Parental Hyper-vigilance: The Great Paradox of Parenting

Parents today are going to great lengths to take the struggles out of life for their children. Isn’t this what good, caring parents do? Unfortunately, parental hyper-vigilance tends to make children more fragile, rather than more equipped, which explains why many of today’s youth are increasingly incapable of managing demands of life.

This is the great paradox of parenting.  Well intended parents who want their children to be successful inadvertently shield them from the very lessons that will allow them to become successful.  No parent wants to see their child suffer and fail, but taking the discomfort, disappointment and struggle from their development only robs them of developing resilience and coping strategies.

Children of hyper-vigilant parents are left to manage few challenges all their own which leaves them unprepared for learning to manage the challenges that life will most assuredly provide. Over time, it stagnates a child’s development and makes them susceptible for depression, anxiety and lack of self-confidence. These mental health issues then create additional difficulties for the teen struggling to find his/her identity during the adolescent years.

Hyper-vigilant parents who attempt to solve every problem for their child and can’t fathom the thought of their child being uncomfortable are doing them no favors.  Too many of these parents self-deceive and believe they are engaged in good parenting.

Children of hyper-vigilant parents who have become accustomed to having the things they desire, often times, instantaneously, become entitled.  Over time, they develop a low frustration tolerance, a lack of patience, and a complete inability to deal with discomfort of any type on any level. 

The unfortunate reality for these children is that life is full of discomfort.  As these children go through their teen years they are unable to solve problems and deal with the daily dilemmas they encounter.  These seemingly small dilemmas become the genesis of the mental health issues including depression anxiety, substance use, technology and video game addictions.

There is a lesson in this for all parents.  Those who allow their kids to find a way to deal with life's day-to-day stresses by themselves are helping them develop resilience and coping strategies.  The goal of parenting is to raise an independent human being, capable of managing the demands of life.  At some point in their childhood, most kids will be forced to confront their own mediocrity.

A mistaken belief many parents possess is assuming that children can't handle difficult situations. Too often parents assume that if kids start getting into difficulty they need to rush in and do it for them, rather than let them flounder a bit and learn from it.