Most of us have parents that are, in some ways, slightly or completely overprotective. As I write this article, I recall all the ways I dealt with the same scenarios at home and the bitterness of emotions I felt growing up. I was forbidden from doing many things, like heading for a road trip, planning a sleepover at my friends’ house without adult supervision or something as simple as dating.
Throughout my childhood years, whenever someone asked me if I could go out with them after school hours, I would ask my mom and she would eventually, guilt me into not going. After that, I just stopped trying altogether. I used to feel sad for a while but then move on. It took me a while to realise how this form of parental control and strictness was really affecting me from within.
Amidst so many cases of children committing suicides, indulging in drug abuse, girls getting themselves pregnant at an early age, road accidents, adventures turning into misadventures, there were enough reasons for my parents to keep their little or not-so-little ones caged up in a golden home.
For the longest time, I was under the delusion that my age had something to do with their reactions. That may be, once I grew up, I wouldn’t have to deal with such restrictions and they would become understanding. But man, was I wrong! They didn't mind coming up with such excuses to ‘protect’ me from the harsh realities of the world. They believed that by not ‘letting me’ experience certain things on my own, they were in fact, sheltering me from every form of sadness or dangerous entity out there.
It’s not like I didn’t try to be optimistic and see things from their perspective. Having parents who were protective of me simply meant that I had parents who deeply and irrevocably cared about me. And for a certain amount of time, it felt good. Having friends whose parents rarely spent time with them or even bothered to know what was going on in their lives, I felt relieved to have parents who asked me how my day went, called me to know if I had reached someplace safely and did small things, every now and then, to show how much they loved me. I was (and still am) extremely grateful for having parents who never let me felt alone in this crowded, bizarre world.
There’s always a thin line between protectiveness and overprotectiveness. I loved spending time with them, but not on the account of ditching my friends and cancelling my plans all the time. I liked sharing things with them, but not by letting them intrude my privacy and space. I liked seeking their advice on matters that confused me but not by accepting everything that they felt was right.
Before I knew, I grew up and soon, this optimism turned into frustration. They had me biting my nails off and almost pulling my hair out of exasperation. I grew mentally and physically exhausted at convincing my parents into letting me do things that any young adult of my age did so easily, happily and guiltlessly.
If you have grown up with overprotective parents or are still dealing with them, you will definitely relate to the following signs which they may have displayed more than a few times:
1. They try to solve all their child’s problems by quickly taking control of situations.
2. They are overly supportive and sympathetic when things don’t go well instead of helping their children accept and get over tough situations.
3. They are too intrusive in their child’s world and disrespect their child’s right to keep certain feelings and thoughts private.
4. They talk endlessly with their children, always seeking reassurance that all is well.
5. They discourage their kids from taking risks and can go to extraordinary lengths to protect them from any physical threat or uncomfortable emotional experience.
6. Their parenting style results in catering to their children’s whims and fancies without giving them any mature responsibilities as they want their child to just ‘always feel good’.
7. They try to manage their child’s friendships and influence them into breaking it off when they feel a certain friend is not a good company for their kids
8. They fail to teach their children about the real world by discouraging them to involve in any activity that may result in uncomfortable feelings. They shelter them from the dark side of life.
Being the child of overprotective parents can affect you through more than just occasional fits of frustration and exhaustion. Whatever level of the spectrum you may have experienced, if you don’t try to come out of it sooner or later, you might have to deal with certain results that will affect your habits, behaviours and neuroses in adulthood.
Some of the most common signs that children of overprotective parents display are:
1. They display people-pleasing attitudes and can struggle with learning to say “no” or to express their authentic selves in front of others.
2. They resent being controlled by anybody in the world. Even a perceived attempt at trying to control them can cause these kids to rebel and feel threatened.
3. They try to become perfectionists, usually by adopting destructive methods. From being the highest performer in office at the risk of their mental health to developing eating disorders to look perfect - in trying to control things, they tend to lose more control.
4. They usually go through a wild phase and experience a period of high-risk or impulsive behaviour as soon as they become independent to compensate for the lack of freedom they were granted in childhood.
5. They are always insecure, anxious or avoidant in relationships, seeking to cater to the needs of others ahead of their own or to avoid romantic relationships altogether.
6. They are extremely sensitive to criticism because they’ve heard it all their lives.
7. They may continue to care about their parents’ critical thoughts on their decisions even after they become independent.
8. They associate their self-worth with their resolute to show discipline in almost every aspect of life and carry a sense of toxic shame when they fail to do so.
