Jun 14, 2013 / 5:00 am
Hello, my name is Jeff H. I was a helicopter parent for the last six years, but I have recently seen the light and understand the long term harm I was doing to my children!”
Welcome Jeff. We are all recovering Helicopter parents. There is no judgment here.
I look around the room. We want only the best childhood experience for our children. We all had the best of intentions.
- Why would we let our children experience anything bad?
- Why let them make mistakes if a negative experience can be avoided?
- Who wouldn’t want to give their kid a leg up?
- Shouldn’t our kids be the center of our world?
From an early age, I was hyper present, constantly hovering over my children. For the first five years of my son’s life, nothing happened that I didn’t know about. Secretly, I hated taking my son to preschool because two hours of his life would be unaccounted for. How sick is that? What the heck was wrong with me? I felt so normal.
What fuels the obsession? The constant worry? Guilt? Wanting to be better than our own parents? Perhaps because we have smaller families now, we have more energy to obsess and hover?
Like most ‘addictions’ (a strong word but somehow appropriate), awareness and acceptance is the first step. We are interfering with natural developmental stages of learning, risk taking, cause and effect and self-reflection (“mmm maybe I won’t do that again”). These lessons are only effective and memorable when experienced, someone can’t tell them to you.
Our kids needs to struggle, fail, experience frustration, and solve problems on their own to grow. Failure is not a bad thing. Stop protecting and preventing learning.
I am better now. I look around the room at the other helicopter ‘pilots’ and see the relief on their faces too. We have been freed from this life. Our children are a big part of our life, but not the center of our existence. Our job is to guide, encourage, and teach - not hover.
Helicopter parented kids (HPK) do not become leaders, rather simple followers. They become afraid of the world and can’t do anything without someone else’s opinion or help. HPKs are unable to deal with failure and do not learn coping skills for life outside their home. HPKs rarely take risks – why would they?
HPKs feel a huge sense of entitlement and narcissism, “it’s all about me”. They feel like the world revolves around them, well, they should - you have made them the centre of your universe!
I am now developing a more “Free Range” attitude to raising my children. I rescue less and let mistakes happen.
I look for opportunities to give space for them to act independently, and make their own decisions, like my parents did for me.
As an 11-year-old, I was always riding the Toronto transit system. One of my vivid childhood memories was going to a movie on Yonge Street on a Sunday. I chose to spend my return bus fare on a Mars bar. Without panicking, I ventured into the Eaton Centre and fished out pennies and nickels from the fountains.
I distinctly remember the pride I felt as I put the wet change into the bus slot. I solved my own problem. If that whole episode happened today, my parent’s judgement and parenting skills would be investigated.
If you want a sure-fire indicator of the divide between generations, ask people how far from home they could walk at age eight without an accompanying parent.
A British study, “One False Move” found that 50 years ago, kids would explore a six mile radius around their house, today that exploration space has shrunk to only 300 yards. In the 1970s, 85 percent of seven and eight-year-old kids walked unsupervised to school. By 1990, that number was below 10 percent! What happened?
There is no rule that parents MUST deliver and receive their children from school. So why do we all show up there when many of us live so close to the school? We drive our kids to school, then pick them up, returning them to the safety of our care. When do they get to LIVE?
I am now looking for ways to show my children that I trust and believe in them. I don’t want them to think, “If dad is always here, holding my hand, there must be something scary or I must be incompetent and immature!”
Last week, I parked in front of the supermarket, gave my seven-year-old son a task and $11. He triumphantly returned 10 minutes later with two jugs of milk and his own treat from the change.
He is now riding his bike home on paths from play dates. Just this morning, he walked the 1.5 blocks to school all by himself. His confidence is growing astronomically because of the faith we have shown in him, even the teacher has commented. I am kicking myself for not realizing this earlier – but hey, no guilt, no bashing about the past.
When my children walk home, I can’t worry about “what other parents might think”. But I would hope they see the confidence I have in my children, after all, I am developing “self-reliant-problem-solving” leaders. How will we turn out the next generation of world leaders if they don’t know how to cross the street!
