Do Latch-Key Kids Become Helicopter Parents—and What About the Lawnmowers?

 

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The park where my kids grew up playing outdoors.

 

I find the headlines of parenting articles to be pretty funny these days. I’ve heard about helicopter parents who hover endlessly over their kids and interfere at the workplace and summer camp. But, I’ve never heard about lawnmower parents before. Have you?

When I was growing up, a lot of kids went home after school to empty houses. More women were working, plus there were a lot more single-parent homes than in previous decades. There was a popular phrase back then called “latch-key kids.”

In “Finding a balance between latch-key and helicopter parenting,” I found some interesting ideas:

“Latch-key kids surged from the 1970s to the early 1990s due to economic changes requiring two incomes to get by, and societal changes where an increased divorce rate created single-parent homes.

‘Now the generation of latch-key kids are parents themselves. Many generation X’ers over-compensate for their latch-key upbringing by being a helicopter parent,’ Janice Emery, 4-H youth development specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, said.

A helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to their child’s experiences and problems. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead.

As parents, it is important to find the middle ground between these parenting styles and balance protecting children, and making sure they grow into responsible adults,” Emery said. “Parents have to keep in mind parenting success is not measured by how much a parent does for their child, but rather how much they teach them to do on their own.”

The second article I read today explains the difference between helicopter and lawnmower parents. In my humble opinion, I don’t see that much difference between the two of them. Both won’t allow their kids to fail and learn from their mistakes. I do agree we need to do less for our kids so they can grow up to be competent, well-balanced adults.

Helicopter of Lawnmower? Modern Parenting Styles Can Get in the Way of Raising Well-Balanced Children

“Helicopter parents, as the name suggests, spend a lot of time hovering. They always stay close to their children, ready to swoop in and direct, help or protect (usually before it is needed). Lawnmower parents are one step ahead of their children, smoothing their path and making sure nothing gets in their way. Common tactics of both include interfering significantly with their grown-up children’s lives, such as complaining to employers when their children don’t get a job.

As with anything, there is a middle ground. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that providing children with opportunities and support helps them to gain experiences, confidence and networks that they wouldn’t be offered in more adverse settings. But there is an important line between supporting children and wrapping them in gold-plated cotton wool.

Allowing children freedom to take appropriate risks through outdoor play is essential for their development. Risky play does not mean placing children in grave danger, but instead allowing them to be children – climbing, jumping from heights and hanging upside down are good examples. Risky play allows children to test limits and solve problems. And, yes, this includes learning what happens when they overstretch themselves and fall.”

 

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A view from my home town where I was a latch-key kid.

When I was growing up, we could ride bikes throughout the countryside. We told our parents where we were going—it could be to a friend’s house who lived five miles away—and our parents never worried. Even our golden retriever Pepi lived a free-range life.

For some of my childhood, I was a latch-key kid and the scary thing about it was going home to an empty house. If my brother, who was two years older, had golf or tennis practice, then I was riding the school bus alone and being dropped off at a bus stop, a quarter mile from my house. It was lonely and quiet, but I survived. The bad days were when Thelma, our bus driver, dropped me off at my doorstep and announced that a prisoner had escaped from the Monroe Penitentiary, which was a couple miles away. She’d wait until I was safely inside my empty house. Those were worst days as a latch-key kid.

 

I wonder if spending some years as a latch-key kid influenced my involvement with my children every step of their way to becoming adults?

Did you grow up as a latch-key kid and do you think it affects how you parent? Or do you think we’re living in different times and we cannot allow our kids the same amount of freedom we had?

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The pool and swim team that allowed my kids space in a safe environment without me helicoptering–too much.

 

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Helicopter Parents Crash Summer Camp

 

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When my kids went to summer camp.

I’ve written about how helicopter parents are showing up in the workplace with their millennials here. Now, I’ve learned that parents are finding ways to hover over their kids’ summer camp experience, too.

In an NPR article called “Are Helicopter Parents Ruining Summer Camp?” by
Anya Kamanetz, I learned that helicopter parents often ignore summer camps “no cell phone” rules by hiding their kids’ phones when they pack for them.

“Barry Garst says thanks to mobile devices, parents today are conditioned to hour-by-hour check-ins. ‘The No. 1 concern is the separation that parents feel, and the difficulty in accepting a different type of communication with their child when their child is at camp.’ Garst studies youth development at Clemson University, with a focus on out-of-school learning.

Hence, the phones buried in luggage, mailed to campers, or even, he says, stitched into a stuffed animal.

