Overprotective, or overprotection, is the practice of preventing others from taking their own risks. This term has negative connotations and implies an excessive or unreasonable level of control over others. The following are illustrative examples and counterexamples.
ParentingParents who don't allow children to play freely, explore, experiment, see the world as it really exists, fail and deal with problems themselves in an age-appropriate way. For example, parents who don't allow children to walk places on their own when they are arguably capable enough to do so. This is almost always well intentioned but can cause children to become fearful and incapable such that they lack the resilience to deal with the real world as adults. Children do require protection and it is up to every family to decide where the line between protection and overprotection is at a point in time.
RelationshipsIn social relationships, overprotective is typically used to describe controlling behavior that is potentially motivated by jealousy. For example, a boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn't let the other go to a party for fear of romantic competition. This may be positioned as virtuous protection of the other from danger. Again, the line between protection and overprotection here has to be decided by those involved.
NormsThe norms of one culture can be considered overprotection by the norms of another culture. For example, a culture where it is a norm for parents to drive children everywhere versus a culture where children can go places themselves from a relatively young age.
Appeal to SafetyAn appeal to safety is a mode of persuasion that suggests that it is always correct to minimize a risk. This can be difficult to counter in argument as you can easily be framed as irresponsible or rash. Appeals to safety can lead to irrational decisions as it makes sense to treat risk but rarely makes sense to minimize risk.
PaternalismPaternalism is when a nation, city, institution or organization begins to treat adults as children whereby their rights and freedoms are overridden in the name of safety, health and security. In many cases bureaucracies that are charged with improving health, safety and security simply go too far and overstep. For example, the administrators of a public park that ban various types of recreation and play based on safety arguments even where the activities in question aren't actually particularly risky.
FreedomFreedom is the ability to live your life as you see fit. This is often a trade-off with protection. For example, a young person who establishes intentions for their future that their parents view as foolish, risky or suboptimal. If the young person is allowed to make their own mistakes they are given freedom. If an effort is made to force the young person into a different decision, they have been protected. People inherently value freedom and may strongly react against attempts to take their freedom away. This is known as reactance.
Calculated Risk TakingCalculated risk taking is the process of taking reasonable and well considered risks. This also implies that you have made some effort to identify, estimate and treat risks. Reasonable risk taking is the basis for all growth, experience and joy. Conversely, a lack of risk taking is reason for decline, incapacity and pain. It should also be noted that calculated risks don't always work out and also cause some pain themselves.
Fail WellFail well is the practice of designing things to fail quickly, cheaply and safely. This is a powerful risk management approach. For example, a teacher with a good job who wants to be a professional musician might work at it on weekends until they see strong signs they might be successful at it.
ResilienceEach human descends from those who were able to survive and thrive to create new generations in the harshness of history. As such, humans are extremely resilient and adaptive such that they can bounce back from failure, hardship and problems. Not only do people bounce back but each challenge tends to make them stronger. This is a key argument against overprotection.
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