Only you know if you are a helicopter parent. Awareness is key.
If you suspect you might be a whirlybird parent, then STOP.
- Stop delivering your child’s forgotten water bottle, lunch, and/or homework to school.
- Stop calling the parent that didn’t invite your child to a birthday party.
- Stop calling the school and choosing your child’s teacher and classmates for next year. They will learn something no matter who they share the year with.
- Stop calling the hockey coach and debating ice time.
I could keep going but I hope you get the idea. Stop, because according to the Journal of Child and Family Studies, the effects of helicopter parenting get worse as your child gets older.
If you don’t stop now, you will be helping negotiate your child’s salary at their first job. Then, when you get off the phone with the university prof, after challenging a failing grade, you can find a good therapist for your stressed out, depressed, and incompetent 22-year-old.
We need to always keep our children safe. As parents, we need to set limits and hold kids accountable. Trust yourself and your kids. Stop this “worst-first” mentality – focusing on what is the WORST thing that can happen.
Somewhere between the circling helicopter and the absent, neglectful parent lies an amazing parent: one that is protective, but also a parent that believes in their child and in the lessons that the world has to teach.
Free of training wheels on her new bike, my daughter told me to “let go!” She couldn’t have been more right…
Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful rock star Dads that support the Dad Vibe!
Until next time…
Jun 7, 2013 / 5:00 am
Only 20 percent of Harvard Graduates could answer this Dad Vibe inspired question, while 80 percent of kindergarten children got it right – fantastic parents get it right too! (** I added this DV classic line)
The Poor have IT,
The Rich need IT,
IT is greater than God,
IT is more evil than the Devil,
And if you eat IT, you will DIE!
**And if your kids do THIS, they will have the greatest summer EVER!
What is IT? _____________________________________
Did you solve it yet?
Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Talk it out.
Phone a friend.
The answer is the key to your summer happiness!
While you do that, let’s think about…
The end of school…
The end of school lunches…
The end of ballet…
The end of soccer…
The end of baseball…
The end of rugby…
The end of gymnastics…
The end of swim lessons…
The end is near.
At a soccer game last week, I overheard a gaggle of parents dreading and lamenting the summer with, “What are we going to do with the kids this summer?”
If I was a brave enough, I would have said “Try nothing!”
“Have them do nothing, and just be kids. Maybe they will make forts, play in the dirt, ride bikes, shoot hoops, street hockey, play games, imagine battles, or just lie on the grass and look up and dream! Give them the gift of unscripted time to just be kids.
We constantly tell our kids to “Just go and Play!” Then we get frustrated when they just sit there and say the B-Word, “I’m Bored”.
Kids today have no idea what to do with a spare 20 unscripted minutes (my kids included), but a giant cardboard box has helped me see the light of real play.
Neighbours asked if we wanted a giant appliance box for the kids, of course I said yes! (After all, the cardboard box has always been my favourite in the National Toy Hall of Fame).
The play in the box has not stopped since we got it. And I didn’t have to initiate or start the play. Play just happened. That box has been a pirate ship, clubhouse, puppet theatre, a ‘stuffie vet’, fort, and now a ‘condo’. When the kids get home after school, all three drop school bags immediately and head to the box. Seriously, it has been hilarious to watch.
Let me confess. I am somewhat of a hypocrite (can you be “somewhat” of a hypocrite? No. I think not). I am a full blooded hypocrite. In the parenting workshops I lead, I preach about NOT over-scheduling your kids. I mock the mom that rejoiced at finding something Tuesday afternoons that fit between piano and tae-kwon-do…
Yet, our calendar is as full as fraternity brothers at an all-you-can-eat-beer-sausage night. Every day it seems we are driving across the city to do something somewhere (usually with me as the coach)… Stop the insanity!
The kids have been ‘on stage’ in school and sport for 10 months, please let them have a summer of nothing. Decompress, defrag, and just chill. Organize play dates here and there, maybe a week long camp to break up summer, but largely, try and let them LEARN or remember how to play unscripted.
