Skip to content

The Overprotected Teen

It’s natural to want to protect your child from danger and negative influence. But many parents tend to go overboard—and in the process, stunt their child’s emotional and social development. In this article, I’ll identify the downsides of overprotecting your teen while offering ways to give them room to grow.


The Downsides of Overprotecting Your Teen

(1) Social skills. Teens naturally wants to connect with their peers. As an overprotective parent, you may want to choose your teen’s friends, but eventually they need figure out how to size someone up on their own. If you limit your teen’s interactions too much, it will take them longer to learn these important social skills.

(2) Exposure to life. Teens don’t come pre-conditioned to “real life” situations. They need to practice handling the normal ups and downs. Protecting your teen from danger makes sense now, but the longer you delay their exposure to the “real world”––where they eventually have to live––the longer it will take for them to learn how to handle conflict and conflict resolution.

(3) Rejection. Teens are growing up in a culture that gives trophies for simply showing up. But if your teen doesn’t experience minor “losses” early on, she won’t learn how to handle major rejection when it comes later. Stop stepping in to protect your teen from experiencing rejection. That’s not real life. Rejection is a normal part of life––in school, work, and relationships. Train your teens to pick themselves up and move onto to the next opportunity while the stakes are not too high.

(4) Social acceptance. You don’t want your teen to acts like everyone else, but they still need to know how to work with others. If they don’t feel like they fit in anywhere, they may be willing try anything to fit in, especially if they discover that their ways of engagement are ineffective. Exposing your teen to lots of different people shows them that they have choices about who they spend time with, and they will gain valuable practice in navigating the minefield of social acceptance.

(5) Frustration. If you are constantly controlling and correcting your teen, he will eventually become frustrated and tune you out. He may even become angry at you for not allowing him to experience “normal life.” If your goal is to eventually give your teen control over his own life, then start that process now. Little by little, release your grip and allow your teen to experience greater independence––unless you want him to live at home forever.


How Can Overprotective Parents Back Off?

It takes time and effort for a caterpillar to push against the walls of his cocoon and break out. Scientists who cut open the encasement, to make it easier, discovered the butterflies that emerged were weak and unable to fly! Turns out, the struggle is an important part of development. Your teen also needs to struggle in order develop and become a strong adult. Don’t make life too easy for your teen. Allow your teen to try, fail, and try again.

Training your teen means giving him control and allowing him to experience real-life learning. I encourage parents to come up with a plan to hand over control gradually. Think about ways your teen can be more and more exposed to the real world. Then, determine how you will counter any negative exposure. I’m not telling you to drop off your teen on a dark corner somewhere and find his way home, but am suggesting you let your teen handle difficult things and learn from their experiences. Keep boundaries in place to prevent your teen from making a life-altering decisions and keep the lines of communication open. Let your teen know you will be available when they mess up and when they have success.


Practical Tips for Allowing Your Teen Room to Grow:

If you’re a parent who’s always teaching and lecturing, you need to stop. Not everything you want to say is helpful or needs to be said. It’s okay to let some “teachable moments” go. I recommend as your teen gets older that you talk less and listen more. Double the amount of time that you listen! Don’t share your opinion all the time. Instead, ask your teen questions to help him think it through on his own. Give your teen room to grow and to develop. Wait to be asked before you give your opinion. As you focus on understanding how your teen thinks and building a better relationship, your teen will likely want to come to you for advice.



Hey moms and dads … your teens want to be prepared for the world that they’re about to enter and that means you have to be intentional about allowing them to experience life at a level that exposes them to the reality of their culture, while protecting them from making life-changing decisions that can alter the course of their destiny. It’s a delicate balance––letting them make decisions while not letting them be totally on their own. After all, there is a need for parenting during the adolescent years. So set a plan to letting them assume more responsibility, make more decisions, and give them more freedom so that you’ll have the opportunity to speak truth into their life when decisions could have been better, when freedom might have been used more wisely, and when they haven’t been as responsible as they should have. It’s called training.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.