Another thing that harms children is over-protectiveness, that is, excessive care or excessive anxiety and worry on the part of the parents.
A mother used to complain to me that her five-year-old child was disobedient. ‘It’s your fault,’ I told her, but she didn’t understand. Once I went for a walk by the seaside with this mother along with the child. The little boy let go of his mother’s hand and ran towards the sea. There was a sand dune there and the sea came in directly behind it. The mother immediately reacted with anxiety and was about to s wards the boy who was standing on top of the dune with outstretched arms trying to keep his balance. I calmed her down and told to her to turn her back on the boy while I kept an eye on him askance. When the boy despaired of provoking his mother’s attention and causing her to panic and scream as usual, he calmly climbed down and walked towards us. That was the end of it. Then the mother understood what I meant.
Another mother used to complain that her little boy wouldn’t eat all his food, especially his yoghurt. The little one was about three years old and tormented his mother every day. I said to her:
‘What you should do is this. Empty the refrigerator completely and then fill it with some yoghurt. When lunchtime comes you’ll give Peter his yoghurt. He’ll refuse to eat it. In the evening you’ll give him it again and the same the next day. In the end he’ll get hungry and will try some. He’ll throw a tantrum, but you’ll just put up with it. Thereafter he’ll eat it quite happily.’
That’s just what happened and yoghurt became Peter’s favourite food.
These things aren’t difficult, but many mothers are unable to do them and the result is that they give their children a very bad upbringing. Mothers who are always standing over their children and pressurizing them, that is, over-protecting them, have failed in their task. You need to leave the child alone to take an interest in its own progress. Then you will succeed. When you are always standing over them, the children react. They become lethargic and weak-willed and generally are unsuccessful in life. This is a kind of over-protectiveness that leaves the children immature.
To few days ago a mother came here in a state of despair because of her son’s repeated failures in the university entrance exams. He had been an excellent pupil in elementary school and all the way through high school. But in the end he failed repeatedly and showed indifference and had strange reactions.
‘It’s your fault,’ I said to the mother, ‘educated woman though you are! How else did you expect the boy to react? Pressure, pressure, pressure all these years, “Make sure you’re top of the class, don’t let us down, get yourself an important position in society…” Now he’s thrown in the towel; he doesn’t want anything. Stop this pressure and over-protection and you’ll see that the boy will regain his equilibrium. He’ll make progress once you let him be.’