For good reason, parents are getting more and more protective of their children. There are certainly a lot of sickos out there and it’s a sad reflection on our society that parents must be so cautious when it comes to their kids’ safety.
But there are some instances in parenting, when hedge-building can cross over from being a buffer to being oppressive.
How do you know when you’ve crossed the line?
When hedge making becomes a substitute for learning discernment. It’s way easier to tell a child that something is bad or not safe than to tell him why and help him learn to discern. Teaching children discernment requires much more work and much more risk. But if kids don’t learn discernment, they may lose their vigilance because they are dependent on Mom or Dad to tell them what to do without telling them the why.
When hedge making causes kids to reject friends who don’t agree with them. Kids are not too young to understand that it’s okay to agree to disagree agreeably. Teach them–and show by your example–that you don’t need to see eye to eye in order to get along with people.
There’s a fine line here because when our kids are young, we of course want to expose them to positive people and provide good playmates for them. But as they get older, you will not be able to choose all their friends for them. By the time my kids got to high school, they knew how to be picky in relationships and for the most part chose like-minded friends. But they also knew how to get along with people who they didn’t agree with.
It goes back to the whole discernment thing. When your child learns discernment, he will choose good friends while still getting along with those who think differently.
When hedge-making makes kids elitist. Let me use an example to illustrate this. Let’s say you insist that your child play only on the best, most elite sports team. Your reason is that you want your kid to get the best training, the best coaching. While the motivation to provide the best for your child is noble, constantly smoothing the path for him and making sure life is not hard is obsessive hedge-making. The result will be a child who filters things through an elitist mindset, and you will rob your child of some amazing character growth that results from hard lessons.
When hedge-making makes you obsessive. Over-the-top hedge-making is unhealthy for you and your child. The hedge you are striving to put up around your child may well be a wall that grows between you and your spouse. Over protective parents are often not enjoyable to be around; their negativity and worry dampen the people around them.
The bottom line when it comes to hedges is that you must strike a balance. Protect your child, of course, but remember that overprotecting–obsessive hedge making–has its liabilities for your family, for your marriage, and for your child.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents.You can also find her on Facebook , Twitter and Youtube.