• 2020.02.19
  • The overprotective era
As families become more nuclear and have less children in recent years, we’re seeing parents that are increasingly overprotective and intrusive in their kids’ lives.

In Japan, for example, I’ve heard that parents don’t allow their kids to climb trees because of the risk that they’ll fall. They simply imagine the worst and don’t let their kids even get involved. But in my mind, you’re going to get a better outcome if you let kids do as much as they can, help them out when needed, and then praise them when they do a good job. Even if they fall out of trees, kids’ capacity to think and reflect is unlimited. “That hurt… maybe I shouldn’t climb trees anymore.” “Next time, I’ll try climbing a tree that’s not as high.” “I should probably get better at using the branches.” “Maybe trees are easier to climb in bare feet.” Giving them as much experience as possible is what allows their wisdom and imaginative power to grow.

It’s like the old Japanese saying “seven times down, eight times up”. What ever happened to the days when challenging ourselves to get back up after a failure was considered a virtue? Now the idea is to never stumble at all?

I spent my early childhood in Papua New Guinea. There, I ate this super-stinky food that the local people ate and went everywhere barefoot. Even after I started going to elementary school, I felt like the fresh wounds I got were a badge of honor. If I did that now, my mom would probably have to endure disapproving gazes from the parents around her. That’s dangerous and unsanitary, they’d think. They nonchalantly let their kids play video games where they think nothing of killing people, though.

Another thing that bothers me when I think of overprotective and intrusive parents is the strange lengths moms and dads go to keep their kids from experiencing psychological damage. Things like, “My kid is overweight, so I don’t want them going through the tunnel in the obstacle course during the school sports festival.” Or “My kid can’t have chocolate, so I don’t want the other kids to bring chocolate on the school trip.” It seems like a backwards way to show love.

The whole thing will probably escalate out of control to the point where kids are asked to crouch in class photos so the kids that are shorter than average don’t feel bad.

Your kid might be overweight, or not able to eat chocolate, or short—but what people need to do is not see those qualities as deficits.

So, let them climb trees. Let them get up there and experience how amazing the view is from up high. Tell them about the dangers before they climb, and if they fail, help them come up with a different way of doing it. To me, that’s really showing love.

Our world is becoming increasingly polarized, and people with money are simply accepting overprotectiveness as normal. The regular people below them, it seems, don’t have that luxury. That’s why I want my kids to be the ones that are strong enough to survive no matter what harsh conditions they face.


  • Megumi Ota
  • JobConservator, interpreter, and coordinator / Insitu (restoration), Kaminari-sama / Novajika, and others

I’m a conservator and preservationist living in Portugal. I specialize primarily in paintings (murals) and gold leaf design, and am involved with UNESCO World Heritage structures as well as the interior of the Palace of Belém. I derive great satisfaction from having close ties to my community in the rural village near the Silver Coast where I live. My hobby is gardening.

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