Modern parenting styles have increasingly revolved around safeguarding our children from potential risks and dangers. While this protective instinct is natural and well-intentioned, it may inadvertently hinder our children's ability to develop independence and self-reliance.

A recent study suggests that when parents direct all or most of their children's play, the children lose an important opportunity to learn about independence.  These opportunities are crucial for children to learn and grow.  Although the study had a small sample size (only 28 participants in in-depth interviews), it follows a trend of larger studies reaching the same conclusions.

Another study conducted in 2021 revealed limited benefits of intensive parenting styles, with potential negative effects on children's mental well-being. The study suggests that "while undertaking parenting activities aimed at improving children’s development may lead to positive outcomes for children’s health, doing these activities intensively may not lead to even better health outcomes. The opposite might be true for psychological health, whereby overparenting can be particularly detrimental later in life if continued into emerging adulthood."

As we parent children who have suffered trauma, we need to pay attention to this research.  It is tempting to try to fix problems for our kids.  But we need to give them time to themselves to explore the world and take age-appropriate risks.  Those times can be crucial to their learning resilience.

Of course, we have to deal with societal pressures to keep a close eye on our kids or, in the case of foster parents, requirements that we never leave them unsupervised.  We can, however, continue to advocate for our kids' needs to have adult-free time.  Dr. John Day, one of the authors of the more recent study, emphasizes "there needs to be a culture shift where health policymakers ensure children are encouraged to learn about the risks of physically active play, independent of adult supervision. 'Parenting is no longer simply an aspect of who someone is, but a role one is expected to extensively perform. Parents and their children are trapped together in this scenario, and so we need policymakers to recognize this and work with parents and children to change this for future generations.'"


Debbie Ausburn

Helping foster parents and stepparents learn how to be the person who is not supposed to be there.