It’s clear that we live in a competitive world. When you look around and listen to college graduates struggling to find lucrative jobs, it becomes even more clear. As a parent, I know this brings stress. The days of a 4.0 GPA and a great score on the SAT being enough are ending. So, I understand the appeal of wanting to be involved and micromanage your child’s life and education.
But, would you classify yourself as a helicopter parent? You’ve heard of this right? It’s a name used to refer to a parent that overly involves and interjects themselves into every aspect of their child’s life? I’m not here to point fingers, but you should be aware, more isn’t always better when it comes to involvement. Helicopter parenting doesn’t do a child any favors later in life. As a parent, I get it. It’s a struggle to watch your child walk into a world we know to be ridiculing, competitive, and full of anguish and struggle. Although difficult, struggle and failure are a huge component of growth. According to Psychology Today, struggle and failure is a necessary ingredient for the recipe of adulthood.
Speaking of struggle and growth, I incorporated this reality while teaching mathematics. In my math class, steps had to be taken before I would intervene and assist during practice. By practice, I mean the work students would do after a lesson was introduced, modeled and practiced with the instruction. To gain my assistance, students would need to 1) try it first, 2) consult their notes, 3) ask a peer in their small group. Once exhausting the three options, I would get involved and clarify. For many students, this would cause frustration because they were struggling with the work. Yet, experience from doing this taught me that on the other side of frustration and struggle is pride. As a teacher, it is difficult watching your students struggle, but it’s necessary for growth. The feeling of working through a problem yourself is satisfying and builds self-confidence. As a parent, I utilize this same strategy for any situation my children are working through.
Independence should be nurtured in children. Emotional and cognitive growth improves as children work through failures and struggles by nurturing adults. Studies have shown that being overly involved and implementing rigidly structured environments in childhood increase the likelihood of anxiety and depression during the college-age years. And, there are some ways to be of great assistance to your child without overstepping.
Some ways to help your child.
Listen to your child - don’t impose your way of thinking on them. Don’t try to live through your child because you didn’t accomplish the things you wanted during your childhood. Allow your child to be who they are and pursue their own interests.
Don’t manage their relationships. Allow them to speak for themselves and navigate their peer relationships. We recommend monitoring, not managing.
Don’t help your child escape consequences of their actions. This is a big one. If your child is in legal trouble or someone is bullying them, of course, get involved and help. But, don’t allow your child to believe their actions carry no consequences.
Don’t raise your child to expect special treatment. Each child deserves and should be given a fair chance at all opportunities. They should not expect something they don’t deserve or haven’t earned.
Allow them to solve their own problems. A better role as the parent is to encourage by brainstorming possible solutions to a problem. Then, as a team, you select the best solution based on the situation.
Don’t do their work for them. This one is near and dear to my heart as an educator. I’ve told parents repeatedly that I cannot help your child grow if I cannot see their work. As educators, growth is our mission. It doesn’t matter where your child is academically or emotionally, we are trained to help them grow. If you are submitting work not reflective of their true abilities, we cannot do our best work.
Allow them to face natural consequences. Do not allow your child to stay home sick because they didn’t do an assignment. Don’t speak to the teacher or coach because they are resistant to doing it themselves.
This is all tough to do. But, to ensure the development of a strong emotional and academic student, it’s important to let them find their voice and not be their voice.
The Effects of 'Helicopter Parenting'. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201701/the-effects-helicopter-parenting