Here are the reasons why you want to be the string.
Let’s talk about well meaning parents who take their parenting job way too far and drive themselves and their kids crazy.
Yes, folks, we call these parents “helicopter parents.”
Here is a story for you:
My perfect granddaughter (only joking….sort of) is nearly two years old. She is beginning to venture out on her own within the invisible perameters of her parents’ watchful eyes and ears. At this point, you might label my daughter and her husband as helicopter parents, but you are incorrect! They are protectful and engaged.
My daughter, her mother, tells me my granddaughter is willfull (nah), headstrong (I haven’t seen it) and likes to be in charge (this could be a valid descriptor as she is a Leo and we Leos love being the boss.)
Can’t all two year olds be described that way?
Here is where my daughter is healthy–she lets my granddaughter experience the outcome of her choices–just a little bit.
For instance, if Mom warns you not to walk on the hot wood boardwalk around the swimming pool because it could hurt your feet and you do so anyway, you learn pretty quickly that hey, that wood is hot and maybe I shouldn’t walk on it.
It is when the guarding goes on for too many years and/or smothering the child becomes the norm that we have trouble.
From a Parents Magazine article”What is Helicopter Parenting”,
“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 popular enough to become a dictionary entry in 2011. Similar terms include “lawnmower parenting,”cosseting parent,” or “bulldoze parenting.”
Helicopter parenting refers to “a style of parents who are over focused on their children,” says Carolyn Daitch, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders near Detroit and author of Anxiety Disorders: The Go-To Guide.
“They typically take too much responsibility for their children’s experiences and, specifically, their successes or failures,” Dr. Daitch says. Ann Dunnewold, Ph. D., a licensed psychologist and author of Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box, calls it “overparenting.” “It means being involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and overperfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting,” Dr. Dunnewold explains.”
It is tough to stand back and watch your child struggle. We all struggle from time to time. That’s life.
How, then, do you remain an involved parent without jumping over the parental cliff?
As a mother of two grown daughters,drama teacher and youth theatre director for thirty-eight years I have a few suggestions.
If you think you are a parent careening over the cliff, I suggest you:
- Breathe, honestly take a few deep breaths and count between them
- Avoid knee jerk reactions to situations. Give time a chance to rectify the problem.
- Keep a sense of humor
- Remember this is a season in your child’s life–nothing ever lasts forever
- Find a friend or relative who can listen to you vent your concerns (make sure they know you are venting, too)
- Understand the situation your child’s teacher, director, coach or youth program leader is in and try see it from their perspective
- Get a hobby, a pet or discover a new interest of yours–you are still a good parent if you have your own life
- This one is a biggie! Think about your own childhood and do your best not to fix everything you thought went wrong then by doing it better this time around with your child.
It hurts to see your child hurting, I understand that. Honestly, it will hurt MORE in the long run if you step in and save your kid every time something doesn’t go the way you think it should.
Teach your child the value of rigor, challenge and strife. There are some values to them, you know. Whenever I am going through something difficult, I like to analyze the situation.
I say aloud, “Okay, this is not the first time in the world someone has goofed up on a job interview. What can I learn from it?”
If I step back from the issue, mistake or challenge and analyze it, it makes the event less important and takes away whatever emotion or perceived value I have placed on it.
If you don’t stop being overbearing, you will raise a neurotic child who becomes a dysfuntional adult who runs from challenges every time they are faced with them, be it a job interview, an audition, a auto accident, peer pressure, a romantic relationship break up or argument.
You want to raise a child who becomes an adult who is a healthy, contributing member of society.
If you think about your own life, I bet you remember what the tough, awkward and uncomfortable moments taught you more than the good ones. These challenges make you stronger and more able to withstand the next time something doesn’t work out for you.
I know a very talented, beautiful, promising young woman who auditioned for every production and was always the one who lost the lead role to someone else. This occurred for years.
She didn’t give up. Later, she went on to compete in the Miss America contest, won at the state level and was fourth runner up in the national contest.
That’s not too shabby.
I am aquainted with her parents. They owned several apartment buildings and local shoe stores. She learned a lot from them about how to be professional and business like. Now she owns a thriving business. Life continued to happen to her of course, but she took it in stride. She is exemplary single mother raising her daughter.
Parents should be less helicopters and more the string of a spinning top. Okay, that’s kinda sappy but you understand my point. (I can hear you saying, “Deb said I should be the string, be the string….)
You send your child out into the world and hope she doesn’t spin out of control and hit the wall too many times. You are there to pick her up or when her just needs some “fluffing up” as we call it at our house. (Yes, I actually fluff our daughters’ shoulders as if they were a flattened pillow.)
You want a life of supporting your child, and only “fluffing” them. You don’t want a life of constant regret or worry everytime something doesn’t work out for them.
Put away the helicopters and enjoy your kids. It’s tough to do some days but in the long run, you’ll be glad that you did.
Have you ever had a moment of helicoptering? I have. I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at dhcbaldwin.com or DeborahBaldwin.net
P.S. Recently, I received an email from one of the queens of helicopter parents who wanted to set the record straight about her son and an incident which occurred THREE YEARS AGO!! Get this: she was writing me about something she was told third hand. Third hand, people. Oy! The stories I could tell you…..
Check out my post on the Ugly Santa, a family memory: The Ugly Santa
or a poem of mine about parenthood A Favorite Poem of Mine