I recently devoured Susan Tordella’s Raising Able: How Chores Empower Families. There is a chapter titled “Beware of Helicopters.” This is not an anti-aviation statement, but rather a discussion of helicopter parenting. I worked with Susan, a parenting expert and speaker, to explain this often misunderstood parenting style; and to show you how failure can actually benefit your child. Read on.
Helicopter parenting explained. Many confuse helicopter parenting with being an involved, concerned parent. In reality, textbook helicopter parents are involved in and concerned about their children’s lives to the extreme. These are some of the characteristics of helicopter parents:
- They avoid use of the word “No”
- They intervene to ensure their child’s success
- They overly protect their child from experiencing pain or disappointment
- They prevent their child from experiencing negative consequences of the child’s actions
- They do not give their child the chance to solve their own problems
The issue with helicopter parenting. Experiencing the consequences of their actions in situations where they are not in danger allows children to develop confidence, self reliance, and good decision making.
Take a child who regularly forgets to take lunch money to school. Parents might leave work to take money, nag and remind the child each day, ask the school to run a lunch tab, and a whole host of tactics so that the child does not experience the natural consequence of their own poor planning. It might seem cruel, even criminal, to allow your child to miss a day of chicken tetrazzini. But the child won’t suffer much from one missed lunch and the “ordeal” will likely sting enough to teach the lesson. It’s a good example of how to give a child enough rope to burn but not enough to hang.
Think you might be a helicopter parent? When your kids have play dates, do you give them space to work out their disagreements? Or do you swoop in with mother hen wings flapping? “We can’t let them hurt themselves,” you argue.
Giving children room to resolve disputes does not mean you stand by while they duke it out. One simple solution is to offer, “If you can’t figure out how to take turns with the truck, I can take it for a while.”
You’ve taken action before the situation escalates and before you got mad.
Choices empower kids to feel the result of their actions and takes you out of the role of judge, jury and executioner.
How to avoid helicopter parenting. Perhaps at this point you have assessed yourself as a helicopter parent, or just want steps for giving your child some space to grow.
Pema Chodron, a Buddist nun, says, recognize, refrain, relax, resolve. To that, add “Revise” and create a plan to be prepared the next time your child engages in a predictable situation. YOU are the one who has to change and give them the gift of space and opportunities to learn.
Think about your greatest lessons in life. They likely came from failure. If we deny our kids the opportunity to fail, feel pain and disappointment, they never learn resilience; how to keep going when things don’t go the way they planned. It takes great courage to start over after failure, and it’s the only way to ensure success in work, play and relationships. Kids need failure!
Note from the BookWormMama: I know it will be a challenge for me to watch my daughter as she gets older and experiences pain and disappointment. I’ll have to try to manage my “mother hen wings” so that she grows into a capable young woman.
Do you find it hard to let your kids fail? What great life lessons have you learned from failure?