Protecting children: obsessive worry

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Robert Maurer
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Protecting children: obsessive worry

Last update: 13 March, 2018

  1. When you are a parent, protecting your children is a priority that is born and installed as a motivation of the most powerful. Even knowing that it is impossible, many parents do not give up, in their mental structure, to protect their children from all sorts of dangers or threats, real, probable or unlikely. In this way, protecting them from suffering or lack becomes a necessity for its own sake.

As a rule, a parent begins to understand, over time, that keeping their children safe from all threats is an impossible task, especially when they begin to gain autonomy in their movements. As careful as a parent is, there are sufferings that cannot and should not be avoided for a child because they are part of the wealth of stimuli needed for growth.



“People talk about coming of age. This does not exist. Whoever has a child is condemned to be a father for life. They are the children who turn away from us. But we parents cannot get away from them. "

-Graham Greene-

However, some parents decide not to accept this fact. They assume, we could say, an attitude of omnipotence towards the life of their children. They believe that by always being there, nothing will happen. As if it were conceivable, as if there were not a thousand dangers impossible to avoid while directing all one's energy to the safety of the child.

Protecting the children then becomes an obsession. This thought translates above all into a continuous vigilance that little by little exhausts them. At the same time, this type of parent tends to be suspicious of others and the world.



Protecting children: a challenge that encompasses censorship 

Without realizing it, the father and mother we are sketching begin to take on the aspect of censorship. The word "no" is always on their lips and almost always accompanied by a threat. "Do not do it because it may happen that ...".

Similarly, often unwittingly or at least without being aware of it, begin to severely limit the child's experience. “Better not go to the park because it's too cold and then you get cold”. “Don't stay out for long because the road is full of dangers”.

Animals transmit diseases, fire burns, water wets ... the world becomes one great danger. And the idea is transmitted to the children that the only thing capable of averting it is the presence of the father or the mother. And sometimes, the child becomes convinced that it is true.

Obsession and control

Parents obsessed with keeping their child safe will say they just want to protect him and that they do it for his own good. And if someone questions this behavior, they present a long list of reasons in their defense, which more often than not sound like an accusation against others. "Dude left alone the little boy who then fell and broke his finger." "Gaius does not pay attention to his children, in fact he looks at how rude they are."

They call it "protect", but in reality it is something less acceptable. The correct word is "control". They are controlling parents, they have no problem directing and protecting the lives of their children, up to the most extreme levels. They wish to monitor every step taken, to intervene heavily in each of their projects. Being there, always present, like an omnipotent shadow. This attitude generally lasts well beyond the child's childhood.



What is behind this obsession?

Any parent can feel tempted to act as if the child were an object of property at a certain moment. It's not about being bad people; more simply, seeing a child being born, being responsible for it, generates a very strong bond. You are not always prepared for such a visceral love, knowing, at the same time, that you have to take on the intrinsic risk that it entails.


Most control-obsessed parents, after all, want something else. It is possible that their dream is to extend this bond longer. Don't give up on the idea that children will always need them, for everything. To remove the thought that the law of nature foresees that a child will end up making her life, without the parents. It is, in short, the fear of admitting that the relationship between parent and child is a relationship destined to change, destined for a gradual separation.

It is very likely that these obsessive parents have not had a good experience with loss. Maybe they still have a pain to overcome. They are terrified of the possibility that their children will stop needing them or at least begin to need them less and will go on to conquer the world alone. So they take care to scare them, to show them all the horrible things they could go through without their protective cloak.


At other times, refusal hides in the excess of care. The father or mother does not love the child as much as they would like. And they defend themselves from this unconscious feeling by exaggerating with concern. In any case, behind these obsessive forms of protection there is always something unhealthy, which deserves to be analyzed.

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