Helicopter parent –
a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.
Constantly hovering over children while they study, work, and do sports, etc. has been shown to “increase anxiety, depression and can lead to academic difficulties” (Psychology Today).
Effective parenting, is, in fact, nurturing your child to become independent!
Psychology Today offers these guidelines (abbreviated):
-Listen to your child, rather than imposing your goals and wishes on him or her. Listening to your child encourages independent thought and critical thinking. It helps you avoid a common downfall of helicopter parents: imposing your values on your child.
-Don’t manage your child’s relationships or communications for him or her.
-Don’t try to help your child escape consequences for his or her actions, unless you believe those consequences are unfair or life-altering. It’s fine to hire your child a lawyer if he or she is in legal trouble, or to intervene with a bullying teacher. But don’t try to get your kid out of detention or berate another parent who talks to your child about problematic behavior.
-Don’t raise your child to expect treatment that is different from, or better than, the treatment other children receive. Your child shouldn’t expect to get something they don’t deserve or didn’t earn.
-Encourage your children to solve their own problems by asking them to contemplate potential solutions.
-Don’t do your child’s work for them, or keep track of deadlines for them. Even school-aged children can learn to remember test dates and classroom projects. By middle school, your child should be managing their schoolwork largely on their own, with only as-needed help.
-Support your child’s teacher, and encourage your child to respect the teacher’s opinions.
-Allow your child to face natural consequences for their actions. Don’t allow a child to stay home sick just because she or he didn’t timely complete a school project.
*Eric Hoffer was a great American thinker and he never actually said anything about helicoptering parenting. It just rhymes nicely.
We took a Red Eye yesterday from Mesa, AZ to Crystal City, VA with one layover. Fueled solely on excitement and junk food, 28 8th graders gleefully walked to the Newseum. They read about the history of journalism and watched a sobering video on 9/11. The kids sat in suspended disbelief while the adults cried in remembrance.
As we walked everywhere, I brought up the rear of the group to maintain our number of 28. It was hard to prod kids normally taking selfies to “rush” their snaps of cherry blossoms.
One overheard conversation:
“Why don’t you eat cheese?”
“I gave it up for Lent.”
“Cheese is really hard to give up! I mean, REALLY hard!
At the end of the day, I asked kids, “What has been your favorite part of the trip thus far?”
They thought for a long minute.
“Being able to do everything here with my friends.”
Isn’t that what makes everything better?
You’re a parent and you want to do
a good an excellent job. Afterall, what could be more important? I’ve learned (the hard way), that to be a good parent, you have to both DO and BE.
DO – remind your kids to brush their teeth, make their beds, do their homework, etc.
BE – sit with them and just listen. 100% listening, with your eyes and ears and your full attention. Laugh with them. Ask questions and know them as people. They are people, separate from you.
You have a job: protect, nurture, teach.
But then, let them go and love them for who they are.
There is a label, in the education field, for parents who “hover” over their children in an overprotective, and micro-managing way: helicopter parenting.
As teachers, we get it. You don’t want your child to ever “fail.” You want to prove to your child, the world, your self, that you are an involved parent. But you are not doing your child any favors.
When you hover, you:
- subconsciously tell your kid that you don’t trust him to do it himself;
- create anxiety for your child;
- cheat your child out of the opportunity to work independently;
- cheat your child out of learning from failing; and
- cheat your child out of accomplishing something on his own.
Sometimes, effective parenting means surrendering.
My mother arrived in America in the late 1960s from a small town in rural South Korea. She knew a little English from school, but you can imagine going from the countryside in South Korea to a small apartment building in North Carolina is not exactly a smooth transition.
My sister, brother and I were born in quick succession following her immigration. We quickly grasped the many, many nuances of the English language, especially slang. Mom tried to understand it. But the words and gestures of profanity eluded her.
One day, my siblings and I were doing something that caused her displeasure: eating with our mouths full? Fighting with each other? Getting Bs? I don’t recall. But I do remember her suddenly raising her fist in an incomplete “f*** you” gesture (no middle finger) and yelling, “Fist up!” This created peals of laughter from us and, in her frustration, she gave chase. With a wooden spoon.
The chase was thrilling. Mom and that spoon could sting. But the sight of her in that apron, her face red with anger…it was too much.
As we ran around the house – us kids laughing at the sight of our indignant mother and the epic fail of her attempt to be obscene -she broke into laughter too. Soon, all four of us were in a puddle of giggle tears.
We carried on that day in a lighter state. Life is good. Grades are grades. People are people. Poor is poor. As long as we have each other, we can laugh.
One of the questions on our last 5th grade social studies quiz was, “How can we, as Americans, ensure equal rights for everyone?” This was on the heels of learning about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement (literary study: The Watsons Go to Birmingham).
Most of my students answered, “Treat everyone like we’d like to be treated,” or “remind everyone about the Constitution.”
But one student wrote:
We could start an activity or sports program where EVERYONE was invited. People of all races would play together and while they played and made friends with each other, they would see we are all the same and racism would be gone.
If you’re feeling discouraged, by recent racist rhetoric from a small group of small-minded people, remember there are a lot of good people out there. Our children are wise.