All this month, my kids will ask me what we are doing after school today, and if I can say nothing, they say cool!
I can’t wait to wake up in the summer and have nothing to do everyday!
Nothing we have paid for;
Nothing we need to rush the kids to.
Just wake and see where the day takes us – for a walk, to the park, fishing, recycling depot, pajama day, couch forts, SPCA, biking, hiking, who knows?!? That is so freakin’ exciting to me…
Your summer of NOTHING is just a few weeks away. Are you ready to enjoy?
Did you get the puzzler answer yet?
“Your time” + “Nothing” = Happiness!
That is the only math your kids need to know now.
Until next time!
May 31, 2013 / 5:00 am
I was at a dinner party last weekend and perhaps the “dooziest” of doozy questions came up out of nowhere. I should point out that I sometimes like to stir the pot at gatherings like this with crazy debates and ideas, but this time, the debate was already raging when I happened upon the scene…
All the dudes were outside and the women were all inside (as sometimes happens). We, the men, were outside talking about nothing (not sex, sports, cars, or breasts). I went inside to grab the barbeque tongs, when I was cornered by the women and asked for a male perspective. For the briefest moment, I was excited to represent my gender…
“How many partners do you hope your daughter has before she gets married?”
“You know, sexual partners, how many notches on her bedpost before she ties the knot??”
After I vomited in my own mouth, I stammered, “I don’t know… NONE?”
Well, I will never get that five minutes of my life back as I was berated from all sides - it was no holds barred on the dad with no male back up in sight!
Apparently the women had been talking about high school sweethearts, past partners, and then to sexual compatibility. In this group of women, there was huge diversity in the number of sexual partners before marriage ranging from none to “several”. Everyone seemed proud of their individual choices, which I think is relevant and important.
One of the more animated moms jumped up and shared her first sexual experience of being told to “turn off the lights, lie still, and be quiet!” Her comment spoke to her simple reality that if she had never experienced sex with anyone else, she would never have known anything different. For the rest of her adult life, she would be under the impression that all women must have 3-4 minutes of “foreplayless”, awkward and unsatisfying sex….
Then one other male sucker came in (who should have stayed out on the deck, as he was annihilated for his answer) and was asked the question.
“What? How many sexual partners should my kids have before marriage? Well, none for my daughter, and like 15 or 20 for my son!”
The moms ripped him a giant new one.
So, if you could choose… How many sexual partners would you like your children to have before they get married?
I don't want to start a debate of religion, saving yourself for marriage, and/or purity rings. I know plenty of couples that are blissfully happy having saved themselves for their one and only, and describe very fulfilling sex lives. I also know other people that preach the opposite and feel that their path to sexual fulfillment could not have been reached without this variety of sexual partners and experiences.
Knowing what you know now about sex, adult relationships, and yourself, I am asking you, if you had to choose a number for your children... what would it be? But perhaps most importantly I am asking you for your reasoning.
None? 1? 2? 5? 10?
Obviously, none of our parents gave us an acceptable number. When you were making these types of choices, what influenced you the most? Was it peer group, the person you were dating, media, or less direct messages from your parents?
Would the number be different for your son versus your daughter?
It is? Shame on you...
It isn't? Good! Let’s not perpetuate the double standard on studs and sluts...
Reality is that the ‘times are a changin’ with kids experimenting sexually younger and younger. I hope my children are old enough and mature enough to make good choices, but the statistics are as scary as the stories told from the back of the school bus.
My hope is that my children VALUE sex and intimacy with their future partners. How can we teach our children to value their bodies and that sex with someone else should be special?
I will never forget sitting beside my father’s hospital bed in Toronto after his brain surgery to repair an aneurysm. He was severely drugged and sedated. Over the constant beep of monitors and equipment, (later to the shock of my poor mother), he proceeded to tell me about their wedding night, ‘his first time’, how utterly terrible he was, and that “you kids today have it so easy with all this sex…”
They have been married 50 years next year so I guess they figured it out. You may be reading this as one of the lucky ones who found your incredible partner right out of high school. Or you may be reading this, nodding your head, knowing you didn’t discover great sex and perhaps real orgasms until you experienced different partners.
