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Are You a Helicopter Parent?
When my oldest child was one and learning to walk we were visiting a friend when he fell down. My friend was completely shocked that I didn't rescue him and not only let him fall, but didn't make a big deal of the fact that he fell. I asked her what I was supposed to do differently because I could not go through life following him around with my hands outstretched to catch him. I could never possibly come to the rescue every time something started to go wrong. She didn't know what to say.
I now have four kids and have since realized that when a parent always rescues their children this is not good for them. In fact, parenting experts Foster Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay (authors of Parenting with Love and Logic) have a term for this type of parent - helicopter parent. While I learned early on that I couldn't always rescue my kids, it is still tempting at times to protect them and shelter them from the consequences of their behavior. But in the end, this is not good for our children.
Helicopter parents tend to hover around their kids always coming to the rescue and protecting their kids from consequences. When this happens, children do not learn anything from their actions. Therefore the chances are good the child will do it again and again. Think for a minute about a school aged child who forgets his homework or lunch. If the parent drops everything to take the forgotten item to school for the child, what does the child learn? He learns that his mom or dad will bring him what he forgot. This usually means that next time he won't worry so much about forgetting his lunch because he knows mom or dad will bring it.
As the parent in the above situation, if you do not take him his homework or lunch what does the child learn? He learns that if he forgets his lunch he will be hungry. Chances are good he won't forget his lunch often. He also learns how to deal with the teacher concerning his missing homework and will face the consequences of a lower grade for turning it in late the next day. Do you think it is better for him to learn this lesson when he is nine and his grades don't matter long term or when he is nineteen and it affects his college GPA?
According to Cline and Fay, helicopter parents send messages to their children every time they shelter them from consequences. Messages such as the child is too fragile to make it on his own, that the child needs the parent to run interference for her, and the child needs to be protected from the world. These are not messages that I want to send to my child.
I want my child to be confident in his or her ability to handle anything that might come up in life. I want them to learn life lessons early, not when they're 25 years old. I want my children to succeed without me. It can be hard to watch my kids suffer the consequences of their behavior, but I keep reminding myself that it will be worth it in the end when they are confident adults succeeding in life.