As I begin this article, I feel compelled to disclose that although I do have two children, 11 and 14, and two step children, 17 and 19, I do not hold any sort of degree that technically qualifies me as an official “parenting expert.”
However, if on-the-job experience combined with astute observational skills count, then I’m your gal! Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to observe helicopter parenting firsthand, as well as fight my own urges when I’m tempted to help my kids more than is actually helpful.
You may be getting the gist that I’m not in favor of this method, which is defined by Dictionary.com as: A style of child rearing in which an overprotective mother or father discourages a child’s independence by being too involved in the child’s life.
You may be a helicopter parent if…
· You never let anyone else watch your baby for fear that they may end up eating peaches when it’s supposed to be a “pear day.”
· You insist on tying your child’s shoes even though they know how to do it because you’re worried that they’ll become untied and cause them to trip.
· You refuse to let your child ride the school bus for fear that they’ll interact with “mean kids,” even though no such thing has ever happened.
· You personally intercede in each and every disagreement that occurs between ten-year-olds who are arguing about whether to play with chalk or bubbles.
· You “help” your child with school projects to the extent that they come out looking like a professional graphic designer made them.
· Now that your child is thirteen, you never go out on a date night because they’re too old for a babysitter but are too scared to stay home alone.
· Your school-age child has no chores to do because you’re too worried about the dangers of them getting poisoned from Windex.
· You have filled out your child’s college applications for them.
“But, but, but!…” you may be saying. “The reason she has to eat pears and not peaches is because her skin was turning orange and the pediatrician said it’s from too many orange foods!”
That may be true. Nonetheless, one extra serving of peaches (or riding the school bus) is not going to kill them! More importantly, the benefits of allowing your child’s independence far outweigh the risks of tripping over their shoelaces!
For example, the baby who spends time with Grandma or Daddy (or even—gasp!—a quality babysitter!) learns to develop relationships with other people; the child who trips over their laces learns to tie them tighter; the kids who ride the bus are gradually learning to navigate the world on their own.
For parents, there are benefits too, and not only the obvious conveniences of not having to do every single thing for them. There are also fulfilling benefits like watching your child develop into an independent, self-confident individual who is able to do things like excel at a job interview and not end up unemployed, living in your basement at forty.
I say all of this in a tone of jest, but really, it’s true. What do you think? Do you agree that helicopter parenting can actually be harmful in the long run? Or do you feel it’s better to protect kids to the umpth degree in every situation? I look forward to your comments!
I wrote this for WRAL Go Ask Mom.