The Cult(ure) of Safety and Overprotecting Our Kids

“Overprotective parents” is a term and concept that many of us have seen or been part of. As parents, we want to protect our kids for sure. We don’t want them to get hurt! But sometimes even the best parental intentions lead to the overprotection of kids. This can actually backfire and be more harmful to our kids in the long run.

“Overprotection” is one of the topics of the book, The Coddling of The American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. In this book the authors discuss these three “untruths”: 1) The Untruth of Fragility (are we all so fragile?), 2) The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning (should we always trust our feelings?), and 3) The Untruth of Us Verses Them (is everyone who disagrees with us our enemy?).

I don’t have time to summarize it all here now so I’ll have to come back to this book later. But I’ll hopefully gain your interest with these quotes I marked up in my copy. (Note: thinking from a Christian perspective, safety can become one’s idol!)

Safety is good, of course, and keeping others safe from harm is virtuous, but virtues can become vices when carried to extremes. ‘Safetyism’ refers to a culture or belief system in which safety has become a sacred value, which means that people become unwilling to make trade-offs demanded by other practical and moral concerns. ‘Safety’ trumps everything else, no matter how unlikely or trivial the potential danger.

When children are raised in a culture of safetyism, which teaches them to stay ’emotionally safe’ while protecting them from every imaginable danger, it may set up a feedback loop: kids become more fragile and less resilient, which signals to adults that they need more protection, which then makes them even more fragile and less resilient.

Safetyism deprives young people of the experiences that their antifragile* minds need, thereby making them more fragile, anxious, and prone to seeing themselves as victims.

* “Antifragile” means the need for life challenges, pain, and problems in order to learn, adapt, and grow in life.

The Coddling of the American Mind, p. 29, 30, 31.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015