Influencing of over protection and over anxiety of Parents on child development
25 May,13

By Professor S M Shahnawaz Bin Tabib

The child is profoundly influenced in innumerable ways by his parents and his home. Both physical growth and mental and emotional growth are crucial in a child’s overall development .Learning is also crucial to development. It is the process of acquiring knowledge, skills, habits, and values through experience, experimentation, observation, and /or study and instruction .Children have a right to live and to develop to their full potential

How love is important for the child

It is of prime importance that the parents should not only love their children, but should show it. Parents show love by the facial expression, tone of voice and understanding of his needs. Some parents have the mistaken idea that love consists of giving the child everything that he wants and buying him expensive present. Children are liable to grow from their parents in adolescence and show little love for them if there has been constant criticism and bickering in the home, constant scoldings and punishments, constant derogation, disapproval and disparagement.

How child is spoilt

Many mothers seem to be haunted by the fear of ‘spoiling’ their children. It is a paradox that it is to these mothers that most spoilt children: belong. A child is not spoilt by being loved. His demands may be frequent at first, but if satisfied they usually soon decrease. After the first year a child is spoilt by over-protection, by never being allowed to do things for himself, by never being allowed out of his mother’s sight. He is spoilt by lack of discipline because of fear of ‘repressing’ him. He is spoilt by being allowed to wreck the furniture, walk on the table, draw on the wall etc .He is spoilt by deprivation of love and affection and security. 

Over-protection and over-anxiety

The term ‘over-protection’ signifies more than excessive protection of a child against danger. It includes failure to allow him to grow up and look after himself. The mother continues to feed him, dress him and attend to his elimination long after a properly treated child has learnt to take full responsibility for these functions himself. It includes restriction of outdoor exercise in case he should catch cold or get his feet wet. It includes overindulgence with his toys and play behaviour, with excessive domination in other ways. It includes yielding to wishes and actions which no normal parent should tolerate. It consists of preventing him playing with other children because they are ‘rough’. It convinces the child that he is incapable of looking after himself; he learns that he need not make any effort himself because his parents always rush to help him. When he returns from school they regularly help him with his homework. ‘They support him whenever he criticises other children or his teachers. ‘They make their child’s decisions for him, saving him from the consequences of his behaviour’. He is not allowed to choose the friends whom he wants to have into the home. When there is a dispute the older child is rebuked, with the result that the younger one deliberately annoys his older siblings in order to get them into trouble. Patients had not been allowed to mix with other children for fear she should pick up the local accent.

 What factors predispose over protection and over anxiety?

Over-protection is due to a variety of factors. It my occur when the parents have had a long wait for the child, especially if on account of age or other reasons it is not possible to have another. It may occur when there has been a succession of miscarriages or a difficult labour. It occurs when parents, determined to have a girls, eventually achieve their ambition after having a succession of boys. It may arise when a child arrives many years after the last one, or when a child returns home after a serious illness in hospital. The mother may have been told that the child was not expected to live. It may be the result of his having a handicap or a serious hereditary disease– it is the natural reaction of the parents of handicapped child to do everything for him, instead of helping him slowly and painfully to learn to do things for himself and take the necessary steps towards independence. It may occur when a child is adopted after a long period of sterility or when a previous child has died. A mother who has had an unhappy childhood, who is unhappy in her married life, or who has been  deprived of her ambitions, may turn to her child to satisfy her own needs for affection. Psychologists say that over-protection may be a mask to compensate for hostility or a rejecting attitude of which, as a rule, she is unaware.

Over-anxiety is due to the same causes as over-protection. Both are related in part to the mother’s personality. It is often manifest as soon as the baby is born. The mother worries about her ability to feed him and is nervous and anxious when he is put to the breast. If in addition the baby is irritable, lactation is liable to fail. When she gets him home she weighs him daily. If he does not take as much as she thinks he ought to take, she tries to force him to take more and food refusal occurs. She constantly goes in to see him in the evenings to see if he is still breathing and keeps him in her bedroom long after he ought to have moved into his own room. She worries about his bowels and the amount of sleep he has, and so adopts forcing methods and meets with bowel and sleep refusal. She never leaves him alone for a minute in the daytime, however quiet and contented he is, always picking him up and playing with him. She grossly over-clothes him and keeps him out of the sun. She keeps him indoors if it is at all cold outside. She prevents him from sitting, standing or walking as long as she can, in case his back will be weakened. In the weaning period she becomes worried if he refuses a mouthful of food and tries to force him to take it, only to be met with further refusal. She may regard him as delicate and make him too fat by overfeeding him. She will not let him feed himself in case he chokes; she will not allow him to go outside and play in case he hurts himself; when he plays with other children she interferes with the play in case he should be injured.   

Consequences of over protection on child development

The result of over-protections serious. The child’s conduct is immature. He remains utterly dependent on his mother and so is late is leaning various skills – feeding himself, attending to the toilet and dressing himself. He is insecure and does not play well with other children. He is afraid of getting hurt and wants to control the games himself. He is apt to be bullied by other children. He runs to his mother for protection and is accident prone. Later on he fails to make friends. If the over-protection is associated with over-domination he is likely to be aggressive and boastful or submissive, timid and effeminate. In adolescent life and later he is unable to make any decision for himself without consulting his mother, for he fails to acquire normal independence. He does not take part in ordinary games with his fellows, preferring the shelter of home life. If the over-protection is associated with over-indulgence there may be temper tantrums and other manifestations of aggressive behavior. Obesity due to overeating is sometimes a problem.

Over-anxiety is a common picture familiar to all paediatricians. It is easy to criticise a mother for being over-anxious, but it is not so easy for a parent to avoid over-anxiety, particularly when there has been a long wait for the child, or when he has been born prematurely or had some serious illness. One should be sympathetic and understanding with such mothers, particularly when the child is her first one, bearing in mind the fact that over-anxiety springs from love. 

Professor S M Shahnawaz Bin Tabib
Executive Director & Professor of Paediatrics
Institute of Child and Mother Health 



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Md.Masudul Hasan - at 06 June,13

Nice Article.

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