To Christians With “Overprotective” Parents

Here are two things you should know.

1: This post is a letter written to Christian kids under age eighteen. If you’re not a Christian and/or child and you want to read this post, take it for what it is: not written for you.

2: This is an insanely-super-long post, so if you don’t have a lot of time and/or are highly distractable, don’t read this post right now. Bookmark it and come back later after you’ve taken care of your important to-do things.

What to do about overprotective parents?

Full confession: I’m eighteen now and make my own decisions. Before I turned eighteen, though, my parents were what they jokingly call “overprotective.” Meaning, I didn’t read Harry Potter until one year ago, the kids in our family couldn’t watch the Disney movies with ghosts until we were too old to appreciate the slapstick humor, and most of my siblings still don’t have Facebook. Basically, I’m saying I know what it’s like to have parents who say no.

Maybe you’ve said/heard people say things like this:

Dad shouldn’t try to control me so much!

I may not know everything, but neither do my parents, and I know myself a heck of a lot better than they do.

Harry Potter isn’t going to damage me; it actually teaches some really good lessons.

I know my parents are well-meaning, but they don’t understand me.

It just hurts that Mom doesn’t trust me with something as harmless as a children’s book series.

But are we looking at this all wrong? I’d posit that we might be, that maybe overprotective parents are not a curse, but rather a blessing. I thank God and my parents for most, if not all, of the decisions they made, even though I disagreed with them at the time.

To explain why, I need to start from square one:

Everyone is overprotective sometimes- and thank God that we are.

When people say “overprotective,” what do they really mean? No one knows the future, obviously, so there is no way to be just the right amount of “protective.” People have to be either under- or over-protective, and most folks like to err on the side of caution.

Let’s just take the most basic example: a seatbelt. Every time you get into your car and put on a seatbelt, you are necessarily being overprotective. Gee whiz, you’re probably not going to wreck every single time you’re in a motor vehicle. What’s the big deal? In fact, while we’re at it, we could probably do away with those giant concrete barriers in the middle of the highway and just use one yellow line instead of two. It would definitely save the government some money. Buckling up is a time waster.

Yet, if you’re smart, you buckle up. You know that if you don’t have a seatbelt on, you could get hurt– just like my friend. Last month, driving back from vacation, a distracted driver rear-ended her car at high speed, totaled the vehicle, and gave her whole family whiplash. If my friend hadn’t been wearing her seatbelt, she would have flown through the windshield and probably died. This is why the law requires people to buckle up.

If you don’t crash, a seatbelt is an inconvenience that wastes maybe five seconds on every drive; if you’re in a bad wreck, it’s that fine line between life and death. Next time you pull into the driveway safely after a road trip, thank God that He made people to be overprotective.

Of course, overprotection can be a good or bad thing. Where do overprotective parents fit in? Well, let’s get to the next point:

The keyword is not “overprotective.” It is “parent.”

Let’s say you’re a mom or dad who just brought home your first child. Congratulations, balloons, meal trains. Now what do you need to do? More than you think. Contrary to popular belief, your job as a parent is not just to clothe and feed that hypothetical child and make sure he/she doesn’t do bad stuff at parties until age eighteen; you as a parent are now responsible for an actual soul. When God creates a child, He doesn’t just make a body with a brain that sometimes functions with ample caffeine. He creates a person with a soul that will live forever. (C.S. Lewis wrote a good explanation.) God gives children to you, the parent, with the responsibility to make sure that you take care of their little souls, lead them to seek out and obey His plan, and teach them diligently in the hope that they will come to a saving relationship with Christ.

This is why we have Mother’s and Father’s Days. Because, all things considered, your parents are doing a pretty freaking awesome job.

I don’t know about you, but when I step back and realize the overwhelming responsibility of my parents to care for my soul, I find it really hard to be mad about not reading TwilightIn fact, I even have a little bit of gratitude that Mom and Dad made the best decision they could for my benefit. They probably didn’t enjoy some of those decisions any more than I did. (It can be hard to say no to people you love, especially if it makes them sad.) Some of those safeguards were probably unnecessary, but my parents didn’t put them there because they were monsters. They put them there because they cared.

If you understand all this, yet you still fundamentally disagree with your parents’ Hunger Games policiesthen here’s another bit of truth that might help:

You probably aren’t missing out on much.

If you really miss out on something good, you can catch up on it later. I don’t think it takes that long to read The Hunger GamesIn fact, you’ll probably enjoy it more if you take your parents’ advice and wait.

Now if your parents are starving you, then by all means argue, disobey, and do whatever it takes to eat and survive. That’s not overprotection; that’s abuse. (Metabolism is one of the four biological criteria for life.) If they aren’t letting you encounter opposing worldviews and you’re in your teens, maybe have a talk about that one- or else college is gonna be tough for you. But if your parents tell you not to do something you want but don’t need… then don’t do it. Face it, you don’t need Harry Potter in your life. Queen Victoria never read Harry Potter, and she ruled the British Empire for over sixty years. Tell yourself you’re being like Victoria. It will do wonders for your attitude.

And if you think that you should be able to make your own decisions because you know best, think again. Many times, when my parents told me not to do something, I later realized they were right. For example, a few years ago when I was probably fifteen, maybe younger, I wanted to watch Sherlock. Dad said no because it had a lot of swearing, it could be scary, and it would probably do me no good. I disagreed with him on that last bit quite strongly; but I decided to do the right thing and obey.

