Monday, April 22, 2013

Parenting: The Helicopter

I now quote from Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles:
"I can't believe you don't want to go to your own son's graduation."
"It's not a graduation. He's moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade."
"It's a ceremony!"
"It's psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity. . ." 
I would change the word "mediocrity" to "everyday expectations." We see it everywhere: regardless of who actually won, everyone who played the game gets a ribbon; every member of the team gets a trophy just for showing up to practice during the season. I won't be surprised if we start hearing of kids regularly getting gold stars just for being on time to school and doing their homework. Many years of research have consistently shown that being praised for "stuff we should just be doing anyway" doesn't encourage appropriate mental growth. So, why do we continually hear about this? In most cases, the students were getting so much praise and protection at home that failure and disappointment in school was something they--or perhaps, their parents--were unable to cope with.
"Adam, a second-grader, was referred to me because he was a daily disruption to the class. Wanting all the attention, he resented it when the teacher called on other children and showed his disgust by becoming violent. After several violent outbursts, Adam was suspended from school. On his return, I met with his mother and learned that she had not told him that he had been suspended. 'It wouldn't be good for his self-esteem' [she said]". (Sue Mize, 2008)
Adam's mother is an example of a helicopter parent. Helicopter parenting is when parents...well...overparent. They are too involved in certain (or, at times, all) aspects of their children's lives: they hover like a helicopter and then swoop in at any sign of a problem, no matter how small it may be. 

The helicopter doesn't just carry extreme overparent-ers. Here are some examples of more common helicopter parenting instances and the problems with each one:
  1. The parent who monitors all of their children's online conversations with their friends, text messages, Facebook/twitter updates, etc. to make sure they're talking about appropriate things.
    1. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having the family computer in a high-traffic area of the house. But remember that if you can trust your children at school without you, why do you monitor their conversations at home?
  2. You take your young children to a park with their friends to play, but won't let them get more than six feet away from you.
    1. Yes, public playgrounds have become more dangerous and you need to watch your kids, but let them feel like they're playing. Even as children, playtime can encourage a basic level of independence and decision-making. If they fall and get hurt, it's okay. It happens. 
  3. The parent who feels it absolutely necessary to have the child's passwords to email, Facebook, their phones, etc.
    1. If you believe that they're old enough to have email/Facebook/a phone, they should be old enough to be trusted with their own passwords. 
  4. The parent who reads their children's journals when they're not around.
    1. If you have no reason to believe that your children are in any sort of mortal danger, then maybe you need to consider your level of trustworthiness. Are you the type of person that your children want to talk to? 
    2. Also consider that your child will write things in his/her journal that he/she won't tell you. That's what a journal's for. It's a very personal thing for your own thoughts, inspirations, etc. and is not meant to be read by others. If your child finds that you're reading it, he/she might just stop writing altogether.  
In adulthood, helicopter parenting is commonly known as "not cutting the apron strings." The adult children are either referred to as "satellite children" because of their constant connection with mom or dad, or "teacups" because they tend to break easily under pressure. The parents continue to hang on to their adult children because they feel that it's their duty to always protect and parent them. While these are good feelings for any parent to have, they need to be reigned in if their children are to truly succeed in life.

In an address titled "Who's the Boss? Power Relationships in Families," Dr. Richard Miller states the following:
When children become adults, the relationship between parents and children changes. In healthy families, the parents no longer exercise control or expect their adult children to obey them. Of course, parents still have the right to set household rules concerning appropriate behavior in their house, but they no longer have the right or responsibility to tell their adult children what to do (emphasis added).
Dr. Miller adds a quote from religious leader Spencer W. Kimball, who said the following:
Frequently, people continue to cleave unto their mothers and their fathers . . . Sometimes, [parents] will not relinquish the hold they have had upon their children, and husbands as well as wives return to their mothers and fathers to obtain advice and counsel and to confide, whereas cleaving should be to the [spouse] in most things . . . Your married life should become independent of her folks and his folks. You love them more than ever . . . you appreciate their association, but you live your own lives, being governed by your decisions.
Here are some examples of (1) parents who haven't cut the apron strings and (2) satellite children trying to function as adults.
  1. Parents who insist on having passwords and information regarding their adult children's bank accounts, college accounts, phones (that they are helping to pay for), etc.
    1. Most parents who do this are doing so because they assist their adult children financially and expect these passwords in order to monitor how "their" money being used. However, because the children are legal adults now, any money given at this point is out of the goodness of their hearts. The money now belongs to the child and he/she can do with it what he/she sees fit. If your child's financial responsibility is in question, perhaps careful consideration should be taken into account before assisting.
  2. Married children who go to his/her parents for counsel when there is a disagreement regarding something.
    1. If the disagreement does not require professional counseling to resolve, the married couple should be able to do so on their own. It isn't always easy, but it is possible. As was said in the above quote: "live your own lives." 
    2. This also goes the other way around: the parents who willingly counsel their child instead of saying "why can't you resolve this disagreement with your spouse?" Remember that as long as parents are willing to swoop in (especially if the adult child is asking), the child will never truly learn to solve his/her own problems. Also keep in mind that the "child" could be 20 years old or even 50. Either way, the same idea applies.
  3. Parents who expect their adult children to call--or who call them--on a daily basis to discuss how their day went, what their problems are, etc.
    1. Usually, this is a result of parents who love and miss their children greatly. While those emotions are good and show genuine care and concern, the adult child--and especially a married child--needs space to be an adult. In the beginning, many children may want contact every day because they're also adjusting. But the time generally comes that those phone calls decrease as your child becomes used to his/her new environment. If you are the ever-calling parent, it may be wise to ask yourself this question: Is your dependence on your children impeding their independence of you?
  4. The adult who enters the workplace, expecting to be catered to.
    1. TIME magazine featured an article about this, which stated the following:
      1. "It's no wonder that [they] expect a promotion just for being on time to work for six weeks straight. Sheltered from critique and failure, [they] ooze unearned confidence at the office. . . . The terms 'self-involved' and 'overly praised' are often used to describe them."
    2. Workplace journalist Anita Bruzzese quotes Kathleen Vinson, JD, of the Suffolk University Law School. She noticed that since many parents have done all of the competing for their child's success, what's actually happened is that "we've got a generation of kids that have a great anxiety of failing." Bruzzese also interviewed many workplace managers, who collectively agreed that "the younger generation of workers [needs] to be rewarded and mentored constantly."
What are some examples of helicopter parenting (or results of it) that you've seen or done in your lifetime?

Citations not linked in article:
  • "Trophy" image:
  • "Helicopter parents" image:
  • "Being watched?" image:
  • "Password" image: 
  • "Responsible adult" image:

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome fun, civil, and respectful discussion. See "The Blog and House Rules" for what that means to me.