The research on overparenting, says Garst, shows that when parents behave this way, children’s developing independence can be stunted. The parents are telegraphing that they don’t think kids can get through tough moments on their own, and kids pick up on that attitude. ‘Children are not really learning how to problem-solve.’

Leslie Conrad and Dan Mathews agree. (Conrad is the director of Clemson Outdoor Lab in Pendleton,  S.C., and Mathews is the head of Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, Ga.) Both say their young adult staff members have helicopter parents as well, who also expect to be in constant contact. Last year, Mathews says, he got four or five phone calls from parents of staff members: ‘I can’t reach my child, they haven’t texted yet to say that they’re safe, they don’t like their cabin assignment, another staff member isn’t pulling their weight …’ One parent complained about the poor cellphone reception in the Georgia woods.

Summer vacation is a time of growth and change. Understanding the relationship between tech overdependence and parent-child interdependence may be key to untangling it, so kids can fly free.”

I remember when my kids went away to their first camp. There was a “no cell phone rule,” too at swim camp at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. They didn’t own a cell phones then, so it was not an issue. I did want to check up on them, and the camp instructions said we could send them with a prepaid phone card that they could use at the pay phone outside the dorms. Unfortunately for me, my kids never used the cards. “I didn’t know how to use it,” one child said. The other told me, ”I didn’t want to stand outside in the dark where the pay phones are and I only had time to call at night.”

We all survived one week without talking on the phone. I don’t know if we would today. My kids call quite a bit and I do the same. We’re much more dependent upon cell phones now. I was actually finding myself getting annoyed with so many calls yesterday from my kids. My husband and I were trying to watch a movie and we got two calls from one child. Then as soon as we hung up and started the movie, the second child called. Those weren’t the only calls from them that day–I had lost track of the previous calls. I honestly don’t think my kids realize that I sometimes have things to do or can have fun without them.

Here’s a tip from a website called Common Sense that addresses kids and the media and technology:

“Dear Mom, Don’t Pack My Phone for Camp” By Regan McMahon
“Let’s be honest: sending kids to camp with a cell phone is probably more for you than them. Here’s how to cut your cord.

“When your kid’s summer camp tells you to just pack the essentials — swim suit, sunscreen, sleeping bag — a cell phone is usually not on the list. In fact, it’s generally on the “What Not to Bring” list. But for parents, staying in touch with our kids feels essential, and some find it’s not so easy to break the habit.

“If the kids can unplug, why can’t we? Since we can all admit the cell phone is more for us than for them (kids aren’t the only ones with camp jitters), here are some tried and tested tips from recovering camp moms. You will get through it.”

Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. We empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.

When your kids go to summer camp, how do you communicate with them? Or, do you let them experience camp without talking to you daily?

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My kids today.

 

 

Mom Regrets: When Women Want Their Old Life Back

 

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No regrets.

 

Mom regrets. That’s a term I’ve never heard before. Apparently, some women who have children miss their “before kids life” so much that they regret having them. That’s probably one of the most taboo things a mom could admit to, but they must feel it deeply or they’d stay quiet. I hope for their kids’ sake that their kids won’t read their posts about mommy regrets ten years from now.

The moms expressing regret find parenting less stimulating than working. They say it’s tiring, there’s too much housework and playing with kids can be downright boring. Who can argue with that? I’ll admit there are some tough days when you’ve got little kids who are dependent on you for their very survival. The first couple of months are beyond exhausting and although you may sleep through the night again, it doesn’t lighten up for several years.

I found an interesting article called “Parenting: it’s all about attitude,” by Narelle Henson in STUFF from the Waikato Times. (I had to look that one up! I had no clue where or what a Waikato is! It’s in New Zealand by the way.)

Here’s a quote from the story:

“OPINION: I’m not made to be a mum. I know it is a little late to come to this conclusion, but just hear me out.

Over the past few months, a vast number of “mum regret” articles seem to have swept beneath my (tired mum) eyes. There was the woman just this week with a child the same age as mine who wrote that childcare is mind-numbingly boring.

Last month, there was an article on three women who “just want to go back to being me”.

Before that, there was an article on “parent regret” and in between there were plenty of articles about how non-parent couples are happier. Underlying them all was the basic idea that having kids is hard; so hard, that it might not be worth it. These articles weren’t talking about post-natal depression or psychosis. They were talking about pure simple regret.

The symptoms, by the way, of parenting regret seemed to boil down to endless fantasies about your pre-child life, extreme irritation at childish games and conversation, revulsion at your restricted social life or resentment at the unrestricted amounts of housework. “

Here’s another article with several links to other mom regret articles called “Love and regret: mothers who wish they’d never had children,” from The Guardian There are several contrasting points of view in this article but I found Toni Morrison’s viewpoint ring a bit of truth with me:

“Motherhood is no longer an all-encompassing role for women now, it can be a secondary role, or you don’t have to choose it,” says Toni Morrison in Andrea O’Reilly’s “Motherhood: A Politics of the Heart.”