Well, you’ve probably lost your shit a thousand times and went crazy with the rules - just like I did, but there’s a better way to deal with your overprotective parents than to just argue with them. Why not make this experience better for all of you? Yep, that can happen. Here are 10 ways to gain your much-deserved freedom from your parents without losing their trust or love:
If you’ve reached a point where you’re tired of not being able to go out with your friends or do the things that you want without seeking permission, the first thing you need to do is train your mind. This is extremely crucial because the first time you make your stand against your parents, you’ll have to fight the urge to avoid further conflict and cave in. You need to be strong and keep the end goal in mind before a confrontation. It might not always work in the start, but it will, sooner or later.
I know you probably want to blow up in a rage, yell and tell them everything that’s on your mind. But will that help? I mean, sure you would have vented all your frustrations out but that won’t change your overprotective parents. In fact, it might just make them even more adamant. If you really want to convince them, show them that you’re serious by approaching this situation as a grown adult. Approach the subject a little casually, and ease them into hearing what you have to say.
Realising that you’re a capable adult and no longer need their help can be a little more difficult for some parents to accept. Sit with them and tell them that you love them and appreciate their concern, but lately, it’s been having an opposite effect on you. Express how it’s been affecting your feelings and your life. Use the sentence “I feel…” in order to show them how their behaviour actually affects you. Blaming them won’t help you. So if your parents call you 10 times a day, say, “I feel stressed when you call me so many times and I feel like you don’t trust me at all.” This will make them understand how their behaviour has an emotional impact on you.
Don’t push too far, too fast. Take it slow. Try to come up with a win-win situation wherein neither do you feel restricted and nor do they feel insecure. Tell them what you want. Do you want to go out with your friends every Friday night? Do you want your curfew to be extended by one more hour? Instead of them calling you after every few hours to ask your whereabouts, tell them to wait for your call instead. Be clever. Try to establish such healthy boundaries and make sure that they are followed earnestly.
If you show your parents that you can be trusted, they are more likely to give you freedom sooner. Don't hide things from them - be free with all the information they want to know. If you say you’re going to the library to study for a little while and then to your friend’s house, do just that. Show them that you’re a person of your word and they’ll appreciate your maturity. If you end up breaking their trust within this process, it will certainly take a long time before they start trusting your actions and promises.
One of the biggest fears of parents is of their children not wanting to spend time with them. The moment they realise that their kids are drifting away from them is when they start feeling lonely and insecure. Take out one or two days a week, and spend them with your family. Tell them about your achievements, your funny moments, your friends and make them feel like they are an important part of your lives, too. They won’t feel the need to stop you or make you feel guilty for going out with your friends when they have already spent an ample amount of time with you recently.
It’s okay if you don’t get what you want at first. Try to barter and keep it at a level that they will be comfortable with. Sometimes, they might even react negatively towards you trying to establish boundaries. Try to compromise at certain points and understand what they need. If you find them dramatising everything you do, stay firm on your point and don’t fold when they expect you to. Eventually, they’ll stop doing this because you wouldn’t be reacting how they want you to.
I know it sounds a bit kiddish but it’s definitely worth it. If your parents know all your friends/who you’re mostly hanging out with, they’ll be more likely to say yes. Once in a while, tell your parents about your friends and where you met them, what they’re currently up to, etc. Bring your friends home for a get-together or a sleepover and introduce them to your parents as well. If your friends succeed in gaining your parents’ trust and leaving a good impression on them, your parents wouldn’t think twice before letting you spend time with them for sure.
The best way to keep your parents from breathing down your neck is to keep them informed. If you’ve got a busy day or will be home late, take a minute or two out and tell your mom or dad exactly what you have planned for the day. Keep in touch with your parents and let them know that you’re okay when you’re out. I know it’s annoying but it's a small sacrifice. Keep them posted and they won’t have to keep a tab on you. It’s that easy!
Cut them a little slack if you hope for them to get used to this routine quickly. It’s going to take time, so keep pushing your boundaries. Be prepared for “I’m not talking to you” phases and the silent treatment every once in a while. It’s not easy, but if it’s something that you want, you must keep trying. It’s well worth the struggle and once you start gaining even the slightest bit of freedom, you won’t feel as anxious, lonely or caged up as you used to.
Therefore, there is indeed, a win-win situation to this age-old dilemma of dealing with overprotective parents. You only need to know the tricks of the trade and make it work your way - smartly, boldly and cautiously. So, hang in there, buddy. Hum Sabka Time Aayega!
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