Tracey Shipley
Youth, family and addictions counselor/creative therapist

The Dangers of Over Protection and Permissiveness With Our Kids

Recently I have been working with quite a few families who are living with the fallout of parental overprotection or over permissiveness. The results have been disastrous leading to dangerous behaviors, drug addiction and the inability to function. Often we see a weakness in our kids that reminds us of our own weaknesses.  This projection can cause us to protect our kids in a way that spares them from challenges.  It’s natural to want our kids to be happy and not to want to see them struggle.  The problem is that it is exactly these struggles and challenges that they need to help them grow and to mature.

I often tell parents to love their kids enough to let them hate them when necessary.  I also share that when our kids challenge themselves and it appears that they are jumping off the first floor of a building we need to let them fall, get up, wipe themselves off and learn from the pain caused from the fall.  If we are busy running to get the net to catch them often it causes them to feel confident enough to keep climbing and jumping off higher floors until we no longer have a net strong enough to catch them.

In Israel, it can be even more detrimental.  Most of our kids head off for the army.  I have heard story after story of kids unprepared for the army mentally, emotionally and physically.  When raised in an overprotective home they simply have not developed the tools and resilience to face the challenges of living away from home in itself let alone the army with all of its challenges.  So many kids fall into depression, find themselves injured physically or in a dangerous state of mind.

So how do we best prepare our kids?  By giving them the tools they need to develop the mental and emotional strength to handle life’s challenges.  We must allow our kids to face their obstacles. Give them the message that they can do it and even if they fail it will help them to learn how to succeed in the future.  I hear parents saying they don’t need to teach their kids discipline, the army will do that for them. This is such a grave mistake. Kids entering the army need to go in with self-discipline in place so that they can focus on what’s in front of them without having to learn basic discipline skills.

Israelis have a reputation of being a strong nation.  We look at our army as being strong and unbeatable.  But when we look closer it is made up of kids who have mostly just completed high school and don’t even know who they are yet.  Our job as parents particularly in Israel is to help our kids discover who they are while we have them under our roof.  Let them slay their own dragons and face their own demons.  Show them that they can succeed and then be there for them when they fall.

On the flip side of the coin is over permissive parents.  Sadly I have seen the equally if not more damaging effects of over permissiveness.  We want to allow our kids to have fun, enjoy their friends, pursue hobbies and other interests but at the same time, we must remember our roles as parents.  We need to keep a finger on the pulse if we see unusual behaviors in our kids or in their friends.  Secret-keeping can be an indication of dangerous goings-on.  Locked doors when kids are home alone or with friends is a warning sign.

Many kids have secret lives on the internet.  I have seen young teens taking part in online communities engaging in satanic cult activities leading to drug use, dangerous sexual interactions and more.  Knowing who our kids are interacting with is not over protection, it is our right and responsibility as parents to keep on top of them.

Express an interest in your kids’ friends and past times.  Find out what kind of friends they want in their lives, what their aspirations are and what kind of subjects they discuss with their friends. Look into what is age-appropriate behavior.  A 13-year-old wanting to go to Tel Aviv on her own with no parental supervision is reckless and dangerous.  She is not yet capable of making the right choices as to what interactions are safe and who to interact with beyond her immediate friend community in school, youth group, etc.  Downtown Jerusalem is as dangerous for young teens as is Tel Aviv.  No 13 year old should be allowed to hang out downtown without a structured activity.

At what age can we allow our kids to hang out downtown or in Big City Tel Aviv, in general not just during Corona times?  This depends on the maturity of our kids, what they plan to do when they go out, who they will be with, and how logical their plans are.  We have a right to know where they are going, who they will be meeting and what they will be doing.  This is not being overprotective, this is showing we care and want the best for our kids.  Some kids will take the rope we provide them and use it to climb higher in life and others will use it to their detriment.  It is up to us to know what our kids’ tendencies are.  I have seen parents trusting their young teens so much that the freedom they were afforded caused them to use drugs easily found on the street causing irreversible mental damage.  Our kids rely on us to keep them safe.  Finding a happy medium between protection and overprotection is the hardest job for parents yet the most important.

Some of the youth involved with one of the creative prevention programs I run  The Jerusalem School of Rock, rehearsing at the Besarabia Club in downtown Jerusalem

Should you need help identifying to what extent your teen needs guidelines and tools to make the right decisions or to what extent you need to put the brakes on your teen, I am here for you. Start with good communication, loving acceptance, logical inquiries and the understanding of what red flags to look for.  For more information on how to handle your teen and young adult check out my other parenting articles on my linked in: and see my website:

About the Author
Tracey Shipley is a youth and family counselor specializing in addictions and family communication. She was born in the US and moved to Israel in 1984 to continue her studies in Art Therapy. She moved back to the US in 1989 and began working in a drug rehab for teens where she was trained while she worked as a primary counselor. She moved back to Israel in 1996 and continued her work in addictions at the Jerusalem Methadone Clinic for a total of 9 years. She initiated projects for the children of the addicts at the Center, for Ethiopian Teens and a Sober Music Bar for teens and young adults: Sobar Jerusalem.
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