But, she adds, “It was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me.” For Morrison and countless others, “the children’s demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do. To be a good manager. To have a sense of humour. To deliver something that somebody could use. And they were not interested in all the things that other people were interested in, like what I was wearing or if I were sensual. If you listen to [your children], somehow you are able to free yourself from baggage and vanity and all sorts of things, and deliver a better self, one that you like.”

I believe that having kids does make you become a better person. At least, it makes you try to be better, more patient, less self-centered, and better tempered. You’re the role model of new human beings. You’re not going to display all your worst parts of your personality—hopefully—for them to copy.

I have no regrets about being a mom. Because my husband and I were married for eight years before we had our first child, I think I was so thrilled to finally have kids that there’s no way I’d have felt regret. Yes, some days were hard when the kids were little. When the kids get older, it doesn’t get necessarily get better, it just gets different. The problems come in bigger sizes. Like a smashed up car rather than a broken doll. Or, a letter that you child has been expelled college rather than a trip to the principal’s office.

But like the author Narelle Henson said in her article, life is about attitude:

“The only difference that I can see is in attitude.

I know that is almost blasphemy in this day and age. After all, my generation was forged from the heady idea that a human’s highest end is happiness. Anything that gets in our way is not worth the trouble.

Unfortunately, we missed the memo about happiness sometimes being hard work. It can sometimes involve discipline, repetition and playing the long game. It can sometimes involve grim determination.

When hard happiness is unavoidable, the only thing for it is to change our attitude. We can sit brooding over an old life like an out-of-date athlete, or we can count the very real blessings in front of us and find new delights.

Nowhere is that more obvious than when it comes to parenting regret. Once we have had a child, there is no going back – it doesn’t matter how much we regret it.

That means the only option available to us is which attitude we will choose. Will we choose to fill our minds with endless lists of reasons why life is less pleasant now? Or will we choose to fill our minds with the moments of delight, of laughter, and of happiness sprinkled however sporadically across the day?”

I agree. In all aspects of our lives, our work, relationships, family, hobbies, sports—the only thing in our control is our attitude.

Have you ever had regrets as a parent? Is there anything you wish you could do differently?

 

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I regret I didn’t listen to my kids and allow them to more freedom. My daughter regrets that I made her take piano lessons, while my son wishes he could have spent more time with his music.

 

Is it time to take a break from youth sports?

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My daughter racing a few years ago.

If you have an athletic, active kid, chances are your lives revolve around youth sports—whether it’s tennis, gymnastics, swimming, basketball, baseball, soccer or another organized sports program. There are so many amazing reasons for our kids to enjoy, learn and have fun with teammates, but out of the 45 million who play organized games, 80% will quit by age 15. Not only that, but record numbers of young girls and boys are facing injuries and surgeries.

When is it time to put on the brakes and take a break?

According to a news report from FOX Q13 Seattle, “Should your kids take a break from playing sports?”

“This summer at Q13 News in a series called ‘Safe Summer’ we tackle the question — should your kids take a break from playing sports?

“Kids are more overscheduled, they’re focusing on a sport,” said UW Sports Medicine Physician Dr. Brian Krabak.

More practices, more games and matches, and more injuries is something UW Sports Medicine Physician Dr. Brian Krabak sees it firsthand.

“If you’re a soccer player we’re concerned about ACL types of injuries. If you’re a swimmer you’re more likely to get shoulder or lower back pain. If you’re a basketball player we’re more concerned with ankle or knee injuries,” said Dr. Krabak.

And it’s those injuries he sees in more kids now than ever before. Dr. Krabak says focusing on one sport or specializing instead of kids playing different sports limits their ability to develop naturally.”

I read in a USA Today publication,“Top orthopedic surgeon urges parents not to push young athletes too hard:”

“As spring turns into summer, most kids are given a break from the daily routine of sitting in the structured setting of a school classroom. For young athletes, however, summer can simply mean two more months of intense training, scrimmages, and over-passionate parents and coaches alike.

According to top New York orthopedic surgeon Armin M. Tehrany, who has been named one of New York City’s best doctors several times by New York Magazine, kids who play youth sports today have seen their risk of injury increase dramatically. Among the most common injuries, he says, are dislocated shoulders, concussions and tears of the ACL and meniscus. Believing that coaches and parents contribute greatly to the problem by pushing kids too hard, he urges them to understand the limitations of a young athlete.