Now, as an adult (and Sherlockian), I can see at least two reasons why it was a good idea to skip the show at that age. One, Sherlock is in fact scary, and being my usual empathetic, prone-to-depression self, I would not have handled Moriarty’s psychopathic tendencies very well at all. It would have done me more emotional harm than good. Two, Sherlock has some particular themes in a particular episode (if you don’t know, don’t look it up) which my dad didn’t know about because he never finished the show. If I had stumbled upon that episode a few years ago, I would have been too disgusted to finish the show, and thus I would never have watched “The Sign of Three.”

There was no way for me to know all that at age fifteen. Good thing my parents were overprotective about a show they never finished.

And lastly, if you still disagree, I just have one more thing to tell you:

You should obey anyway.

Even if nothing else in this post has inspired you to obey, this should be enough to convince you. As a Christian, you have a responsibility to obey your parents in everything. Look at Colossians 3:20. In context, “children” means “people under the legal age of adulthood.” That means that if you’re a Christian under age eighteen, you have to obey your parents whether you like it or not. (Even adult Christians are still required to show honor to their parents.) Unless they command you to do something sinful, disobedience to parents is disobedience to God. Obey them, if for no other reason than your desire to obey God.

Ultimately, it helps to know that your parents do actually care about you.

They aren’t always right. Parents can be wrong sometimes; I know my parents make mistakes because I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my few years of life, and they’ve been around a lot longer than I have. But now that Mom and Dad have messed up a few times, they can help us avoid doing those things. They can protect us from things that just might be dangerous. When they say no to something, try asking why- I’m sure they’d love to explain it to you if you just ask them nicely. You can disagree and present your reasons for why they should change their mind; in fact, you may actually get them to agree with you. But in the end, it’s the job of Christian parents to make a wise decision, and it’s the job of a Christian son or daughter to accept it.

And it’s worth mentioning that the sooner you decide to trust your parents, the likelier they are to start trusting you with more of those things you want to do.

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8 thoughts on “To Christians With “Overprotective” Parents

  1. This is such a great post, Hannah! Now that I’m on the other side of childhood (more or less) I can totally see where my parent’s, apparently, overprotective decisions were really needed – even if I didn’t like them at the time!

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    • Right! I don’t even think you have to be an adult to recognize the wisdom behind some of those decisions. It’s just a matter of getting older and realizing, “Oh, so that’s why we did this instead of that.”

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  2. I don’t know if overprotective is the right word for this kind of parent….in my mind, an overprotective parent is someone who won’t let their child read anything that isn’t a lamplighter book or the Bible, won’t let them watch anything by Disney (probably don’t even have a TV), or won’t let them hang out with their friends and especially frown upon acquaintances of the opposite gender all for the sake of keeping them separate from the world and all sinful behavior. Like you said, that’s not a good preparation for life, especially when you figure out that not everyone agrees with you.
    “protective” is probably the word for this kind of parent: the one who won’t let you read Twilight because of the horrid themes, Harry Potter because of the witchcraft, Hunger Games because of the violence, watch Sherlock because of the adult themes, or go to a sleepover at a friends house because they don’t know the family well enough. They’re the ones who give reasons for their actions and don’t just say “because I said so”.
    That aside, I definitely agree with you. I would always wonder why I wasn’t allowed to read Hunger Games, watch certain movies, or sleep over with certain friends. Now I know there are reasons for that kind of protection, and I am glad for it.

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    • I tend to agree that most kids misuse the word “overprotective,” when they really mean their parents are “protective and say no to some stuff I wanna do.” Ideally people would learn the difference between protective and over-protective; maybe a good topic for a future blog post?
      But I’m glad people can pick up the main points from this post. It just helps to know that parents actually care.

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  3. Great post Hannah! And may I say this topic isn’t talked about much these days. I know I’m past the “age limit” on this post but I still consider it great advice. After all, we will always be our parents children no matter how old we get.

    I guess my view of overprotective is different. My parents didn’t let me watch/read Harry Potter, they didn’t let me watch certain cartoons or movies, or stay over at peoples houses. But I never felt like that was overprotectiveness. I mean sure it annoyed me but I just saw that as them being parents. Still to this day I don’t feel like I’ve missed out because never read/watched some of the “in” things.

    It’s like my mom is always telling me “if I didn’t care I wouldn’t say anything, its a lot more work to tell you these things. I do it because I care.” And I think you summed it up pretty well. As Christian parents they are doing their best to protect us. Because if they didn’t care they wouldn’t even bother to tell us anything, right?

    I guess I always saw that “overprotective parent” as the mom who wraps her kid in bubble wrap before letting him/her go out and play outside

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    • See, I always thought the same thing: there’s a difference between protective and over-protective. A lot of kids just don’t recognize that distinction. Overprotective becomes a buzzword that means kids and parents disagree on Harry Potter, but sometimes we just don’t realize that Mom and Dad are actually being quite reasonable.

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  4. Thank you so much for writing this! Ironically, I’ve been thinking about this subject lately because of some things that have been going on and have come to the same conclusion. I totally agree with you and couldn’t have said it better.

    Well written, thoughtful, and spot on! Thanks again, have a great rest of your week. 🙂

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