How to stop hovering and helicoptering

robertbaby

My son before he learned to walk.

If you’re a helicopter parent, as I once was, how do you stop it? You know it’s not healthy for you or your kids, but how do we stop doing every little thing for our kids? In an article by Nancy Buck in US News, she said to go back to the toddler days. Unless of course, you were a helicopter parent back then, too. Buck explained that when our kids were crawling and learning to walk, most of us didn’t hover. We watched, we encouraged, we let our children fall, and get up again.

The objective is to raise happy, healthy kids who are independent and self-sufficient. With two much interference by us, they will suffer. We need to let go and increase our children’s freedom a bit at a time.

Here are a few excerpts from “Tips to Avoid Helicopter Parenting:”

Are you hovering? Try this instead to teach your child how to handle more independence.

RULES, routines and set expectations increase a child’s sense of safety and provide stability and consistency that support a child’s growth and learning. But there is more to parenting than creating this kind of secure environment. To raise a responsible and respectful child who matures into an effective and capable adult, you need to help your child learn how to handle increased responsibilities and freedom.

You accomplish this goal by slowly increasing the amount of freedom you give your child while simultaneously teaching him how to manage and handle the additional freedom. Your goal is to be the coach. Avoid hovering, criticizing and nagging, as this will not help your child tackle new challenges, which involves trying, failing and trying again as many times as necessary to master new skills.

One thing to keep in mind as you prepare your child to handle greater freedom is your shared experience when your child was a toddler. Do you remember what you did during this stage? Practice those same behaviors that helped your child stand, walk, and then run on her own. In case you forget what you did, you probably supported the attempts, encouraging the practice no matter how many times your child stood and fell, then stood back up again and fell again. Finally your child succeeded in standing on her own. Then she took her first step and fell.

Throughout this process you were close at hand, encouraging, smiling and perhaps congratulating. Did you criticize her attempts and failures? I bet no. Did you nag her to get up again and try even though she indicated she was tired and wanted to take a break? I sincerely doubt that you did. Did you stand or sit right next to her and catch her, not allowing her to fall? That’s called hovering, and it does not help your child learn to successfully and responsibly manage increased freedom.

Similarly, as a child grows, you’ll want to allow him more freedom, starting in the areas where he’s requesting it. Perhaps he is simply asking to go to a friend’s house without you taking him – say, riding the bus there from school. First you need to determine if this request is legal (my children wanted to drive a car before they were old enough, by law, to do that, so the answer was no) and if this is something you believe you can help your child successfully learn to do. Now seize this opportunity to comply with the request.

Coaching for success does not mean you immediately turn over total freedom and let your child do what she’s asked for or wants to do on her own. Work with her, support and encourage her, and most importantly ask her to self-evaluate. How does she think she’s doing? Does she see any ways she needs to make adjustments or corrections? Does she want your input? If she does want your opinion, mention an adjustment or change that you think could help her that she didn’t mention.

I was with my kids every minute when they were outside the house. I walked them to the park, around the neighborhood, etc. We arranged play dates with other moms and kids and would gather at each other’s houses or the park. At one point, and I’ll have to ask my kids how old they were, they wanted to ride bikes around the neighborhood or go to the park without me. I was a nervous nelly about it because of the case of Anthony Martinez. He was abducted from his front yard and his body was found close to our hometown. This happened when my kids were four and one years old, and the case remained unsolved until my son graduated high school. I wonder if this horrific incident influenced my friends as well?

Statistics show that we have less crime today than when I was a kid, but we worry more. When something like this hits so close to home, I believe it affects us more than seeing it on the news. I finally did allow my kids the freedom to walk to the park, walk downtown, etc. but I loved to have their friends come over to our house to play.

The real problem I had with helicoptering was doing too much for them on a daily basis, such as bringing forgotten homework to school, rushing forgotten bathing suits to the pool, and doing all the household chores. I also didn’t allow them to fail. I was there to pick up the pieces and that made for a tougher transition into college.

rkcowboys

Playing in the back yard.

In what ways did you helicopter your kids?

 

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Meet the 90-year-old Helicopter Parents

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I’m still working on not being a helicopter mom.

In a Boston Globe article called “Meet the Helicopter Parents: These helicopter parents are 90. Their kids? 65,” by Beth Teitell gives a number of hilarious examples of middle-aged grown-ups being helicoptered by their 90-year-old parents:

 

“My mom asked for the phone number of our school board to tell them they keep me out too late at meetings,” @bonitadee tweeted. “I am 57 and a school principal.”

The writer Roxane Gay captured the new reality. “My mom just texted me to curse less on twitter,” she tweeted on April 8. “I said stop stalking me. She said ‘I will not.’ I am 43.”

