Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Not So Good and Worst of Helicopter Parenting

Clara Brown
Parents generally want a better life for their children than they had.  Some take this desire to a different level and hover over their children, earning themselves the title "Helicopter Parents."

Then there are those who live vicariously through their children while others make their children's decisions in hopes of ensuring their success.

A parent's role is irreplaceable in the lives of their children. There are no known substitutes or scientific fix to replace the vital role or roles of parents in children's lives.  Studies have shown that:

  • Children who have parental support are likely to have better health as adults
  • Students with involved parents tend to earn higher grades, have better social skills and are more likely to do extremely well in school
  • Children are more likely to be socially competent and  have better communication skills when they have parents who are sensitive to their needs and emotions
  • Children who are supported and monitored by their parents have the tendency to keep on the straight and narrow; at least for a while into their adult lives.

The relationship that parents share with their children impacts the trajectory of the younger one's life. I can attest to this fact in my own life.  I constantly use my parents' guidance as  point of reference to this day.

Image: better brains 
To be called a 'Helicopter" or "hovering " parent gives the impression that the parent who is so labelled does not have the ability to let go even as the child grows up and ventures, supposedly, into the world on his/her own.  One of the downsides to this type of parenting is that the children seem to be least equipped to independently face the world.  Being denied the 'trial and error' experiences that are known to be crucial for strong character formation, places these children at a disadvantage as they do not know how to handle life's critical issues.

Admittedly, I do have some distinctive "helicopter/hovering" traits while Daddy is an avid advocate of balance. Dad sees his role as equipping our son, Jared, for the big world by assigning and insisting that he carries out his chores and his pet care responsibilities. Sometimes, he is taken to Dad's office and Son-Son is given duties their as well, including sales.  If Jared is successful in closing a sale, he is paid his full commission - an amount which is lodged to his bank account.

It is not the indisputable value of active parenting that I have issue with, rather the refusal to allow the child to grow beyond a parents 'cloying grasp'.  If we accept that one of the most universal feelings that transcends nationality, race, class and culture is a parent's love, then we must also place some value on the necessary 'hovering' but at the appropriate time and with the required level of balance.

I am the product of parents who did not feel the need to monitor my homework.  It was understood that I would do it properly and hand it in on time. To me, that never equated to being loved any less than a child of this generation whose mother sits  at the table (as I do), lovingly watching every pen stroke, ensuring the work is neat and tidy, ensuring the penmanship is acceptable, ensuring that the completed work is checked over for accuracy and all those self-imposed or should I say "hovering activities."  It can be debated that the world has changed and what is demanded academically of children today is so onerous that without additional parental support they will sink.

There is a thin line between being a supportive parent and being one who hovers or cossets. So if your child fails to write the homework from the board and is reprimanded, frankly, so be it.  It is a lesson learnt.  It certainly is not the end of the world.  Our job is to teach not only responsibility but also resilience.  If my child is punished for this or any other infraction at school, I do not see the need to descend on the school and engage the teacher in tedious dialogue.  My discussion will certainly be with my child to ensure that this does not happen again.  The focus for me has always been solution-oriented, not in reliving the mistake and subsequent penalty.

Having hovering or helicopter parents lead to conflicting responses in children. On one hand, there is a feeling of being cherished and protected. On the other hand, there is often resentment accompanied by unwillingness or inability to solve problems on their  own, knowing that Mom or Pop are only the press of a button away and will only too happily swoop down to "fight their battles."

What escapes some of us who have the tendency to hover is that the lessons that life teaches often make us better parents ourselves. One of the most rewarding and perhaps flattering signs of successful parenting is when a parent's counsel is sought long after the child is an adult.  It is a sign of  respect and trust. However, seeking such advice should be a part of the decision-making process and not the process in its entirety.

In the same way it is important for our children to lead their own lives, it is also of paramount importance that we have interests outside of our children that bring us great joy and satisfaction.  We cannot protect our children from hurt and pain all the time.  What we can do is to prepare them to face challenges on their own armed with the knowledge that we love and support them.

Are you willing to let go when the time comes?

Share your thoughts with us on this or any other topic, here in the comment section or on our Facebook page.

Have a great rest of the day!

Clara Brown is our regular Guest Author. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica where she is an Insurance Executive.

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