The dangers of infantilization in the university stage


Up to what age should a father or mother attend tutoring sessions with their children’s teachers or have a direct dialogue with their teachers? When is the time to stop “defending” them before the teaching staff and allow them to manage reviews, claims or doubts themselves?

Bearing in mind that at the university the students are already adults, it would be expected that at this stage the students would be completely autonomous. The years of the degree usually suppose a transition stage towards the development of personal autonomy and self-regulation, so necessary for adult life.

If parents continue with their supervisory work also in their university stage, isn’t this parental intervention depriving them of necessary learning experiences?

Hyperparenthood and helicopter fathers-mothers

The concept of hyper-parenting refers to a parenting model in which fathers and mothers called “helicopters” constantly supervise their sons and daughters and systematically solve all their problems. In this way, they prevent them from suffering and, in turn, from being able to develop their own coping strategies in the face of adversity.

Undoubtedly, the intention of these families is positive, since no father or mother likes to see their child suffer. However, this supposed attention may respond more to the child’s desires of the child, who does not perceive himself capable of facing the problem alone, and to the discomfort that the situation generates in the parents, than to the needs for developing their own resilience that every adolescent or young adult presents at these ages.

Unprotected in adult life

Therefore, the result ends up being counterproductive. A parental intervention initially aimed at protecting their sons and daughters from adversity ends up leading to a significant lack of protection for adult life, in which, clearly, they will have to face problems.

In this way, we find ourselves, more and more , emotionally weak young adults , with a very low tolerance for frustration, who have not been able to learn from their mistakes or take responsibility for them and with serious difficulties to self-regulate and make decisions. .

I am capable?

It seems clear that no father or mother wants this for their sons and daughters. It also seems clear that none of them has considered exactly what is the message that, implicitly, the children receive from this supposed overprotection.

How should these students interpret, already in the university stage, that their mother comes to protest in an exam revision when they fail, or that their father writes to the teachers because he does not agree with the evaluation criteria? The reading is clear: “If my parents have to solve my problems, it is because I cannot, or because I am not capable, or because I am not going to know how to do it well.”

That is, they do not trust their skills and abilities to solve their own problems and they will depend on them every time a setback appears.

Self-esteem and autonomy

It is important to remember that, at least in the early ages, the development of self-esteem is closely related to the autonomy that boys and girls can develop, and this autonomy depends, above all, on a parenting that allows and empowers it.

This basically translates into making it easier for boys and girls to solve their own problems or, at least, to perceive that they can intervene on them. Problems tailored to their abilities, obviously, but that also allow them to make mistakes, test themselves, get frustrated, get to know each other, and learn from mistakes, not as something bad to avoid, but as one of the most significant ways we have to learn.

The message we should convey to them is that our role is not to prevent them from making mistakes, but to always be there, unconditionally, to lovingly accompany them in their mistakes.

Why do we overprotect?

Overprotection can have multiple origins . Some may be having smaller families, fewer sons and daughters, older parents, difficulties in pregnancy, feeling guilty about having to work long hours, feeling ownership over the lives of children as if they belonged to us. property, and, above all, the strong pressure and social demand that exists today to be considered and see themselves as good parents.

It is clear that being a father or mother is not an easy task . We often feel lost when we don’t want to reproduce the authoritarian parenting styles that most of us experienced in childhood, but aren’t sure what the right alternative is .

If we opt for an overprotective style that does not allow us to experience and manage frustration sufficiently, we will not allow children and adolescents to develop emotionally and socially in an optimal way.

We will prevent them from testing their skills and competencies , we will make them insecure, not very autonomous, very vulnerable to stress and with a very low capacity for self-regulation, which is so necessary to cope with the adversities of adult life.

Prepare for the world

In this sense, let’s pay attention to how we ignore or justify their mistakes, how we help them solve their own problems or we solve them ourselves, how we try to avoid difficult or unpleasant situations, how we respond immediately to their demands and demands. .

In short, let us pay attention to whether we are preparing the way for them, or whether we are preparing them for the way .

Author Bio: Anna Carballo Marquez is a Professor of Psychobiology and Education at the International University of Catalonia