previously published in SimplyKC magazine November 2011 issue
by Stacey Hatton
Have you ever checked online to see what your child is eating at the school cafeteria? Do you have a GPS tracking system on your kid’s cell phone? Or have you ever called your college-aged son’s professor and debated test scores or grades? Well, then you JUST might be a helicopter parent!
Now don’t get defensive, because let me tell you, you are not alone. Society and media sure squeeze the pressure on parents to be perfect and raise mutantly-impossible-ideal children; and if parents don’t control every move of their child’s life, the poor kid won’t develop to have a perfect life. Right?! Sound familiar? Do you know someone like this, or am I hitting a nerve?
What is a Helicopter Parent?
Margaret K. Nelson, a sociology professor at Middlebury College and author of Parenting out of Control: Anxious Parents in Uncertain Times says, “Parents are carefully guiding, shaping, and determining the contours of their children’s actions. The new parenting style consumes the lives of the parents who adopt it, often at the expense of other meaningful relationships.” She also suggests, “Parenting has gotten out of control.” Here are a few areas where parents usually display this hovercraft behavior:
Hovering Over Homework:
Interference with your child’s homework may seem necessary to some. How is my child to learn if I don’t answer their questions? They can’t simply get enough knowledge in class when the teacher/professor has her attention divided by so many students.
Of course if your child has an occasional question, you can direct them to the proper place to find the answer (if they are older), or help them problem solve if they are younger. But do you truly want your child to come to you for all the answers? It’s an easy way for the kid to get the facts (only if you actually know the correct answers).
The problem arises when the child begins to expect a parent to always help them do their homework, to keep on task, to finish it, and heaven forbid, proofread and change all errors before the teacher sees the child’s work. Zoiks! Whose work is it then? You might as well scratch off your kids name at the top of the paper and replace it with your “John Hancock!”
This is such destructive behavior by the “hovering” parent and oodles of parents have done this. We want our kids to succeed! No one wants to see their children fail, but how else will they learn what is right and wrong? They need to learn how it feels to make mistakes, learn from them and move forward. I will always remember seeing a junior in high school crying hysterically in the hallways when she received her first A minus (EVER) on a test. No coping skills for failing is not healthy. Not that an A minus is even close to failing!!
Hovering Over Teachers:
Dr. Charles Fay, co-founder of Love and Logic, says, “One of the toughest challenges faced by today’s teachers involves working with Helicopter Parents. While they do it out of great love, these parents cripple their children by hovering over them and rescuing them from the consequences of their actions. Unwittingly, they also sabotage their children’s learning by criticizing teachers for expecting too much out of their kids.”
Another problem occurs with parents communicating directly with their child’s teacher/s, when the child should be capable of doing so. Grade schoolers through high school ought to be able to talk to their teachers about tests or grades.
Educate your child how to communicate with teachers. Build up their self-esteem, so they feel their questions are important. Plus, effective communication is a life skill which can’t be emphasized early enough.
Hovering Leading to Child Obesity:
A North Carolina State University journal titled, Helicopter Parents Can Hinder Kids Exercise (September 8, 2011), suggests this generation’s method of parenting may also be leading to the increase of overweight children in our country.
Researcher Jason Bocarro, Ph.D. from the research team reports, “Hovering is keeping kids from running around and playing with their friends and neighbors, and instead maybe sitting in front of the computer or television.” If parents are afraid of letting their children roam free through the neighborhoods and parks, then these kids will stay close to home and that usually means complacency and sedentary behaviors – unless the parents insist on more physical activity.
In past generations, kids hopped on their bikes and played until the dinner bell rang out or the street lights came on. You rarely see this anymore. I’m not suggesting let them run wild, but there has to be a happy-medium. In today’s world, parents need to be cognoscente of how helicopter parenting isn’t working.
Our children are like balloons. When we lighten our grasp, our children will soar higher. Let us all work together and remind ourselves not to tether our precious “balloons.”
Stacey Hatton, is a pediatric nurse, mother of two and freelance writer. You can find her humor blog at http://nursemommylaughs.com