You’ve probably heard the phrase “helicopter parenting” — you know, those moms and dads who hover over their kids and micromanage every move they make, whether it be in academics, sports and activities, or socializing. Nobody wants to be called a helicopter parent, even if it’s what we do.
I can understand why we hover. We’re told over and over as parents that we “need to be involved” in our children’s education. What does that mean, exactly? I think a lot of helicopter parenting comes from the insecurity that parents feel when they hear that vague directive.
Sometimes we allow our children’s performance to define who we are or how successful we perceive ourselves to be. We forget that our children are not extensions of ourselves, but independent beings who must grow and learn, just as we did. We want to protect our kids from failure both because we know it hurts and because we’re afraid of looking like bad parents.
We can’t always cushion our children from failure, nor should we try. I work as a teacher, and I’ve done my best to remove the temptation for parents to get involved in the wrong ways. I don’t accept papers as “on time” if parents brought a copy to the school office when their children left it on the table at home. I speak to the child first about late homework or poor performance. We do a lot of writing and projects at school, where I can watch and supervise, but can’t micromanage or “do it for them” as I could at home with my own children.
What are the ways we should get involved? There’s a difference between needing help on a specific assignment and sitting down every evening with your children to monitor all of their homework. That just allows kids to become complacent and hurts their chances of becoming self-motivated and independent learners. I’ve taught kids who are accustomed to having a mom or dad literally sitting with them for every minute of homework and then feeling lost when they are asked to do something independently in school.
In my mind, we should strive to be good role models rather than directly supervising every move our kids make. One thing I admired about my parents is that they pursued their own passions and talents. They had four children and spent a lot of time teaching us their values, but they did not live through us. They did not focus on our successes (or our failures). Instead they showed us that adults are still learning and changing. Parents aren’t static people whose identity comes solely through their children. It took a lot of pressure off of me to know that, and it’s made my life as an adult and a parent more fulfilling.
I tell my children what my goals are and how I’m achieving them or falling short. I tell them what my dreams are and I ask them about theirs. This to me is what it means to be an involved parent. What do you to be involved in your children’s lives?
[photo credit: dreamstime.com]