I too get unsolicited advice from my dad. I probably enjoy it as much as my kids like unsolicited advice from me. It’s not very often, though. And another thing I learned in this article is this: when the advice ends–you’ll be very sad. 

Another point, we are just as much at fault for allowing our parents to helicopter. Most adults don’t stand up to their parents or say anything at all. For example, my daughter has no problem telling me when to stop over-parenting or helicoptering. My son is more polite about it, but he tells me not to worry. “That he’s got it handled.” Me, I say nothing, or try to explain my point of view. Mostly, I view both my mom and dad as leaning to the “free-range” spectrum of parenting, rather than helicoptering.

Here’s more from the article:

Welcome to 2018, when people are living so long that baby boomers, the original helicopter parents, have helicopters of their own.

A growing number of middle-aged folks — accustomed to directing their teenagers and young adults’ lives — are also on the receiving side of the equation. In today’s world, you’re never too old to be somebody’s baby.

In 2012, 53.7 percent of people aged 55-59 had at least one parent living, compared with 43.6 percent in that same age group in 1992, according to Ashton Verdery, an assistant professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University.

Relationships between adult children who are 65+ and parents who are 90 and up are new enough that the National Institute on Aging is funding a study.

Kathrin Boerner, the principal investigator of the “Aging Together Study,” and an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said she was surprised at the amount of advice and support that flows “downstream,” from very old parents to senior adult children.

1915364_1296704101497_7996135_nAre you an adult with helicopter parents? What do you say when they give you unsolicited advice?

Should preschool be taught outdoors?

 

Letting my kids play and be kids.

Enjoying the great outdoors.

 

I love the idea of having kids outdoors more. In a story in The Atlantic called “The Perks of a Play-in-the-Mud Educational Philosophy” by Conor Williams, he asks “When did America decide preschool should be in a classroom?”

My own preschool years were spent outside (unless it was absolutely pouring rain.) We didn’t have school before kindergarten as a matter of fact. Of course, most moms stayed home—at least they did in Snohomish, my hometown. We played in a sandbox, rode bikes and trikes in the streets, picked dandelions in our backyard and stared at clouds.

As we got older, we moved out of town to the countryside. We built forts in the woods, picked bleeding heart flowers and fiddleheads and rode bikes to pick wild blackberries for our mom to bake us pies.

I’m glad someone has the concept that being outside is good for you.

Here’s some of the article:

Most American kids don’t spend large chunks of their day catching salamanders and poking sticks into piles of fox poop. In a nation moving toward greater standardization of its public-education system, programs centered around getting kids outside to explore aren’t normal.

But that’s precisely what students do at the Nature Preschool at Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, Maryland. There, every day, dozens of children ages 3 to 5 come to have adventures on Irvine’s more than 200 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and meadows. These muddy explorers stand out at a moment when many American pre-K programs have become more and more similar to K–12 education: row after row of tiny kids, sitting at desks, drilling letter identification and counting.

Mention how anomalous this seems, though, and the teachers at the Nature Preschool can only express their wish that that weren’t the case: Why is it odd for 4-year-olds to spend the bulk of their time outside? When did America decide that preschool should be boring routines performed within classroom walls?

Today’s kids are growing up at a moment when American childhood—like much of American life—is increasingly indoors and technologically enhanced. Families spend more time indoors and on screens. Smartphones have warped the teenage experience. Perhaps as part of reaction to those trends, the United States is witnessing a budding movement to reintegrate childhood with the natural world. Nature preschools, outdoor pre-K, forest kindergartens—call them what you like: Early-education programs like these are starting in communities all over the country. The Natural Start Alliance, a group advocating for more outdoor experiences in early education, says that the number of “nature-based preschools” has grown at least 500 percent since 2012.

The ideas that underscore these programs trace back, in part, to a 2005 book by the journalist Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods. Louv argued that American childhood had become overly standardized, overly structured, and overly saturated with technology. He coined a term for the phenomenon: “nature-deficit disorder.” Published just a few years after the adoption of No Child Left Behind—the federal education law that ramped up the emphasis on standardized testing and incentivized schools to focus on math and reading—Last Child received dazzling reviews and was passed around public schools as samizdat. The book helped launch the Children and Nature Network, which describes itself as an “organization whose mission is to fuel the worldwide grassroots movement to reconnect children with nature.”

My own kids had lots of time outdoors in the summer months we spent at the beach. Besides playing in the waves, they spent hours building drip castles, digging holes and fighting over sand. As they got older, they boogie boarded, tried surfing, swam and collected sea glass. I can’t begin to say how wonderful those years spent outdoors were for my kids. They had to use their imaginations and were away from computers and the TV for most of the daytime.

As for preschool, they both went to one but only in the mornings. They spent a lot of time in the afternoons at the park (with me hovering closely) or at the city pool.10995700_10206245569881976_4214520029871361800_o1597031_10206245570241985_7630871641838507528_o

What do you think about preschools and learning being out of the classroom in nature?

