The overprotective father is a staple in so many family movies and TV sitcoms. They market it as an endearing quality for a dad to go above and beyond in order to protect his child from danger, hurt, pain (and boys.) But, what if your spouse's protectiveness has become unreasonable? What do you do when your child's emotional and social growth is affected by one parent's irrational fears? You might be wondering how to talk to your partner about being an overprotective dad in a way to which he will be receptive and understanding.
An overprotective dad is often reacting to his own insecurities as a parent. He may not feel confident in his decision-making abilities, and may worry that allowing his child a little leeway can open up the door to harm — and it's a harm that he will have to take accountability for. So, instead, he tries to avoid this situation by putting up a wall between his child and all the dangers of the world.
As a mom, I get it. I've caught myself being overprotective out of fear that the more I allow, the faster time will pass. Today she wants to ride her bike around the block, tomorrow around the neighborhood, and the next day she wants the car keys because she's going off to college. But, the truth is that children do grow up. They need to have age-appropriate experiences and nothing we do as parents will keep them little forever, and no number of rules and restrictions will keep them 100 percent safe.
Here are some ways to talk to your spouse if you feel that he is becoming an overprotective dad.
1. Talk To Your Partner Privately And When You're Both In A Good Mood
Psychologist Joti Samra wrote in The Globe and Mail that if you feel that your spouse is being too overprotective, it warrants a discussion. You should have this conversation privately, without your children present and when you are getting along with each other. Don't bring it up when you are already in the middle of a disagreement. This way, you can present a united front when speaking to your children about rules, responsibilities and expectations.
2. Take A Problem-Solving Approach
Samra suggested that sometimes parents have a "black and white approach" to parenting. They fear that a particular situation may lead to danger, therefore they deem it completely off-limits. If you feel that your spouse is being irrational, she suggested working together to come up with less rigid options that will satisfy you both.
3. Come Up With A Timeline Of Age-Appropriate Activities
Work together with your spouse to come up with a timeline of allowances according to age or milestone. Dads sometimes see their children as babies for far longer than they ever thought they would, which can make loosening the reigns difficult. But, if you agree together that your child can, for example, stay up an hour later starting at age 10, or get a phone in sixth grade, it gives the parents time to get used to the idea, and the child something to look forward to or work towards. Samra wrote that decisions about age-appropriate activities are very personal and family-specific. Your timeline may vary greatly from another family's, and that's OK.
4. Don't Go Behind Your Partner's Back
You may be tempted to go behind his back and simply let your child do things that your partner doesn't allow, but this isn't a good idea. Psychologist and family therapist John Rosemond wrote in The Southern Illinoisan that under no circumstances should you go behind your partner's back. This can negatively affect your relationship and will teach your child that it is OK to lie, break rules, and keep secrets. If your partner continues to act irrationally, it may be time to see a couple's counselor.
5. Consider Couples Counseling
Some parents are overprotective because they don't fully trust their spouse's parenting. Your partner may think you are too lenient or don't worry enough and overcompensate by becoming stricter, worrying too much, or even undermining you. This lack of trust can break a marriage. In the Huffington Post, psychologist Samantha Rodman suggested couples counseling as a way to address and work through this issue.