I know, I know … helicopter has become a bad word. No fair to helicopters either! I mean, all they do is rescue people, give us a heads up on traffic, let us see the Grand Canyon and such. But, on the other hand, I get it. No one likes a micro-manager. Kids aren’t grown employees though; they need a little management.
Helicopter parents are well known for hovering over their little ones, not unlike a helicopter. Also, they often make a lot of noise that annoys people nearby, like a helicopter. Before I had kids, I remember sitting at a Waterfront Park listening to some mom say the name Conner so many times I nearly snapped and am still not super fond of that perfectly good name.
But when I caught myself the other day starting a sentence with, “I’m not a helicopter mom, but” or listening to myself repeat, “I hate to sound like a helicopter mom, but”… I got to thinking. There are so many terms floating around out there for parenting styles. Recently, I heard the terms lawnmower parenting and snowplow parenting. On one hand, you have Tiger Moms, and at the other end of the spectrum we have new “free range” parents.
I have to be honest, if I truly consider my parenting style, it’s probably closest to helicopter. And what’s wrong with that?
If you think about it, a helicopter hovers – as opposed to what? Leaving kids to themselves is also leaving them to everyone else. Also, hovering is not being all up in their business. It’s not plowing down every obstacle in their way in life. It’s watching at a distance, constantly, ready to swoop in – teaching, supervising, protecting. Isn’t that what parents are supposed to do?
So, here are 4 things identified as helicopter parenting that I do and make no apologies:
1. I’m not sorry I watch what my kid does and says with their peers and will absolutely intervene to correct unacceptable behavior, including bullying.
Guiding early social interaction is important because socializing is a complex and valuable skill and emotional intelligence is taught, not instinctive. Likewise, I hate when the problem kid is the one whose parent won’t do anything or isn’t there. What are the rest of us supposed to do? I’m all for letting kids play creatively and independently, without a plan and direction, but there is a time and place to settle disputes among themselves and a time to supervise and guide behaviors.
2. I’m not sorry I do not leave my young child unattended.
Preventable accidents at home are a leading cause of death in toddlers. Babies smother accidentally. Kids drown. They choke. My mom is an ER nurse. My best friend a paramedic. I’ve heard them cry after coding kids, and if that and CDC statistics and American Pediatric Guidelines make me “paranoid”, then fine. I’m paranoid that statistics could apply to me. I use seat belts and lead-free paint too. Call me crazy.
3. I’m not sorry I take an active roll in my child’s education.
Teachers are always saying they need parents to be involved and supportive. However, being actively involved in your child’s education is also a tell-tale sign of helicopter parenting. So how can we win? In a state that struggles with education and a country with threats of danger in places of learning, it may be necessary to consider different types of education and their pros and cons, or even educating your kids yourself, if that works for you and and your family.
I absolutely plan to continue taking on an active role. Tons of moms bring things, chaperone, attend parent teacher conferences, calling with questions, check to see if they have done their homework, helping with it. And does this set kids up for dependence and failure? Statistics just don’t bear that out.
In fact, “‘Compared with their counterparts, children of helicopter parents were more satisfied with every aspect of their college experience, gained more in such areas as writing and critical thinking, and were more likely to talk with faculty and peers about substantive topics.’ Meanwhile, in the 2012 study of grown children, ‘frequent parental involvement, including a wide range of support, was associated with better well-being for young adults.'” (Strauss)
British and American studies also show that authoritative helicopter parents, a reaction to the damage of permissive parenting, has benefits such as higher self-esteem, achieve degrees in higher education, and kids were less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and have unprotected sex. (Druckerman)
4. I’m not sorry I know what they watch, read, and play.
Frankly, I’m not about to let my children lose on the internet or give them free reign of the TV or Kindle. There’s just no need. Some shows teach ethics, manners, confidence, kindness, natural facts, and academic skills, while others give unrealistic expectations of what is cute, funny, fair, or realistic. That doesn’t even begin to tackle the issues of dangers lurking on the internet. When screen time is interactive, studies show it’s doesn’t carry the same potential hazards. And reading with and talking to your kids improves their vocabulary and communication skills.
So helicopter parents hover, but isn’t that sort of the point? And with all the neglect and abuse going on out there – over 260 children in Columbia alone are in need of foster homes – why is helicopter parenting the bad word?
I let my kids run wild, make choices and deal with the consequences, fall down, get dirty, play with friends, pretend what they like, pick what they like and so on. But you can bet I’ll be out here, watching, ready to swoop in if I need to and hang back if I don’t. No one is perfect; I’ll misjudge those situations sometimes. But I will not be the parent that excuses myself from parenting or cripples my kids by doing everything for them.
So I guess I’m a helicopter now. And I’m OK with that.