Are All Families Like This?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My family has always been protective, but is this too much? I’m a quiet person who likes to be by herself but my parents don’t ever let me be alone. When I go bike riding, they follow right behind me with the car. I can’t go on walks alone because they will also tag along. They always need to know where I am and they randomly show up to pick me up when I tell them where I am. They get really upset at the fact that I have friends. They don’t want me to have friends. They’re only happy with me if I’m with them. They curse at me in voicemails if I don’t answer. That really stresses me out. I get really depressed if they’re ever mad at me. I just feel like they have so much control. I used to not be allowed outside at all And I’m not allowed to hangout with people of the opposite gender.

A: This is definitely too much. You are a 19-year-old college student and to have your parents hovering in this way is far outside the norm. It isn’t what you need for your own growth and development. They are giving you the wrong message. Unless you have a very specific disability (even then I would question their over-protectiveness) you need to be given more and more freedom and responsibility, not under their protective watch. What we know from research is that this style of parenting typically makes for an insecurity, not a feeling of being protective.

Have a talk with them. Be blunt. They are not going to be around forever and you have to start learning how to take care of yourself. Explain you want both more freedom AND more responsibility to go with it. Come up with a plan and tell them what you need.

I understand there may be all kinds of reasons for parents to be overprotective. But the bottom line is the research is clear. This style doesn’t help in the long run and is only an extension of the parents’ fear. I applaud you for taking this first step in writing to us. Now it is time to talk with them directly about your needs.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Jun 2012

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2012). Are All Families Like This?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/06/07/are-all-families-like-this/