If you find yourself breaking out into a sweat at the mere thought of your child crossing a road all by themselves, or whether they’ll be snatched out of their bed at night, you may be ‘helicopter parenting’ - hovering over your child to make sure nothing bad can ever happen. But while it’s important to keep your child safe, are we losing sleep over the wrong things?
With tragic stories like Madeline McCann’s, it’s common for parents to worry that their little ones will be snatched from them, but it’s important to remember that kidnapping, thankfully, is very rare. “It’s amazing how many parents worry about their children getting snatched and yet forget to put their seatbelts on in the car,” says child psychologist Eileen Hayes. “In a crash, you are twice as likely to die if you are not wearing a seatbelt than if you are, so making sure your car seat in fitted correctly and your children always have seat belts buckled is protecting them from an everyday danger, not a rare occurrence.”
Comparing your child to another
It starts with sleeping through the night, weaning, walking, talking and eventually, which child is getting the best results at school. Comparing your child to other children will be doing more harm then good. Professor Lilian Katz, from the University of Illinois, asserts that if parents push their child to reach goals or achieve academic results in record time, the child will suffer in social situations when they're older. Just because your child hasn’t walked yet and is nearing 17 months doesn’t mean they’ll never walk - they might be running marathons in their twenties! Parents should focus instead on praising their children for the little achievements to help with their self-esteem and confidence.
Fixing every danger
Picture the scene: stair gates across even the smallest step or padding on any piece of furniture that is toddler head height. All children manage to bang their heads at some point, and generally speaking they learn from their mistakes. If you cover up every possible danger at home, your kids will go on play dates and end up falling down the stairs. It’s better to teach your child why something is dangerous, such as a hot kettle or an open fire, rather than banning them from your house.
It’s very easy to become hygiene-mad when you become a parent, and if advertising is correct, there are all sorts of nasties hiding in our carpets, kitchen worktops and in our bed linen. The problem is, if you don’t expose your children to germs their immune systems become so under-worked that they can’t tell good or bad substances from each other. According to Allergy UK, rates of allergy trebled in the UK in the last decade with one in three suffering from asthma, eczema or allergies. So, the next time your child’s sandwich falls on the kitchen floor, as long as it’s relatively clean, pick it up and give it back!
Letting your children have freedom
“The number of children starting university who haven’t been allowed to go to a sleepover is astonishing,” says Hayes, “No wonder they go off the rails with all the freedom! Children need to learn how to assess risks and have the opportunities to build independence. If they are completely over-protected they don't have the chance to become street-wise or to try out skills for themselves. Parents should be gradually allowing more freedom through the school age years.”