Well, here we are at the start of week three of school. It is hard to believe we are already into September and a new school year has begun. There have been a lot of changes this year. As I have mentioned before, my oldest (Mr. Minecraft or MM) is a sixth grader and the Princess has just started first grade! What happened to my precious little babies? Now they are growing up and way too fast.
Last school year was a little easier. Both my kids were in schools close by and we had a nice little system going. I walked my kids to and from school everyday. I knew what was going on with both of them by staying “in-the-know” as much as I could. And yes, I hovered. And as much as I hate to admit it…I am helicopter parent. Well, not entirely, but I think I have the traits. I have always “loosely” described myself as one. And since that may be the case, I decided to educate myself on what it is and what it means for my kids (and for me). I mean I think its good that I am always there for them. But you know what they say about too much of a good thing.
So, I did what anyone who needs some information on a subject does…I googled it. I really don’t like looking up something that is a bit scary, like anything medical. Because it seems that every time you do a little investigating on the subject, it becomes something horrific. That seemingly innocent bump on your arm may very soon become a large, cancerous tumor that will kill you at any moment. Ok, so I over exaggerated a tiny bit. But why is it that the worst possible outcome is the first thing that usually pops up?
Knowing all this, I decided to just go for it anyway. After typing in “What is a helicopter parent?”, I found several definitions right away. Here is a good one, courtesy of Wikipedia. It said, “A helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead. It is also known as over-parenting.” Unfortunately, so far, I fit the bill.
I decided to dig a little deeper. As I did, I found some other nifty names for it. Some are lawnmower parent (uh ok..haven’t heard that one before), cosseting parent (not in my usual vocal, so I looked it up. It means overprotecting.) or bulldoze parent (that sounds rather harsh). Wow the names alone say it all.
While researching even more, this interesting post popped up on the parents.com site. It is called “What is helicopter parenting?” by Kate Bayless. Here’s the link: www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/what-is-helicopter-parenting/. The post is very informative and a good read. Here are some of the highlights from it:
• This term is commonly used for parents of high school/college-aged students, but can apply at any age (like toddlers or elementary school children).
• Examples of over-parenting are arranging class schedules, talking to professors about grades, shadowing child (in reference to the little kids), ensuring child has the right teachers, coaches, activities or friends, and always directing play time and behaviors.
• Why do we hover? Because of fear of dire consequences, anxiety, overcompensation, and peer pressure from other parents (That one was a surprise.).
• Consequences of hovering: Kids could develop low self-esteem, no coping skills, increased anxiety, undeveloped life skills, and a sense of entitlement.
The last thing that post talks about is how to avoid all this. And how a parent can love and take care of their kids without overdoing it. It says that you have to let them do tasks they are able to do physically and mentally. They also need to struggle and fail. We parents are supposed to allow that to happen and help them work through the problem but not solve it.
Ok, now that I have more information on the subject of helicopter parenting, I do feel better about myself. Yes, I do hover and have some of these traits. I’d say my over-parenting is mostly directed toward my daughter, Princess. With MM, I really have done so much better. He is in a new environment (sixth grade and still can’t believe it!) and is really doing well. He gets himself ready and to school without me doing a thing. I’ll admit there are some days where I lapse and hover a bit, but overall I am doing pretty well.
It is a different story with Princess. She is in a new school with all new people. So yes, I do have to meet with her teachers (all of them..gen. ed, special ed, and speech) and will do this often throughout the year. I also shadow her when we go places or do new things. And sometimes, I direct her play time and some of her behaviors. Because of her challenges, her needs are greater right now. So being heavily involved is essential, but maybe not all the time. After reading about all of this, I do see I need to pull back more than I am. I can still be present but not be so overwhelming. She needs to try more things on her own and she can do them.
Starting now, my goal is to really put that into practice. In fact, I started that today. This morning, I dropped Princess at her classroom door and told her bye. Last week, I walked her in the classroom, checked in with her teacher and aide, helped her do the morning routine, and stayed way too long. You know, I hovered. But this morning, I didn’t do any of that. At the door, Princess waved bye to me, went right in and did the morning routine all by herself…just like the other kids. It was so great and I am so proud of her!
I agree wholeheartedly that it is important to let your kids struggle and fail. It is equally important for us, parents, to do what we can to help them through it. But, sometimes that is easier said than done. I find it challenging trying to figure out when to let them solve problems that come up. I guess that is what parenting is. So, the best thing I can do is keep doing what I did today, and trust that my kiddos can handle some of these things.