The fierce determination of a mother who feels her children are in danger is easily the strongest possible human motivation. This is a good thing, and it’s how we keep our kids alive. But compared to a time when your child could be carried off by dire wolves or stepped on by a woolly mammoth, we live in a relatively safe world and sometimes our innate level of anxiety about our kids safety crosses a line to where it may be doing more damage than good. It’s important that we take time to check ourselves and try to make sure that our level of worry and concern is appropriate. An overly anxious parent tends to result in an overly anxious child that is less willing to explore the world around them.
One example of this that is very powerful to me, has to do with playground safety. The number one injury requiring medical attention that occurs on playgrounds turns out to be a broken leg or ankle resulting from a child going down a slide on their parents lap. If a little rubber sneaker gets caught up on a slide it just brings a child’s body to a stop, they move their foot and continue to slide. But if that child’s body is followed by 120+ pounds of adult, the added force on the caught up leg is too great . You can imagine how terrible the adult feels in this scenario as they were just trying to keep the child extra safe and inadvertently seriously injured them. The reality of the situation is that the child is probably just fine going down that slide on their own, the worst that happens is that they scrape up a knee, you brush it off and give them a band-aid, and they learn to be a little more careful the next time.
This is an extreme example but there is also some risk to not letting our children scrape their knees. We learn from mistakes and successes much more than from rules or lectures and the opportunity for learning may be well worth the scraped knee.
Worrying about our children’s safety is one of the most important roles of a parent. The ability to step back and reflect on whether we are really worrying about the right things is a quality of a Superparent.
For a great book on this topic, check out The Paranoid Parents Guide: Worry Less, Parent Better, and Raise a Resilient Child by Christie Barnes.