When we think of the main challenges that children with disabilities have to face, social exclusion is one of the first problems that comes to mind. And it is that sometimes children can be very cruel and marginalize those who are different. However, this is not the only obstacle that children with disabilities have to face, in many cases they also have to face the overprotection of their parents.
Most of these parents hide behind the difficulties that their children with disabilities present in some spheres of their lives, whether in the physical or intellectual area, which prevents them from performing certain tasks while or demands a greater effort than the rest. In these cases, to try to protect them from failure and social exclusion, they limit their day-to-day life.
However, that overprotective parenting style often overlooks the fact that many of these children also possess exceptional abilities and are capable of leading normal lives, just at a different pace. For this reason, overprotecting them or setting limits to try to “protect” them not only does not help them, but also represents an obstacle to their development.
5 reasons why you should not overprotect children with disabilities
Overprotecting children with disabilities from an early age is a way of imposing limits and developing a dependent attitude, making it more difficult for them to fend for themselves, be autonomous and make decisions in their lives. In the long run, this attempt to care for and protect them ends up limiting their ability to grow and adapt to the environment in which they live. Furthermore, overprotecting children with disabilities:
1. It limits your ability to discover and adapt to the world
Children need to freely explore the environment that surrounds them, which allows them to form an image of the world in which they live, as well as learn and develop adaptive skills that allow them to function in society. When we overprotect a child with a disability, preventing him from playing freely with other little ones in the park, from going to children’s camps or meeting with his friends, we are setting limits for him to discover his environment and learn from those around him. Ultimately, we will be raising a lonely, fearful, and dependent child who is afraid to step out of his or her comfort zone.
2. It weighs down their self-confidence
There is no worse obstacle to the development of a child with a disability than the feeling of inferiority and lack of self-confidence. If every time the little one wants to try something new or different, we prevent it for fear that it will not turn out well, we will be transmitting the idea that he is not capable of doing things on his own. In the long run, we will only make him lose his self-confidence and stop trying to do things on his own because he will think that he will not succeed, which will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In this way, not only do we not help him overcome his difficulties, but we also impose limits on him so that he can achieve the necessary autonomy to develop a sense of self-efficacy.
3. It reduces their autonomy and independence
When we overprotect a child with a disability, we prevent him from making his own decisions and limit his freedom to explore the world, which is why we are turning him into a dependent person. In the long run, these children will not know how to take control of their lives, they will have difficulties in solving their problems and it will be difficult for them to find their place in the world because they have never tried it on their own. In fact, it is more likely that they will become adults dependent on their parents, caregivers or any other person, because since they have never had to test their abilities, they have not developed the necessary self-confidence to face challenges. The more dependent they are, the harder it will be for them to get out of their comfort zone, a vicious circle that is very difficult to break.
4. It slows down the development of your cognitive functions
Did you know that exploring the world around us, living new experiences and undertaking small daily challenges is an excellent formula for stimulating cognitive development? Basically, the more we stimulate the mind of a child with a disability, the more their critical thinking, creativity, and ability to solve problems and resolve conflicts develop. However, when we overprotect him too much, we achieve the opposite effect, that is, we slow down his cognitive development. In the long term, this child will become an adult who has not been able to develop his potential, so he will not be able to develop the best version of himself.
5. It affects their proper emotional development
Living new experiences and facing daily challenges not only benefits the cognitive development of children with disabilities but also their affective sphere. Parents who continually limit their children, prevent them from exploring their environment and leaving their comfort zone, which is why they are raising children who are fearful of life, who have difficulty relating to others and expressing their emotions because they have not had the occasions to do so. As they have spent much of their lives under the protection and care of their parents, they can grow up as insecure people, with a low tolerance for frustration, unable to make decisions and assume responsibilities.
Limits yes, but only the necessary ones
Like all other children, children with disabilities need certain limits in their lives. Limits are not negative, in fact, they help them put order in their day to day life and give meaning to their world. However, it is important not to exceed these limits and give them freedom to explore their environment, discover the world around them and establish links with other people.
Instead of always checking in on them and taking on their responsibilities or making decisions for them, it’s important to give them the space they need to discover their interests and passions, develop their skills, and make new friends. What if they’re wrong? Nothing happens, mistakes are fundamental steps in learning that stimulate perseverance, autonomy, self-confidence and resilience. Trust them and keep an eye out for them if they really need your help, but avoid putting up obstacles that hinder their development.