“Helicopter parents” is a term that was coined to reflect parents who hover over children and teenagers constantly and unnecessarily. While many parents of teenagers may have grown up in an era where their parents took a more hands-off approach and let children fall on their faces (literally and figuratively), some parents these days cringe at the idea of their child falling or even slipping in any regard. But what kinds of children are we raising when we don’t allow them to fall? The feared answer is that these children will never learn how to pick themselves back up when the inevitable cracks, sludge and boulders of life are at their feet.
In the article, “Helicopter Parents Make Children Miss Milestones,” NY Times writer KJ Dell’Antonia discusses the various milestones in infancy that parents are more apt to notice: rolling over, crawling, walking, etc. As children age, however, Dell’Antonia notes that parents who tend to “overparent” seem to miss other, more ambiguous milestones such as their child learning to walk through the neighborhood by themselves, dress themselves, pack an overnight bag, manage a load of laundry, etc. Dell’Antonia stresses that providing opportunities to reach these milestones are equally as important as the ones in infancy.
Anne Michaud, author of the article “Helicopter Parents Need Some Grounding,” (Online Athens, February 2013) brings up another dangerous form of parenting: “lawnmower parents.” This parenting style risks removing “any barrier or discomfort for their kids” and can result in “robbing their children of learning how to solve their own problems and deal with not getting what they want.” Michaud reflects on a recent survey taken by educators about the common “sins” of overparenting: rushing to school to deliver a forgotten lunch, assignment or gym clothes. Sound familiar? There may be a fine line between being a present and attentive parent and being a helicopter or lawnmower parent. Michaud believes that beneath all forms of parenting and educating, the best interest of the child is still appreciatively the main focus. So where is that fine line that may be so tempting to cross?
The controversial author, Lenore Skenazy, shared in Time Magazine’s article, “The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting,” (November 2009) her belief that “we're infantilizing our kids into incompetence.” Educators remind us that parents should not completely sidestep their involvement in their child’s formative adolescent years. Involved parents have been correlated with improved children’s test scores, grades, social competency and overall well-being. Children begin to suffer, however, when parents begin to shield their children from the normal ups and downs of life and micromanage their schedules, friends and academics. Overparenting risks leaving children with a sense of entitlement, anxiety, lack of responsibility and poor life skills. So how can one break this habit?
Author and educator, Amy Tiemann, Ph.D., offer 4 tips to ground helicopter parents:
1. Develop your child’s capabilities and sense of personal significance. Each child is unique and has his/her own strengths that should be fostered and celebrated. Children thrive when they feel successful. It is important to promote what your child enjoys so that he/she gains a strong sense of self.
2. Don’t let your own fear and ego hold back your child’s development. Are you terribly afraid of public speaking? Did you get teased as an adolescent? Don’t discourage your child from auditioning for the school play because you had a terrible experience with this. Encourage your children to take reasonable risks and understand that their life experiences may be different than your own.
3. Become familiar with your own parenting style and be aware of the tendencies that come along with each style. Each parenting style, like each individual person, is unique. Be conscientious of what style you lean toward and what the strengths and drawbacks are to that style.
4. Teach your kids the skills they need to navigate their world with safety and confidence. Remember that you won’t always be there to catch your kids when they fall. It is critical to instill resourcefulness, coping strategies and resiliency in children to prepare them for the challenges of the world.
We would like to remind parents that we have a number of books in our library on parenting including:
· The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel, Ph.D.
· Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World: Seven Building Blocks for Developing Capable Young People by Jane Nelson, Ed.D.
· The Pressured Child: Helping Your Child Find Success in School and Life by Michael Thompson, Ph.D.