“Competitive parents can often put a lot of pressure on their children to succeed in sports,” Tehrany said. “That has led to 70 percent of children choosing not to continue sports by age 13.”

“It’s important that parents and coaches voice the importance of never ignoring an injury or any type of pain,” he said. “Playing through the pain is dangerous, and can worsen an injury and increase risk or chance for surgery.”

As parents, we need to step in if our kids are playing injured. They may want to keep competing, but we are the grown-ups here, right? We want them to be able to enjoy being active in the long-term and may have to put their sports career in perspective. Yes, they may want to be at the Junior Olympics they’ve been training for, but missing a meet at 12, 13 or 14, won’t be the end of their careers.

My own daughter took a break from competing this summer. She took two weeks away from the pool and found out there were other activities like spin class, yoga and running. She believes that her break will allow her to come back and compete refreshed and stronger.

Here’s a great video with kids talking about how they feel about their parents watching their sports. It’s a good reminder for all of us sports parents. After all, we don’t want our kids to be among the 80 percent that quit sports, correct?

Have your kids taken a break from competing in sports? If so, for how long and was it helpful?

Are second-born children more likely to get into trouble?

 

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Second child personality shining through!

I heard a discussion on TV about a study that says second born children are more likely to get into trouble.

“Wait a minute,” I wanted to interject. “I’m a second child and I’m not a criminal.” That’s right, they were saying that second children were 20 to 40 percent more likely to get into trouble at school and enter the criminal justice system.

As the mother of two kids, my second child is not any more difficult than my first. Nor, did she get into any trouble. After listening some more, I learned that the study didn’t necessarily apply to second siblings who were girls.

Interesting. So, what exactly did this study say?

Fox 8 Cleveland said this:

A new study indicates that second-born boys are more likely to get in trouble — and even become criminals — than their brothers and sisters.

The study, conducted by researchers including MIT, Northwestern University, University of Florida and Aarhus University in Denmark, looked at siblings in both Denmark and the United States.

The research finds that second-born boys are “substantially more likely to exhibit delinquency problems compared to their older siblings.”

The abstract states that in families with two or more children, second-born boys are 20 to 40 percent more likely to be disciplined in school and enter the criminal justice system compared to first-born boys.

The abstract states:

“The data allow us to examine a range of potential mechanisms, and the evidence rules out differences in health at birth and the quality of schools chosen for children. We do find that parental time investment measured by time out of the labor force is higher for first-borns at ages 2-4, suggesting that the arrival of a second-born child extends early-childhood parental investments for first-borns.”

Here’s the actual study if you want to read more details.

From KVUE ABC from Austin TX, “Second-born children more likely to be delinquent, study finds:”

First-borns have a new study to lord over their siblings. A study has found that second-born children, especially boys, are more likely to get in trouble.

An MIT economist studied how birth order affects whether a child, particularly a boy, exhibits “delinquency behavior,” compared to first-borns in the same family. Joseph Doyle and his colleagues defined delinquency in terms of “disciplinary actions and truancy at school, juvenile delinquency, and adult crime and imprisonment.”

The researchers looked at sets of data involving tens of thousands of brothers in two different settings: Denmark and Florida.

“In families with two or more children, second-born boys are on the order of 20 to 40 percent more likely to be disciplined in school and enter the criminal justice system compared to first-born boys even when we compare siblings,” the study reads.

Doyle told NPR this may be caused by a number of factors, including the second child’s need to compete for attention, and the presence of such a young role model in the second-born child’s life.

“The first-born has role models, who are adults. And the second, later-born children have role models who are slightly irrational 2-year-olds, you know, their older siblings,” he said.

I think this comes down to common sense. With the first-born, the child has the parents’ undivided attention. This will be the first maternity leave parents may take. The parents will dote and try and figure out this whole new parenting thing. The first-born grows up following the rules, becoming a leader, good student and earning their parents’ constant praise. Then, the second child comes along and through nobody’s fault—the second born receives less attention from parents than their older sibling. There isn’t time for undivided attention because the attention has to be divided.

The younger child, a year or more behind, realizes they cannot catch up to this little person–who in their opinion is perfect and developmentally so far ahead. So, the second child finds his own path. In the case of many boys, they become trouble makers. Maybe that’s to get their fair share of attention? In my daughter’s case, she made her path between the lane lines in the pool rather than looking for trouble. She developed a passion and desire to get faster than her brother as a swimmer. He had cut out his place in the classroom.

What do you think about second children? Do you have children and do you notice a difference because of birth order? How about your siblings? Do you have a second son in your family who’s been in trouble?