I know and accept that I have forced you WAY out of your comfort zone today and you hate me for talking about sex and your children in the same sentence. But the reality is that we are raising someone else’s wife or husband, and at some point, in the future, they will be having sex.
I want my children to understand that love and sex must to be linked together, mixed with tons of mutual respect. All I can do is give them the tools to make these decisions. After all, it’s their body - their choice?
Like most of my articles, my goal is not to tell you what to think, but to start the conversation (and arguments) in your circles of influence.
So please bring this idea up at your next birthday party barbeque (especially if you don’t want to ever be invited back)... Just throw it out there,
“How many sexual partners do you hope your children have before marriage?”
Then grab a drink, sit back, and listen to the fireworks (or crickets). Either way, please report back to me on what you hear...
Until next time…
May 24, 2013 / 5:00 am
“Oh, wow, I love that new haircut…”
“You are naming your baby boy Donathan? Cool…”
“Thanks Grandma, I love this woollen reindeer sweater…”
“No, those jeans don’t make your butt look wider…”
“What? You didn’t get the wedding invitation? We must have the wrong address, did you move?”
As humans, we lie. We lie to ourselves, our family, spouses, friends, and even strangers.
I have recently discovered that I am fantastic at the fine art of lying. The irony is that I consider myself an incredibly honest person. But little white lies escape my lips daily.
Yesterday, my son and I were just about to play Connect 4, and the phone rang. I checked the call display and thought it was a client I was waiting to hear back from…
“Hello, is this Mr. Hay? (no pause), my name is Jean blah blah, from the blah blah blah company, I want to tell you about this amazing..”
“Sorry Jean, whoa, I need to stop you right there, I have all my kids strapped into their car seats and we are heading out. You have a tough job, but have a great day…” and I hung up.
I looked at my son. He was wide eyed, staring at his lying father. He paused and then asked, “What if she comes to our house and sees us still here?”
I smiled. I didn’t want to launch into a discussion on corporate outsourcing or Jean’s Jamaican accent, but I assured my son that Jean was not going to find out we weren’t really all in the car.
He asked why I lied to her. I didn’t really have a great answer. I told him I didn’t want to hurt her feelings because everyone probably hangs up on her.
Then I told him that sometimes it’s okay to lie. Yikes! Did I really just say that?
“But dad, you said I always have to tell the truth.”
“Yes, I did say that.”
“You said, that if I tell the truth I will usually get in half the trouble, but if I lie, it will be double…”
How can we expect our children to tell the truth if we, the parents, bend it from time to time? How do we teach kids the fine balance between lies and innocent white lies?
“Well, son, sometime there are things we call “MUST LIE” situations.”
“From grandma’s rubbery meatloaf to the rabbit fur poncho birthday gift, sometimes we lie to save someone’s feelings.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to just tell the truth Dad?”
“Yes, it would. It really would. But you wouldn’t have any friends.”
Could you go a whole day without lying? A week? A Year? Just like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar, could you do it?
How many lies do you tell a day? 2? 5? 10+? None? Well look at you St. Francis. Let’s verify your work experience on your resume…
I wish I told zero lies but that is simply not the case. If I was to count, I’m at least 5-7 a day; not the big ones though, not the “Where were you last night?” type questions, but more the kind of, “I love those shoes!” or “I sent that proposal from my phone, maybe that’s why you didn’t get it?"
Last year, we were at Disney ticket kiosk, and I was trying to pass my daughter off as 3 to save $150 on entry tickets (‘come on, it’s Disney, financially they are doing okay’ I thought), and my older son loudly pointed out that she was 4. “Shut up son”, I thought. Red faced, I lied again, “Really?? Oh yeah, we did have that princess birthday – I remember now…”
I felt sheepish and awful. I am a ‘sometimes liar’ and my son knows it.
