Being a mother hen
But what exactly does being a mother hen consist of? If you designate yourself as a mother hen, chances are you see this side of you in a positive way, as revealed by Solène Bourque, psycho-educator. Referring to yourself in this way is an alternative to saying that you have a protective side that you are proud of. You want to protect your child from all the dangers of life, no matter how big or small those can be. But if others are calling you a mother hen, it might be their way of telling you that you are overprotective, in an overbearing way.
The dangers of overprotecting your child
Solène reminds us that protecting a child is a parent’s first role to adequately provide the essential security and reassurance to our child, however, being overprotective can definitely have a negative impact on their autonomy. Wanting your child to avoid all the potential hurts and difficulties make it so our child is somewhat less well prepared for the real, outside world. It’s important to remember that sooner or later, whether in daycare, at school, at home or even at work when they grow up, all children eventually face difficulties and if parents have always stepped in, they will never learn how to deal with them on their own.
How to draw the line?
Being a mother hen, when done without excess, can also mean ensuring emotional and physical security to your child. Solène suggests you evaluate where you draw the line between protection and overprotection according to your own criteria since that can change from family to family. The important thing is that everyone is happy and free to explore life with independence and the right amount of support.
Why did you become a mother hen?
Being overprotective can be seen as a negative trait, but all it really means is that we want to avoid our children being hurt or scared. Perhaps you’ve always just been a little bit more worried by nature, or perhaps a particular event or situation like an illness, a learning disability or even an accident that occurred when you were a child caused this over-protectiveness. But what can you do to reassure those inner fears and change your reactions towards your child?
Learn to let go
If you constantly feel like you are the only one able to meet the needs of your child, it can be very rewarding in the short term but may become a heavy burden to carry in the long term. Solène suggests you learn to let go slowly. You can start by giving yourself small daily challenges like leaving your spouse or another adult to take care of your child. Take time to observe your child while they play: you’ll be able to notice their strengths and abilities. Remember that a child you trust is one who will develop their autonomy easier. So don’t hesitate to tell them "You can do it!" or "I believe in you!", as often as possible: you will make them proud, and you’ll be just as proud yourself!