about a baby

Over-pro­tec­tive par­ent­ing a sign of the times

Townsville Bulletin - - Front Page - Bettina War­bur­ton

IT started as a play­ground trip like many oth­ers we have ex­pe­ri­enced to­gether.

But when my tod­dlers climbed all the way to the top of the play­ground equip­ment, I caught my­self par­tak­ing in a par­ent­ing act that rat­tled me.

As Gemma and Sophia hap­pily climbed the play equip­ment, to­tally lack­ing in fear, I f ound my­self hov­er­ing un­der­neath, arm­sout - stretched is­su­ing warn­ings about fall­ing.

‘‘ Please don’t climb all the way to the top girls you may fall and hurt your­selves,’’ I fret­fully warned Sophia and Gem.

Sec­onds af­ter I spoke the words, with the sounds of my tod­dlers’ unadul­ter­ated laugh­ter fill­ing my ears, I had an epiphany of sorts.

It was at that mo­ment I re­alised what I had be­come what I had spent the past three years un­wit­tingly cul­ti­vat­ing.

I’m he­li­copter par­ent or at the very least an over-pro­tec­tive par­ent.

You know the type of par­ent I mean. A par­ent who doesn’t let her young chil­dren do many things with­out hov­er­ing ‘‘ just in case’’ some­thing bad hap­pens and reg­u­larly squeal­ing warn­ings about the dan­gers of the big bad world.

Well I have to con­fess, that’s me.

I fear that if I don’t stop be­ing so over-pro­tec­tive of my young chil­dren they’ll end up grow­ing up afraid to take risks and afraid to push the lim­its.

This is not how I in­tended my par­ent­ing style to be at all.

As watched my girls glee­fully dan­gle at the top of the play equip­ment I had flash­backs to things I’ve done and said that con­firmed my he­li­copter and over -pro­tec­tive par­ent­ing sta­tus.

‘‘ No girls don’t play in the mud,’’ as they stomped in a pud­dle; ‘‘ Slow down please’’ as Gemma sped along the drive­way on her scooter; and ‘‘ Not too high Sophia’’ as my just turned two-year-old swung her­self on the swing.

The sur­pris­ing thing about all these com­ments is that I’m pretty cer­tain my mother never re­layed such warn­ings to me and my si­b­lings when we were sim­i­lar ages to my girls.

I was raised a free-range child, with par­ents who be­lieved in safety but let me workout my own age-ap­pro­pri­ate lim­its.

I was al­lowed to play in the mud, ride my scooter as fast as I wanted and swing my­self as high as dared. I was also given the free­dom to climb any tree as high as I fan­cied from an ex­tremely early age.

I didn’t break a bone once, al­though pho­tos of me as a young child rarely showed me with­out grazed knees and el­bows.

I loved my child­hood and look back fondly to the af­ter­noons ‘‘ free-play­ing’’ on the fam­ily prop­erty with­out my mother hov­er­ing in the back­ground shriek­ing out ‘‘ Bette don’t climb too high, ride too far, swing too high’’ etc.

As my mother al­ways told me when I’d try to help Gem and Sophia find their walk­ing legs: ‘‘ Ba­bies learn to walk by fall­ing over’’.

As a teacher, my mother is very aware of the need to build re­silience in young chil­dren.

She is a big be­liever in al­low­ing young chil­dren ageap­pro­pri­ate free­doms, in­de­pen­dence and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

With the in­ten­tion of try­ing to en­sure their safety, I’ve un­in­ten­tion­ally ended up dis­cour­ag­ing them from tak­ing the slight­est phys­i­cal risk.

Along the way to en­sure no harm ( not even a knee graze!) be­falls my young chil­dren, I fear I’ve failed to live up to my par­ent­ing ideals.

So my chal­lenge is: how do I teach my much-longed-for chil­dren cau­tion and courage, at the same time?

I fig­ure, for me, it’s an im­por­tant les­son to learn.

So last week­end, I le t Gemma and Sophia test their bound­aries.

I made a com­mit­ment to stopt he need t o mi­cro­man­age even the slight­est ad­ven­ture that my young chil­dren choose to un­der­take.

I watched Gemma leap into the deep end of the pool into her fa­ther’s arms with­out shriek­ing a safety warn­ing ( to both of them) and watched Sophia speed along the con­crete drive­way on her tod­dler scooter.

I al­most fainted from hold­ing my breath as I pre­tend­ing to be cool as I watched my tod­dlers chal­lenge their fear­less­ness.

Climb­ing out of the pool, Gemma beamed as she ran to me yelling, ‘‘ Did you see me? I jumped in the grown up pool!"

As I hugged my tod­dler I won­dered when I for­got grazed knees and play­ground­climb­ing re­lated in­juries are the stuff of child­hood.

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