But so is he. Here is the scenario; I hear pee hitting the toilet. For fun, I wait by the door and listen. I hear neither a toilet flush nor a hand washing faucet. My son leaves the bathroom as I enter it; I ask
“Whose pee is on the seat?”
“Really? I just heard you going pee”
“No, that is not mine, it’s Jackie’s.”
“Really? Because she sits down to go pee…” (if you are going to lie, at least make it an anatomically possible option...)
This toilet situation led to a great discussion and the establishment of new house rules around the topic of lying in our house. Maybe they will work in your house?
- Lying to get out of trouble is a no-no.
- Lying to be polite is okay.
- Lying to save someone’s feelings is okay.
- Lying to get something is not okay.
- Lying has consequences.
My children know that we want to TRUST them. “I don’t care if you pee on the seat, just clean it off – but I do care about you not being truthful with me…”
Trust is nurtured from many truths and therefore Mom and Dad need to always hear the truth.
When my children lie to me, I feel angry, hurt and take it personally, “Don’t they respect me enough to tell the truth?” I am learning that this is the WRONG way to look at lying.
We really need to look at WHY our children are choosing to lie…
- Are they lying to get attention?
- Are they lying to get out of trouble?
- Are they lying to save someone’s feelings?
- Are they lying for fun to test limits?
- Are they lying to keep parts of their life secret from parents? (teens)
When your kid lies, you may start to see him/her as “sneaky,” especially if you catch a few more lies and a pattern develops. We begin to think that our kids are “bad”. We make the connection that if lying is bad, and our kid is a liar, then he/she is bad.
We need to ensure that we keep the behaviour and the person separate.
Your perception of your child may promote even more lying. If your child thinks you think he’s “bad,” he’s going to hide the truth from you even more, because he doesn’t want to be bad and get in trouble. Even though they are lying, kids don’t want to disappoint their parents.
Treat lies like the dispassionate police officer that just caught you speeding. He doesn’t want excuses, doesn’t lecture, and is not interested in the WHY of the lie – just dispense the consequence and drive away.
Remember - kids may not see the lying as hurtful. They don’t see that it is hurtful to YOUR relationship with them.
I call my children out all the time on fibs. In my best grumpy old man voice, I think but not say, “Don’t bullsh&t a bullsh$%ter…” In this house, we tell the truth to each other PERIOD (but maybe not to telemarketers!)
Start young so that trust is established early. Parents of teenagers can tell you all about the dangers of not curbing lying early…
A key way to promote your children telling you the truth in a difficult situation is for you to always tell them the truth in a difficult situation.
When they ask a challenging question about death, divorce, addiction, sex etc. answer as honestly as possible at an age appropriate level.
Do not lie, tell half truths, or change the subject. Kids can smell someone lying by omission a mile away as well.
So tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
The bottom line is that lying is wrong and detrimental to developing a trusting relationship.
I’m always a little disappointed when a liar’s pants don’t catch on fire.
Lying can be frustrating, but it’s normal.
Is it imagination? Story telling?
Is lying a sign of intelligence?
Is it a developmental milestone?
Don’t you love your friend that is HONEST and tells you exactly what you likely don’t want to hear? You respect that right?
How can we teach our children to be just like that friend? Honest and still likeable?
Until next time… (I promise to curb the lies...)
Read more The Dad Vibe articles
- Are you sexy Daddy? May 17
- Dad Vibe: 12 Secrets to great sex May 10
- So, how often do you guys do it? May 3
- Look at me when I'm talking to you... Apr 26
- "Daddy, what happened in Boston?" Apr 19
- Bare naked ladies Apr 12
- Do you know how lucky you are? Apr 5
- "Your kids are so well behaved..." Mar 29
- Dad Vibe Guide to Princesses Mar 22
- Tribe talk Mar 15
- Moving past, "good job!" Feb 21
- RIP Mr. Mom Feb 14
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