Grounding Helicopter Parents
I recently read an article in the NY Times about how “helicopter parents” cause children to miss developmental milestones, instead of helping them succeed. This brings to mind the hullabaloo surrounding the mother who let her 9-year-old son ride the NYC subway by himself back in 2008. I remember reading that and saying, you go mama! Not everyone was as supportive as I was.
Now granted, we don’t live in New York City, or even anywhere that has a subway system. We do, however, live in the third largest city in Pennsylvania which isn’t exactly a field in the middle of nowhere. We don’t have school buses in the district I live in, and if you’re up early enough you’ll see the masses of children migrating to school each morning via their own two feet.
I’ll admit, I was a bit of a helicopter parent when I had my first child. She was a preemie, and in my mind needed me to protect her from everything. I had spent too many hours praying in the NICU to let something happen that I could have prevented. Of course, toddlers need supervision, but I couldn’t catch her every time she went “boom!” on her bottom. The funny thing is, as soon I stopped fussing when she fell, so did she. Reality set in, and I realized I was doing her a disservice to act like she was helpless and unable to handle herself. If it seemed like I believed that, she would too. I wanted her to come at life (even then) from a position of strength and self-assurance.
I understand why people worry about sending their children out into the world, it’s become a scary place filled with scary people. The problem is, if we’re not preparing them for life, they’re going to be in for a rude awakening. I’m not suggesting letting them take candy from a stranger in a van, but letting them fail in small ways allows them to think on the fly and hone their problem solving abilities. They need to learn you really don’t get a trophy just for showing up.
Tired of reminding your child to grab his lunch on the way out the door in the morning? Let him forget it for one day, he’ll be hungry enough to not forget again. Daughter turned off her alarm and missed the bus? Let her sit and wait until you’re ready to go, instead of rushing off in your bathrobe and hair curlers to get her to school on time. Let her explain her tardiness to the office. Children need to learn natural consequences. It may bring back memories of the first time you let your baby cry it out, but that didn’t kill anyone either. Self-soothing as an infant is just a stepping stone to self-reliance as an adult.
Just the other day my family was having dinner at a dear friends house, who also happens to be the mother of four girls. Our collective brood was playing outside when her husband noticed their eldest was out in a t-shirt and shorts (one of the warmer days recently, but it had gotten cold again in the evening.) I couldn’t help but smile when my friend responded “when she gets cold, she’ll come in for a jacket.” Helicopter grounded.