Helicopter Parenting

There is no disputing the fact that it is important to be actively involved in your son’s life.

You try to help him out with homework, you get to know his friends, and expose him to new hobbies and extracurricular activities.  But where do we draw the line?

Do you drive your child to school rather than letting him walk three blocks by himself?

Do you call your son’s teacher to protest his math grade?

Do you ban your son from trick-or-treating for he might be kidnapped or poisoned by candy from a stranger?

If these restrictions sound outrageous to you, that’s a good sign.  If not, you may be part of the group of Americans fondly referred to as “helicopter parents” – those who have a constant urge to “hover” over their children.  And believe it or not, the examples I just mentioned are some of the more reasonable ones  (think parents demanding that nursery schools offer Mandarin in order to prepare their children for the competition of the global economy– makes driving your son to school seem tame, huh?)  Just take a look at some of these scary statistics:

  • Since the 90’s, the percentage of kids walking or biking to school dropped from 41% in 1969 to 13% in 2001.
  • Death by injury has dropped more than 50% since 1980, yet parents lobbied to take the jungle gyms out of playgrounds, and strollers suddenly needed the warning label "Remove Child Before Folding."
  • Among 6-to-8-year-olds, free playtime dropped 25% from 1981 to '97, and homework more than doubled. (“The Backlash Against Overparenting”, NY Times, Nov., 2009)

It’s one thing to make sure that your son wears a seatbelt, a helmet, and gets all of his shots – but it’s something completely different to try to control every aspect of his life.  After all, the way kids learn is often by failing.

Although it is never easy to watch your child struggle, think about it…who is really afraid of failing?  The answer: parents.  If you constantly hold your son back, how can he ever mature and move forward?  This over-parenting has become especially problematic for college kids who have been hovered over all their lives – they have little to no sense of independence and it actually hinders their ability to succeed in school and, more importantly, life.

Instead of giving in to the notion that an array of extra-curricular activities will benefit your son, why not cut back on the strict schedule and let your child be…bored!  No, you didn’t read that wrong.  I know just hearing that word conjures up that whiny voice that they use when kids complain to their parents of their unbearable boredom.   Truly, though, having free time is healthy for both you and your son.  It will allow them the time they need to play with toys, make up games, and use their imaginations.  Try it!