You may be projecting your own desire to be taken care of onto your child and therefore over-mother him. Ironically, this over-protection causes increased sensitivity and anxiety in both you and the child.
Life is difficult and can be challenging. It’s our responsibility as parents to prepare our children for those challenges. Too much protection and anxiety on the part of the parent can prevent the child from learning to fend for himself and to develop a healthy resilience and independence, leaving the child helpless, fearful, and dependent.
A child needs to gradually develop a sense of emotional separation from the parent. Being firm in a reasonable and respectful way requires having personal authority and the ability to set boundaries and mean it. This is a great thing to role-model for your kids if you want them to be able to stand up for themselves and others.
Start gradually treating your child as though he has some strength and resilience of his own (age-appropriately, of course). Children learn to handle life’s challenges without falling apart through having to muster up some courage in new situations and not necessarily getting what they want. So don’t be afraid to be resolute when it matters. Kids who gradually learn to deal with some pressure and boundaries while feeling secure and loved, grow up to handle most of what life is capable of throwing at them.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD