When we overprotect kids, they don’t take risks, explore their abilities, or grow as young leaders. Here’s what you need to know about serving kids with overprotective parents.
Safety is a huge priority for parents, churches, and ministries today—as it should be. But child-development experts note that all our fears and over-sheltering have likely stifled kids’ growth. When protection crosses the line into overprotection, kids fail to take risks, explore their abilities, and grow as young leaders.
Because parents’ natural instinct is to protect their children, they might not always be fans of risk-taking. In fact, some characteristics of overprotectiveness can detract from your efforts. But here’s how to work through those issues together.
5 Steps to Serving Children with Overprotective Parents
1. Tackle fearfulness.
Many parents are afraid of what might happen to their kids if they hang out with marginalized people and are exposed to life’s messy realities—especially beyond parental sight and control. “The best thing you can do is be a catalyst and an encourager,” says Shelley Campagnola of Kids Alive International Canada. “Answer parents’ questions, assure them, and share the successes. Invite them to join in. Whatever you do, though, don’t undermine parents.”
2. Engage disinterest.
Although children can become risk-takers even if their parents aren’t invested in church, it helps greatly when parents model that behavior. Jenni Colwell, a family life pastor in Ontario, says it’s important to provide opportunities for families to serve together, as a community.
3. Unplug perfectionism.
When kids face unreachable standards, they’re disinclined to take risks, says Patty Smith, with the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. “But when parents create a culture of ‘Try this!’ in their family, kids will be investigators, problem-solvers, and risk-takers. They’ll know that experimentation and unpredictable outcomes are okay.”
4. Relax rigid thinking.
Rigidity hampers creative thinking. Challenge kids to brainstorm more than one answer to a problem or develop a plan to achieve a goal. Challenge them to take risks in their problem-solving by thinking creatively. KidLead co-founder Alan Nelson advises letting kids take gradual risks, such as leading an outing to the grocery store and eventually even planning a family vacation.
5. Allay overprotectiveness.
Gently remind parents about the negative consequences of swooping in to rescue kids from every tough situation. “We’ve forgotten you must lose and fail in order to learn,” says kids pastor Ron Leach. “Pain, hurt, and disappointment can point us to Jesus, who offers a life beyond anything we could ask for or imagine.”
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