Home > Kids > Values and Responsibilities > Fostering Independence > Understanding the Smothering Mother

Understanding the Smothering Mother


Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D., uses the term "Monster Mothers." These are women who are abusive, neglectful, and intolerable of a daughter's individuality. They fail to be empathetic during teen years and are uncommunicative because they cannot express themselves. Fortunately, they are the exception to most mothers rather than the rule.

Woman to Woman

Dr. Hiasako M. Koizumi, associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Ohio State University, explains that a true overprotective mom interferes with normal child development. She manages their environment to the extent that she prevents them from learning how to handle stress, inhibits healthy exploration, denies the growth of autonomy, limits self-confidence, and nurtures socially isolated and inadequate teenagers.

Everyone has a name for these moms. However, the one that is universally understood is "overprotective." She will hide behind bushes to make sure her children walk safely into the school building and double-check their homework to ensure passing grades.

The name, overprotective mom, conjures up a character. The comical, exaggerated image is one of a mother who will follow her kids anywhere, from the bathroom to college, and wipe their teenage noses as if they were toddlers.

The point is, you won't find a mom in the world who doesn't possess some degree of zealous enthusiasm for protecting her children. But that doesn't constitute smothering. The concept of motherly protection is so important that it merits a separate discussion.

Legitimizing the Need to Protect

Most women view protection of their daughters as a form of nurturing, not controlling! Keeping children safe—and we all know that your daughter is your child for life—is a major concern for moms. The anxiety over protecting daughters from school violence, abductions, and gun-toting youngsters merely changes focus in adulthood to college acceptances, broken hearts, fertility, career disappointments, and marital or singlehood happiness.

"It is hard for parents to do less and still feel they are doing a good job," said Janis Keyers, M.A., faculty member in human development at Carillo College and author (Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, Broadway Books, 1997).

The tricky part for well-meaning moms at any stage is to promote a balance between exploration and a safe environment without putting obstacles in the way for an autonomous, self-directed life.

Controlling the Urge to Protect

It is wise for each parent to consider her own actions and determine their motivation for decisions says Dr. Hiasako M. Koizumi. The number one question moms need to ask themselves is, "Am I doing this because of my own anxiety or is there a real and justified concern for my daughter's safety, happiness and well-being?"

A rule of thumb Koizumi suggests is arriving at a balance that promotes safety but allows growth in younger years. The same is true in adulthood with some conceptual adjustments. This diagram visually depicts the concern that must be balanced between a protective mother and her daughter during adulthood.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mothers and Daughters © 2001 by Rosanne Rosen. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


8 Epic Emoji-Themed Crafts, Activities & Recipes
Check out the best emoji crafts, activities, and recipes! They're perfect for an emoji-themed birthday party or anytime you need DIY (and screen-free!) summer activities for kids, tweens, and teens.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

10 Free Summer Learning Worksheets
Print these free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners to help your child's mind stay sharp until September!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks