Mar 8, 2011

Helicopter Parents

Yesterday we took a look at a recent addition to the extreme parenting group. They were called Tiger Parents. Today we are examining the world of Helicopter Parents. Dr. Kathy Masarie offers insight into their world.

What is a Helicopter Parent?
  • They are so named because, like helicopters, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach of their child.
  • A helicopter parent pays extremely close attention to his or her child’s experiences and problems.
  • They rush to prevent any harm or failure from befalling their child and won’t let them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the child's wishes. 
What are some examples of what helicopter parents do?
  • Turn what every parent’s job is - to nurture and support our kids - into an extreme sport.
  • Thinks good parenting means their child never fails or has a bad day.
  • Wraps their own identity and self worth in the accomplishments of their child - especially in school and sports.
  • Are embarrassed when their child fails - they feel it is a sign of their failure as a parent.
  • Fights their child's battles for him/her, such as protesting a grade.
  • Takes over their child's school projects.
  • Starts sentences about their child with "We," as in "We are trying out for the soccer team.”
  • Equates "love" with "success."
  • Are preoccupied and overly involved with the details of their child's activities, practices, schedules, and performances to the point of lurking on social networking sites and reading text messages.
 What motivates parents to helicopter? 
  • We want to be better, more involved parents than our parents were for us.
  • We are worried about our child’s safety. 
  • We have the tools.
  • We have 24/7 connection. The cell phone has become "the world’s longest umbilical cord.”
  • We have enough wealth to focus our energy beyond food and shelter.
  • We want our kids to have a great childhood and be happy - free of pain and struggle.
  • We want our kids to turn out the best they can be, even better than we are. 
What does helicopter parenting look like once the child becomes a young adult?
  • We are paying a lot of money for our kids to go to school and we want to protect our investment. Competition for college spots and jobs is a real problem for today's child.
  • Again - they sometimes take this to the extreme, like at my daughter's high-end college - where one dad called his daughter every day to make sure she got up to go to class. 
  • Parents have been caught writing their child's entrance essay or registering their child for classes. "Black Hawk Parents," has been coined for those who cross the line from a mere excess of zeal to unethical behavior, such as writing their child's college admission essays.
  • One mom flew from SLC to Harvard to protest her child’s biology grade.
  • Colleges and now even companies are actually hiring extra staff to ward off helicopter parents. How can a 22-year-old who can’t address setbacks, disappointments, goals and progress at the university level, adjust to a complex job situation and an independent adult life?
What is the message we are giving our kids when we helicopter?
  • “You are helpless, fragile, and need me to run interference for you.”
  •  “You can’t make it in life without me.”
What can happen to helicopter parents themselves?
  • Stress and sadness. A study by the Society for Research in Child Development determined that Helicopter Parents reported "more sadness, crying, negative beliefs about themselves, and less joy, contentment, and life satisfaction," whether the child was succeeding or failing.  
  • They don’t get the results they want.  Kids become more incompetent as they cry “HELP” for the littlest problem and are not successful in life. Jim Faye of Love and Logic goes so far as to list “helicoptering” as a parenting style that does not work.
  • They get so exhausted they just quit, drop the ball completely, and abandon parenting. One young adult said: “I am the adult child of Helicopter Parents. Believe me, life is no picnic. They have spoon fed me everything my whole life, but they are finally tired of it and now I am supposed to figure things out on my own and make a life for myself. I honestly can’t. I don’t have any real life skills and abilities to even pretend to be a capable adult.  Helicoptering is very damaging to development. Don’t do it.”
How can a parent learn/back off/change when we see our child struggling or unhappy?
      • Remember the most important lessons a child can learn from his/her childhood:
        • My life is the result of my choices.
        • If I don’t like how it is going, I can change what I do or what I want or both.
        • I am resilient and capable of making my life work for me.
      •  Ask yourself daily - “Is what I am about to say or do going to lead to my child becoming independent and competent?"
      • Allow every opportunity for your child to practice making his/her own decisions. Think of yourself as a life coach who provides structure and gives suggestions. However, your child needs to “step up to the plate.” Start small when they are young and gradually give them more responsibility as they grow.
      • Allow kids to make mistakes- the earlier you start letting them make decisions- the smaller the consequences. The child learns from mistakes that:
        • I am okay if I make mistakes.
        • I can “make it right” when I make a mistake.
      • Offer support rather than rescue. Communicate that you are not going to step in every time a child needs help. We can ask our kids, “What are you going to do to solve this problem?"
      • Model healthy listening and conflict skills. If a parent “bullies” a teacher or administrator into doing what they want, the message the child learns is: “Might makes right.” 
      • Connect and communicate with your child. When your child complains about an unfair math grade, get curious about what your child sees as the problem behind it, rather than storm the school. It may be your child just wants to vent or doesn’t realize the value of completing an unpleasant task in realizing a long term goal (of getting into the college he/she wants).
        I pose the same questions I asked yesterday:
            • Were you raised in this type of environment?
            • What are your thoughts on this style of parenting? Do you agree? Disagree? What are the positives? What are the negatives?
            • Do you have parents in your ministry who fit into this category?
            • What advice or parenting tips would you offer to Helicopter Parents in your ministry? 
            • How would you approach partnering with and equipping Helicopter Parents to be the primary spiritual leaders of their children?
            Would enjoy hearing your insight and ideas regarding these questions. Here is a video with Dr. Masarie talking more about "Helicopter" parenting:



            Tomorrow we will discuss "Free Range" Parents.

            Posted by Dale Hudson

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