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Me and brother. I’m the second and youngest child.

A Conversation With Legendary Swimmer and Swim Mom Sippy Woodhead

 

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Sippy Woodhead in Russia during her first U.S. National Team trip at age 13.

I had a great conversation yesterday with Cynthia “Sippy” Woodhead, a phenomenal swimmer who began breaking world records at the age of 14 and still holds a number of records for Southern California Swimming. She’s the mother of twins and enjoys being on deck in her role as a swim parent.

 

She has great advice for swim parents and works to ensure her kids enjoy the same carefree experience she enjoyed before the days of hovering and helicoptering parents. Sippy grew up a block from a pool and her summers were spent “waiting outside the gates for the pool to open at 10 a.m. and playing sharks and minnows and chasing lizards until it closed at 6 p.m.”

When she was a swimmer, she said meets were like “playdates” and she knew her parents were on deck, but she never saw them. To read more about Sippy and her accomplishments as a swimmer and her ideas on parenting click here.

As a swim family, we have great memories from meets at the Sippy Woodhead Pool. I’ll never forget that it was one of my daughter’s first long course meets and her age group coach wasn’t at the meet. It was the head coach instead and my daughter was a little nervous. When she swam her 50 free as she passed him, she lifted her head up high, paused mid-stroke and gave him a huge smile!

What a neat thing to get to talk to Sippy and understand the person behind the pool bearing her name. Her former swim team, Riverside Aquatics Association has a great story called “Who is Sippy?” on their website. Click here to read it.

 

 

5 Tips for Parents to Get Their Kids to Put Their Phones Down

 

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One thing about swimming: your kids can’t swim and text.

Every day there are articles about social media and how it affects our children. I see the issue when kids sit next to each other, not talking, but texting or posting. My own daughter got in trouble with her coach for inappropriate texts when she was in high school. I feel like social media can be a landmine for our children. What can we do as parents to help them avoid the problems and pitfalls?

 

In the Washington Post’s article “5 ways parents can help kids balance social media with the real world,” the author Adrienne Wichard-Edds, gives practical advice on what to do about the constant presence and temptation of smartphones and kids.

“According to a 2015 report from Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of nine hours a day consuming online entertainment.

“In search of advice on how to parent teens whose social lives hinge on a click, I turned to Ana Homayoun, a Silicon Valley-based expert on teen behavior. Her book Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World comes out next month.

“We’re having the wrong conversations with our kids around social media,” she says. “When we focus on fear and judgment — when we say ‘don’t do that because you’ll get in trouble,’ or ‘if you do that, you won’t get into college’ — kids will just go underground and find other ways to hide their online interactions.”

We all want our kids to be in the real world and spend less time online. But, what can we do about it? I’ve heard people argue that social media is fine and it’s a new way of communicating. My parents were annoyed with my brother and me who talked on the phone with our best friends for hours. My parents said more than once, “Why don’t you go over to their house, or have them over?” Kids no longer are attached to a long cord hooked to the wall but are posting and texting instead.

Here are five tips discussed in the article:

ONE
“Check your kid’s phone. “Particularly in middle school but also in high school, kids should know that parents can ask for their phones at any point and be allowed full access,” Homayoun says.

TWO
“Be app-savvy. “If your kid is on it, you should be, too,” Homayoun says of apps and social media platforms. “You don’t have to have an account, but at least try it out so you can have informed conversations about it. If your kids know that you understand the social media they’re using, they’re more likely to come to you to talk about issues that pop up.”

THREE
“Help kids understand their “why.” Inspire kids to act out of internal motivation instead of fear, Homayoun says, by helping them build their own filter. “Encourage your kids to ask themselves ‘Why am I picking up my phone? Am I bored, am I lonely, am I sad? Am I just uncomfortable because I’m in a room where I don’t know anyone?’

FOUR
“Set clear ground rules. Talk to your kids about appropriate social media use before you give them a phone or allow them to download a new app, says Homayoun.

FIVE
“Create opportunities for digital detox. “Give kids a budget to plan their own screen-free adventures — don’t just say, ‘Okay, kids, get offline and come do some chores,’ ” Homayoun says. She also points out that kids need to learn how to be okay with being offline.”

I’m curious about how other families deal with social media. My kids are older and I was the mom who said “no” to MySpace, Facebook etc. My kids had prepaid flip phones and their big thrill was to get one with a camera. Also, very few kids back then had access to smartphones. It was a big discussion with fellow parents about what age kids should have them. Now, they are part of our daily lives and I bet more kids have them than not.

What are your strategies for dealing with social media and younger kids?

 

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I had a pink phone like this in my bedroom and talked to my friends for hours.