through this transition.”

Parenting is about teaching skills, providing experiences and all the care necessary to face the challenges life throws at our children. Our job is NOT to remove the challenges for our children! 

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