Helicopter Parents, Your License is Revoked

Many of us come from parents who were of the laissez faire type. They didn't enroll us in every program, or try to make us a virtuoso. I remember showing my parents how I'd learn to play the piano by myself by reading the music. It did not even hit the richter scale. C'est la vie.

But by remembering these missed opportunities and considering we might've been something special, had a better life, do work we're truly passionate about, had a parent just "discovered" us, we turn to our own offspring and declare them something better. If they don't "see" it, we will make it happen for them. We will do what our parents didn't do and hopefully somewhere in there someone will come out gifted or special. 

Though with this scenario we don't accept that every person is different. Every little soul or budding life is apt to follow his or her own passions and experiences if we just let them be. What parents can do, however, is give kids responsibility. As Annie Fox says:

Even a toddler can and should help put away her own books and toys. That’s not a “punishment” nor is it “mean.” Giving them responsibilities is a gift to them, part of our parenting legacy so that they can learn to do for themselves. Self-reliance is the objective. But when parents over-function (do much more than they ought to in relation to the child’s age and ability), then kids tend to under-function (do much less than they are capable of).

I found some very interesting reminder points in Annie Fox's blog piece. Not only the excerpt from Shel Silverstein's poem, Helping but how crippling it is to help too much. 

 

 

Some kind of help is the kind of help that helping’s all about.

And some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without!

 

 

An Azawhistle Kid is a kid who functions. A kid whose parents help them learn the discipline of self-care so that they may create a respectable environment around them to take where ever they go. Check out our iPad book app that helps kids clean their room in Azawhistle Kids Everything Has a Home Tejas and Lollipop's Great Clean Up!

 

Annie Fox:

The late (truly) great Shel Silverstein made a truly brilliant point in his poem, Helping.

Some kind of help is the kind of help that helping’s all about

And some kind of help is the kind of helpwe all can do without!

He wasn’t talking about parents, but he could have been. Helping children is encoded in every parent’s DNA, so how could it be a bad thing?

As Shel pointed out, some help is not at all helpful, especially when the goal is to help kids become independent, fully functioning, young adults. (That is the goal, right?)

Imagine you’re the head teacher in your child’s Life Preparedness Training Course. Not far from the truth. So your long-term educational objective is to teach essential life skills, whatever you consider those to be. You’ve got 18 years to complete the curriculum before your child “graduates.” In terms of life-readiness, with which skills and character traits do you want your child to be equipped? Most parent include: independence, self-reliance, life-long learner, resilience, empathy, self-confidence, etc.

The long-term objectives may be clear, but the method…not always. In fact, sometimes our parental approach directly undermines our objectives. For example, suppose you prioritize “self-reliance,” but your 13 year old can’t for the life of him/her a) get ready for school in a timely fashion, and/or b) manage school challenges and after school obligations. Suppose also, that you have gotten into the habit of doing for your child what you say you want your child to learn to do for himself. Are you teaching your child self-reliance? Or something else?

Now before you head over to the comments section to remind me that not all children are capable of managing their time and responsibilities, let me agree with you. Not all children are 100 percent capable of balancing it all…yet. And some may never get close to managing their lives on their own. But all kids can learn to become more independent. When we require next to nothing of our kids until the time when they can do everything on their own, we are teaching them to be helpless.

Even a toddler can and should help put away her own books and toys. That’s not a “punishment” nor is it “mean.” Giving them responsibilities is a gift to them, part of our parenting legacy so that they can learn to do for themselves. Self-reliance is the objective. But when parents over-function (do much more than they ought to in relation to the child’s age and ability), then kids tend to under-function (do much less than they are capable of).

And what happens when those kids are at school and teachers expect them to take an active role in their own education? Sadly, it can create problems in individual classrooms and in the overall school climate. Teachers and administrators report that highly capable students (from highly educated parents) frequently lack motivation or initiative. Conversations with educators also indicate that kids whose parents tend to hover have more difficulty working and learning independently. (“They seem to need an awful lot of reassurance that they’re doing it ‘right.’ And even when you give it to them, they seem to be operating with a level of stress that makes it difficult for them to learn and apply what they’ve learned.”)

If you’d like to help your child on the journey toward independence (in school and in life), these tips offer a starting place:

1. Examine your assumptions about your parenting role in terms of helping vs. encouraging independence. If, for example, you believe that “A good parent always does everything for a child,” then you may be over-functioning to the detriment of your child’s development. Take some time to think about ways you can still be a good (even a great) parent without always doing everything for your child.

2. Talk to your child about your pride in his/her increasing maturity. Ask, “In what areas do you feel ready for more independence?” Listen with respect to what your child has to say. Tie together the concepts of added responsibility, added independence, and earned privileges.

3. Incorporate accountability into any discussion on independence and self-reliance. Hold your child accountable for keeping his agreements to family members, teachers, etc. Hold yourself accountable for keeping your agreements. (If that means you agree to not to interfere with homework, then take some deep breaths and stick to it.)

Our parenting journey is basically about teaching our kids to take care of themselves and providing them with age-appropriate opportunities to learn how to rely on their own judgment. If we parent well, eventually they won’t need us. But they’ll always need and use what’ve we taught them.