Last night I joined the fabulous Christie from Childhood 101 and Cath from Squiggle Mum for a bit of a chat. The miracle of the internet meant that despite living in three very different corners of the country we could all get together and discuss Helicopter Parenting.
Helicopter painting. If you are living under a rock like me you might not be exactly certain of what that term even means….
Kate: I initially thought the term ‘helicopter parenting’ just meant over-protective in a hovering sort of way. It also seems to take into account parents who try to ‘hot house’ their children – use flash cards with babies, schedule a million extra activities for preschoolers, etc. So I think it covers a lot of ground and like everything to do with parenting there is no clear cut right and wrong on this.
Christie: I take it to mean parents stepping in to fight their child’s battles for them – in the playground, at school, in the community. Reducing their child’s capacity for independence and resilience.
Cath: I always think of helicopter parents as those who haven’t backed off enough for the stage of independence their child is at.
So is being a ‘Helicopter parent’ necessarily a bad thing? I’m in two minds about that…
Cath: I think that to some degree we are required to be helicopter parents initially when our little ones are little. As they grow, we should back off little by little.
Kate: I think young children (under 7 year olds) are still learning how the social world works and how to behave socially and they need caring adults to be there to help guide them.
Sure there is the extremes of the parent who never lets deal with any social problems on their own, who freaks out when their child is pushed or not treated ‘fairly’. There is always the over the top… but socially and emotionally our children need support well into the primary school years. The trick is finding the right balance between support and independence at the right time.
Christie: I remember repeatedly telling parents in my child care centre that 4 and 5 year olds can (and should) carry their own backpacks. It is about finding achievable tasks and consistently expecting children to be responsible for them.
Cath: Yes, yes, yes. At grade one level I asked parents to let kids put their own bag and hat away, and be responsible for their own readers. It’s all about letting go, little by little.
Kate: I think it is about knowing your child, knowing what is appropriate for them and allowing them to be individuals.
Then there is the other side of Helicopter parenting… allowing our children to take risks.
Christie: … I cannot understand how we are so adverse to letting our children do what we did as children? I walked to school, I climbed (and fell out of) trees, I rode my bike in the street.
Cath: I have relaxed more with my second child but I find it hard to find a balance between my teacher training (eagle eyes on playground duty) and my desire to let my kids learn by exploring, falling, and getting up again.
Kate: I am a worrier so I am prone to over thinking the risks but I try really hard to realise that and step back from it. I often say, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?
Our society sometimes seems so scared of everything. So worried about the ‘what ifs’ and all the horrible statistics…
Christie: It is important to realise that children cannot learn to recognise risky and unsafe situations without some experience of ‘danger.’
Cath: That’s true Christie. Until you fall off a low branch, you won’t know that falling off a high one will really hurt!
Christie: And ‘danger signs’ of butterflies in the stomach and a beating heart are important for children to learn as they apply to so many situations.
This is such an important thing for a parent to understand… not allowing our children to take risks doesn’t always make them safer because to means they are not as well equipped to make good informed decisions dangerous situations. I read a fabulous blog about this subject – Free Range Kids, you should check it out.
It was so great to chat with Christie and Cath. The discussion has really got me thinking about what I do and why. Do I hover? Maybe. I am definitely a worrier but I think (hope) I have that worry under control and that I let my kids really experience life, even the risky bits!
So what do you think? Do you helicopter parent? Do think it is a good or a bad thing?