Time to land the helicopter

Our guest writer for this week's Writer's Bloc is Dennis Warner, of West Kelowna. Dennis taught instrumental music for 34 years in the BC public school system. He is also the author of Tweak the school system? for Writer's Bloc.

Time to land the helicopter

By Dennis Warner

Those of us who are parents know that it's not an easy job, but it's the most important and rewarding job that we'll ever have, so we need to do everything possible to hone our parenting skills. 

In 1969, Dr. Haim Ginott wrote “Parents and Teenagers”, and he referred to a parent who hovered over a child as a helicopter, and so the term “helicopter parent” was coined. 

Similar terms such as over-parenting, over-protective parents, lawnmower parents, and bulldoze parenting have been used, but whatever the term, it is often easier to recognize those parenting traits in others than it is in ourselves.

How do you know if you're a helicopter parent? 

If you have a toddler, you may allow the child little if any time by himself, or you may discourage him from playing with other toddlers. You might overly direct his playing, and restrict his choices to activities that limit creativity in the interest of overzealous safety. 

If you have an older child, you might be too involved with his schoolwork by way of helping out a bit too much with homework. You might even be one of those parents who does the science fair project yourself, or the parent who writes that essay. 

Even some university students have helicopter parents who call the prof to question an assignment, or who complain about an assigned grade.

What is the end result of helicopter parenting? 

Children of helicopter parents often lack self-esteem. They lack the confidence to make decisions because too many decisions are made for them. They often don't know how to handle failure because they've been sheltered and not allowed to experience the normal ups and downs of life. 

Children of helicopter parents get the message that they're not really trusted to make judgments on their own, and when they do fail their coping skills are lacking. 

Where is the balance? 

Children need guidance, and they need to be taught by example. They obviously need to be loved as well, but children also need to have a reasonable degree of independence. That independence will help nurture maturity, good judgment, and problem solving skills. 

Children need to experience success, but they need to experience failure as well. They need to figure out on their own what works and what doesn't work. Parents need to be mindful of the child and his current abilities while allowing him to grow into the adult that he will become.

What's the bottom line? 

If you have a toddler, let him play in the dirt. Let him play with others, and let him take reasonable risks that might lead to occasional cuts and scrapes. 

If you have older children, help them with their homework but don't do their homework. Offer advice, but don't fight their battles for them. Love them, but don't smother them.

Cut yourself some slack

Finally, as you try to find that balance, remember to give yourself some slack. Being the perfect parent is impossible. Just as your child will fail sometimes so will you as a parent, and often that failure can be a teachable moment for you and your child. So, relax, keep learning, and stay positive.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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