I am sure you are familiar with the term “Helicopter parent.” Perhaps you have read articles about it. When you had children you vowed that you would never be one. But then, if you are anything like me, one day you wake up and realized that is exactly what you became!
It starts innocently enough. Your child forgot their lunch so you take it to them at school. I mean, you don’t want them to STARVE! Then you may find yourself up late at night “helping” your child finish a science project – and by helping I mean designing and organizing the entire thing. But they are little, you tell yourself. And what is the harm in helping them make it look awesome? All of a sudden, you are emailing your child’s middle school teacher to find out about homework and missing assignments.
That is when it hit me. This whole time I have been “taking care of” my son, I have actually been sheltering him from failure, hurt, and disappointment. Now, when I write it like that, it doesn’t sound so bad. Who wants their child to hurt? NO ONE!!! In actuality, I have been preventing good life lessons that are necessary and valuable. The thing is, most consequences that a helicopter parent like myself are trying to prevent – unhappiness, struggle, not excelling – are actually great lessons to learn, and are not life threatening. But they certainly can FEEL that way.
When my children are young and at home with me, I NEED them to fail. I need them to feel that sting of failure and learn that they NEVER want THAT to happen again. What is the natural consequence of not doing a book report in 3rd grade? An F? Is an F in 3rd grade the WORST thing that could ever happen? When my son was in 3rd grade I was certain of it. If he had failed at that project, then perhaps when he got to 4th grade, he would be better prepared to handle THOSE projects.
I discovered that as my 7th grader moved through his school year, it was me that was keeping him on top of his studies. It was me planning out projects to ensure they got done. I must have had a breaking point because I suddenly realized that I had been a helicopter parent the whole time. And I didn’t even know it. Recovering from being a helicopter parent is not easy. To spend the first 13 years of your child’s life keeping them safe from failure and then all of a sudden watch them struggle and basically NOT do or plan or seem to care about anything that he should care about is hard. Really hard.
My child is working on a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He has an epic project to do for it, in addition to his training. I watch him day after day do NOTHING. I can be kind and ask how I can support him in this big endeavor. But I can’t do it for him. I can’t MAKE him do it. I have to allow him this life lesson of what happens when he doesn’t do what he needs to do. I can’t teach that feeling.
If there are any other recovering helicopter parents out there, tell me who you are! I need a tribe because together we are stronger. Watching our children fail is NOT something I enjoy doing, especially if I am capable of rescuing. I am getting better, but it is definitely a journey.