Are you a helicopter parent?
The most difficult part of parenting for me is “letting go”!
I still catch myself at times in a hover maneuver over my children. My propeller is rotating and I am circling trying to be sure that all goes well and my children are protected from any hardship. I have to talk to myself and turn the engines off. My job is not to be a rescuer, it just doesn’t work and actually causes more harm than good. Sure when my kids were little I could hover and try to keep them from harm, but there were still times that they had skinned knees and became frustrated with life as a two year old. But, as they got older I had to begin to trust the parenting we provided, believing in our children’s competence, confidence, good character, moral values and self control. I now have to allow them to make their life choices and support them in their success or support them in their failure with the knowledge that they will have the strength to persevere.
Helicopter parenting is a parenting style that is a relatively new phenomenon. With this parenting style, parents try to protect their children from any life experience that is painful or unpleasant, even ones that are a result of their child’s poor choices. Helicopter parents step in and solve problems, and often do not provide consequences for poor choices. Their children often are registered for multiple extra-curricular activities and have very little time for free unorganized play. Parents are pushing perfection in academics, sports, music, social lives, you name it. Shockingly I read an article about businesses prohibiting parents of new graduates from negotiating salaries! Are you kidding me? Even I haven’t thought about that! The truth is, when we helicopter parent, we don’t know when to “back off”. This results in young adults who are afraid of failure, timid in life, and lacking in self confidence. Children learn best when given the opportunity to learn on their own. This is a gradual process throughout childhood, but one that must be consciously allowed by parents.
Once infants learn to crawl, we need to provide a safe environment for them to explore. We need to protect, but allow exploration.
Toddlers need to separate, even when there is separation anxiety. Learning that Mom and Dad leave, but always come back is a huge life lesson for them. Yes, another trusted person can take care of your child!
All children need to learn with trial and error. The process of trying is a more important lesson than the result. School aged children need to complete their own homework, complete their chores, and learn that hard work is the key to fulfillment. Praising the process not the end product is so important.
Soon, you will need to step back. That is the most difficult part of being a parent. You must trust that your child has developed enough self love, competence, independence, and moral value and character to make choices. Those choices will be your child’s, and though you will always be there to love and support, the consequences whether wonderful or difficult will be his or hers to own.
As parents we will always “be there” for our children, but we will not always be able to rescue or fix nor should we! We must remember that some of life’s most important teachings are from mistakes and hardships, as difficult as that may be for us to witness for our children.
So, sleepless nights, crying babies, temper tantrums, potty training, homework, and other challenges of parenthood are not near as difficult as turning off that helicopter propeller and letting go and loving your child enough to let him or her live their life….it is their own.
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.