Helicopter parenting - It's time to take off and let the kids fly!
The term "helicopter parent" was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott's 1969 book ‘Parents & Teenagers’ by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter. The term became common enough to enter the dictionary in 2011. Helicopter parents are constantly around their kids, ready to step in at a moment’s notice to solve any problem, real or imagined. While they do this to bring their best for their kids, these children often end up less than confident, stressed, anxious, or lonely.
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Parenting: Then & Now
Do you remember falling off a tree that you were climbing and scraping a knee as a child? You probably continued playing till you went home and then tried to hide the bruise from your mom who would have shouted at you for not cleaning it up. Remember not doing your homework and getting your parent to sign a remark in your school diary? Some of us might even remember failing in a subject or two in the lower classes and trying to keep the report card away for as long as possible.
Apart from being fun memories that we can now look back on and laugh from the comfort of a secure job and a good life, it was also a learning experience. Getting shouted at by your teacher was not a big issue as you have listened to your parents scream at you. Not having someone to comfort you the minute you get hurt was also good as you learned to console yourself and rise for the next challenge. Like it or not, our parents brought us up to have a good life.
This is something that we want for our children too, right? To grow up to be strong individuals, who can take charge of their lives and be successful and happy? But our generation of parents may be erring on that. In a bid to make the lives of our children easier, better and ostensibly happier, parents these days are helicopter parenting.
We all want to give our children the best of everything; the advantages that we feel will help them get ahead. This sometimes means we do more and more like from helping a child with homework and solving their doubts, we end up redoing the homework word by word till we are satisfied. School projects are a great example where helicopter parenting shows up often. If there is a crooked line, it is straightened, if there is a part stuck askew its straightened. So rampant is helicopter parenting that most often no one expects anything else. Also, initially it works. The child might get a better grade, he might show signs of picking up a skill faster, but this is not sustainable.
Why do we do this?
Fear of dire consequences- Parenting advice is plentiful, and we are often told about how something terrible is waiting around the corner if we do not do follow a particular recommendation. Chill out and remember that we are living in the safest time for humanity no matter what the fear mongers say.
Fear of losing out for your child – Wanting the best for your child in life is different from them getting top marks in grade 1. Yes, it is good to know that your child can do well, but you stepping in is, in fact, undermining what they can do.
Peer pressure – Everyone at the bus stop, the PTA meeting and even at parties is talking about their little prodigy, but must you?
Anxiety – This causes helicopter parenting on all fronts and is helping no one. So relax and take stock.
Unresolved issues – Our childhood issues sometimes loom large, and we overcompensate for those. The best parenting advice that anyone can follow is not to let one’s perspectives and doubts color our child’s childhood.
Helicopter parenting is a real thing and has had even former dean of Stanford University, Lythcott-Haims saying in her book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.”
“We want so badly to help them by shepherding them from milestone to milestone and by shielding them from failure and pain. But overhelping causes harm,” she writes. “It can leave young adults without the strengths of skill, will, and character that is needed to know themselves and to craft a life.”
How do we stay away from that helicopter parenting trap? Well, you have to monitor yourself for the signs and make sure you do not go that way.
Parenting tips would include,
Giving them responsibility – Waking up on time after a certain age, eating their food without help, picking out what they wear, putting toys away; all of these are simple ways to start children off on their own.
Teach them how to problem-solve – Tying their shoelaces, packing their bags for school, making friends on their own, meeting new people are all issues that can be problems for young ones. Let them struggle a bit if they must but watch them grow with the struggle.
Coach them how to interact with others. Does your child feel that they deserve more in an exam? Let them respectfully ask the teacher. Do they want a bigger piece of cake at a party? Let them ask the host. Do not step in all the time. Coach your child to ask questions and fight their own battles.
Basic life skills are what you need to equip your children with. The details are theirs to work out. Yes, you can always be supportive, be a sounding board, be there for them, but helicopter parenting is debilitating and can harm your little one for life.
We are all working without instruction manuals and doing the best we can. Trust that instinct and hold off on stepping in every time. Give them roots and wings, and you'll never have to hover around as they grow and learn to soar high. Happy parenting!