What normally happens is that parents start to realize that keeping their kids safe from every single threat, especially once they start to become more independent, is impossible. No matter how cautious they are, there will be suffering that they can’t and shouldn’t keep away from their kids. In the end, it’s part of the mixed bag of stimuli that they need to grow up.
But some parents choose not to accept that fact. They also take what we might call an “all-powerful” position when it comes to their kids’ lives. They think that if they’re there, nothing bad can happen. As if there weren’t thousands of dangers that are impossible to avoid, even for a parent who puts all their effort into doing just that.
So that’s how wanting to keep your kids safe becomes an obsession. Parents end up constantly watching over their kids and it eventually wears them out. On top of that, these kinds of parents are usually suspicious of everything and everyone.
Keeping kids safe versus restricting kids
Without realizing it, any parent who fits the portrait we’re painting will become a voice of restriction. The word “No” is constantly on their lips and almost always comes along with a warning or threat. “Don’t do that… because something might happen to you.”
Similarly, they unintentionally — or at least not consciously — severely limit their child’s experiences. “We better not go to the park because it’s really cold and you might catch something.” “Don’t stay outside too long because there are a lot of dangerous things on the street.”
Animals spread disease, fire burns, water soaks… Everything and everyone turns into a massive danger. These parents have the idea that the only thing that can stop it is their presence. Even worse is when the child believes it’s true.
Obsession and control
A parent who’s obsessed with keeping their kids safe will say that they just want to protect them. They’ll also say it’s for their own good. If anyone questions them, they have arguments ready to defend their beliefs.
In fact, a lot of the time it ends up being an accusation against other people. So-and-so left their kid alone and that’s why they fell and broke a finger. Such-and-such doesn’t look after their kids and look how badly brought up they are.
These parents call it “protection,” but it’s actually something much less attractive. The right word is “control.” They’re controlling parents who have no problem managing their children’s lives and protecting them to an extreme degree.
They want to watch over every single step they take. They want to play a direct role in every project their children start. Above all, they want to be there all the time, like an “all powerful” shadow. And that attitude will usually stay with them long after their children are past childhood.
What’s behind obssession
Every parent feels tempted at some point to treat their child like a possession. But when that happens it doesn’t mean they’re bad people, it’s just that watching their child grow up and being responsible for them creates a very powerful bond. Not everyone is ready to have such a deep connection and realize the inherent risks that go along with it.
There’s actually a desire behind a parent’s obsession. It might be that they want to make that relationship last as long as possible. They don’t want to accept the fact that their children won’t always need them for everything, that it’s just part of the natural way of things that their kids end up living lives without their parents. What’s behind the obsession is a fear of admitting that their relationship will have to change, that they’ll have to move apart bit by bit.
It’s entirely possible that these obsessive parents have had negative experiences with loss. And maybe they still have some issues to work through.
They’re terrified of the possibility that their kids will stop needing them, and that they’ll go out to conquer the world on their own. That’s when these parents end up scaring their kids and showing them all the horrible things that might happen if their protectors aren’t around.
Sometimes excessive care also covers up some kind of denial. For example, the parent doesn’t love their child as much as they feel like they should. And they fend off that feeling by unconsciously overdoing it with their protection. No matter what, there’s always something off when it comes to obsessive protection, something worth figuring out.