Friday, November 27, 2009

Thought this was interesting

If you have a moment, read this lead story in Time Magazine. Are you a helicopter parent? I definitely have some helicopter tendencies.

Also, I found this general societal comment interesting:
Some of the hovering is driven by memory and demography. This generation of parents, born after 1964, waited longer to marry and had fewer children. Families are among the smallest in history, which means our genetic eggs are in fewer baskets and we guard them all the more zealously.


Mary Alice said...

Lots to think about there. Sometimes I wonder whether homeschooling is the ultimate in helicopter parenting, although I aim for some of the "slow parenting" ideals -- my kids have no homework, more time to play, we limit toys that make noise. They are with me all day long, but because there are six of them I just can't hover too much on any one thing, which has been good for me and them. Still, though, it is hard not to feel like there is so much riding on it all. The article mentions college admissions being a "grade" for your parenting -- I worry most about my kids keeping their faith, but it is too much (self imposed) pressure sometimes.

Young Mom said...

My comment got to long-winded and turned into a blog post. :)

Karen said...

I think I notice the helicopter parent the most on the playground.

When my kids get upset about a mistake, I tell them that our mistakes show us what we need to learn, they are an education of sorts. This fear of failure may have lot to do with the way our American school system is set up - the way we label and separate children. There is a book titled the Learning Gap that discribed this thought in more detail. With home schooling, some moms can really be competitive, just happening to mention what grade level their kid is on (ie Johnny is in 3rd grade, but he just loves his 5th grade textbook).

When I hover too much with too many instructions, rebellion from my child is close behind. This can be hard with home schooling, since it is one on one during the young grades. But there are also a lot of choices one can make in their home schooling that can foster independence.

Americans are competitive, I guess that extends to our children as well. Maybe children have become more of fashion accessories then our kids.

On the other side, the world now is very different then the world we grew up in. At a parenting class at church last week, I just learned what "sexting" was (if that is even how you spell it). So you do need to be in your teens busy to some extent.

You can also go to the other extreme of leaving your kids too alone. My parents had that philosophy. In my opinion, parents should take an active role in their children's education (more of a guide or mentor) and create safe, reasonable boundaries for them from preschool through teens. Not forgetting to give them choices, so they will know how to make them when they grow up!

JMB said...

It definately is an interesting topic, one to ponder over. I think it's better to be involved in your childrens' lives than not to be, although I don't think it helps to be a nervous nelly around your kids, or to be overly needy of your childrens' attention. I also think it borderlines on pathology when a parent's ego is too wrapped up in their child's success.

Just one observation that I have, now that my oldest is 14 (and I have a long way to go!) is that I think parents (especially rookies) make the mistake of signing up their tots and young kids for every activity under the sun, then the inevitable burnout occurs and by the time the kid is 10 or 11, the parent & child has had it and has dropped out of just about everything.
It's unfortunate because I think the formation that occurs outside of the home, at school, with sports or scouting, dance, music or arts is so important for teenagers. I think it's so important for boys (especially) to have adult men take an interest in them - we have seen such a positive change in our son just due to his coaches. His teachers are predominantly women (which is fine) but I think boys need more male role models. So, at this point, I'd rather err on having my teens do too much, than not enough. If that makes me a helicoptor parent, than so be it.

Jennifer Frey said...

Hi Red,

Thanks for posting this article. I teach philosophy to college students, and let me be the first to say that helicopter parenting does not end when the child leaves the home. I am amazed, every semester, by the amount of involvement of parents in their child's everyday life while in college. I cannot tell you how many times a parent has called or emailed to argue with me over a grade to given to their child. It is really frightening. The kids that enter my classroom (and I really refuse to call them adults, they are so immature and unprepared for life) are shockingly entitled, and their parents directly contribute to this mentality. "Why has my little Jimmy gotten a C, he worked so hard?" I am asked. Well, little Jimmy is barely literate, hardly ever came to class, and did C work. End of story. This is nearly impossible for the parent to comprehend, and I am usually threatened when I tell them the truth. Not taking kindly to threats, I am happy to stand my ground and request a meeting with my department head or the dean, if necessary. Usually, at that point, the parent will step down and relent. But I know that many teachers just cave in order to avoid this confrontation, and the cycle just continues. I wouldn't be surprised if some parent's call their child's boss to yell at them for not giving them a raise! Really, why not?

I try very hard not to over-parent. I think it's easier for me because I work outside the home, but still, the temptation is very real and immediate. It is important for our kids to fall down, to break some bones, and to make mistakes. I cringe at playgroup when I see Mom's follow their children around at every step making sure that something doesn't go wrong. Let something go wrong!

Also, I think this is clearly a class issue. I was raised by working class people, and working class people do not expect their children to be the next greatest thing. They've got bigger problems (like how to pay those pesky bills that just keep coming). I had two broken wrists by the time I was 5, and my playtime was usually either completely unsupervised or very casually supervised. My brother and I did all sorts of stupid stuff; sometimes we got hurt, but most of the time we didn't.

I was then duly amazed when I became a full time nanny for an upper middle class family with two kids, when I was a teenager. I remember the Dad freaking out when he realized his daughter fell down and skinned her knee when we went roller blading. The Mom was equally apoplectic when she discovered that I had taught the son to jump off the swing while still on the highest point of its upward trajectory. And this was when the kids had freetime, which was rare. Most of the time was spent in the minivan, shuttling from one "activity" to the next.

For me, I strive for middle ground. At some point, as a parent, you have to learn to let go. It's hard, but I think it is much easier for larger families. You have to let kids make mistakes, and yes, you have to let them fail.

At any rate, I can say with a great amount of confidence that overparenting cripples kids, and may even make them permanent kids. No college student should think it is OK to have his Mom or Dad call to yell at his professor. That we live in such a world is a testament to its current insanity.

Right Said Red said...

Thank you all for your thoughts. I didn't really have time to share mine-still don't--but I find the whole concept fascinating.

Jennifer, I agree completely with your thoughts on class and how this plays a role. I am also AMAZED that you have parents of college age students arguing with you about their grades!?! What is this world coming to? Talk about extended adolescence...

One last thought, I think helicopter tendencies can be good when it come to potential spiritual danger. Our kids are not getting any help from the culture in that department, and I'd rather be safe than sorry. But with physical things, and life experiences, I tend to think many parents (middle class/ and upper middle class) tend to hover and obsesses about their children success.