A Free-Range Parent Talks About the Free-Range Utah Law

 

robertbaby

My son having play-time at the beach.

 

If you read parenting news and blogs like I do, you’ve probably read that a new law in Utah that goes into effect in May, allows parents to stop being helicopters. A Wall Street Journal article called “Parents, You Can Stop Helicoptering” is written by Lenore Skenazy, the woman who let her 9-year-old child ride the subway alone in New York.

Here are some excerpts from her opinion piece:

“If you send your kid out to play in the park for an hour, or buy a carton of milk, or even walk to school, guess what? If you’re in Utah, you won’t get arrested for negligence. Woo hoo!

“You don’t have to worry about a trial, fines, mandatory parenting classes, jail time or even losing custody, all thanks to a new law passed unanimously by the Utah Legislature and signed this month by Gov. Gary Herbert. It goes into effect in May. It’s called the Free-Range Parents Law, named after the movement I started, Free-Range Kids.

“I’m the New York mom who let her 9-year-old ride the subway alone and wrote a column about it for the late, great New York Sun. That was 10 years ago April 1 (and no, it wasn’t a joke). Two days later I found myself on NBC’s “Today” show, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and National Public Radio. The hosts all asked the same question: “But Lenore, how would you have felt if he never came home?”

“Well, I did have a spare son at home. But seriously, that very question was the reason parents were going crazy with worry. Paranoia about abduction by strangers—among the rarest of crimes—was the whole reason kids were being supervised every second. The No. 1 cause of death for children is car accidents. Yet you don’t hear talk-show hosts saying: “Oh my God, you drove your son to the dentist? How would you have felt if you got T-boned by a truck?”

“I started the Free-Range Kids blog the weekend after the media firestorm, to explain that I am all for safety. I love helmets, car seats, seat belts. If you’re having a baby, my shower gift is a fire extinguisher. But I let my son go out into the big wide world without me because that’s what kids, certainly 9-year-olds, have been doing since the beginning of time.”

Her article goes on to describe hair-raising scenarios where 911 was called and Child Protective Services showed up at homes when a parent let their kids be alone for five minutes or less—or play outside the house 150 feet away. In one story, a mom went into a Starbucks and let her girls sit in their van. A police officer greeted her and threatened to take the kids away when she returned three minutes later. The next day, Child Protective Services showed up at their house and demanded a doctor examine the children for signs of abuse.

Here’s what Skenazy wrote about the law in Utah:

“The Utah law redefines neglect to exclude letting kids walk to school, play outside, remain briefly in a vehicle under certain conditions, stay at home as a latchkey kid, or engage in any “similar independent activity.” It adds that children should be of “sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm,” which could leave the door open for overzealous officials. But clearly the law leans in the direction of giving Free-Range parents the benefit of the doubt.

“In America, we keep talking about how we need to raise a generation of kids who are smart, resilient problem-solvers ready to take on the chaotic, robotic economy ahead. We can’t do it by standing always by their side, solving all their problems.

“It is not negligent to believe our kids are ready for the childhood independence that made us who we are. It is negligent to deprive them of it.”

Isn’t it a shame that our children aren’t allowed the same freedom we had as kids? I never let my kids walk to the park or wander around the block alone when they were young. When I was young, we were outside if the weather allowed it. We rode our bikes around and went in and out of neighbor’s houses. I remember going to the Schutt’s house (they had teenagers who babysat us–and a horse named Snoopy.) I loved hanging out in the girls’ rooms and seeing their cool clothes, make-up and hairstyles. Their mom always gave us a cookie or popsicle, too.

My kids never had that life. We did have a child kidnapped from his front yard in a nearby town when my kids were little and it scared me to death. His body eventually was found. That one incident had a profound effect on my parenting.

I let my kids play at the park or beach, but we moms would be gathered on a blanket chatting and watching while they played. They also had their space at the pool, where they went six days a week for practice with a great group of kids. The park, beach and the pool allowed a little bit of freedom for them to explore and be with other kids, without us constantly hovering—although we were there on the sidelines ready to helicopter at a moment’s notice.

robkatrock

Freedom to play at the beach.

 

What are your thoughts about society today not allowing kids any freedom? Do you agree with the new law in Utah?

 

What Parents Would Do This? Seriously???

 

rkcowboys

Two little cowboys.

My kids are on their way to adulting. One will be celebrating a full-year on the job in a month, post-college degree. My daughter is going to career fairs and has interviewed for two jobs so far, landing one job offer. I will repeat and say loudly that I had nothing to do with it. Well, maybe one thing—I helped them by purchasing clothes for their interviews. But that was it. Apparently, other parents of millennials are getting much more involved. I wrote about crazy helicopter parents interfering in their children’s job searches a few months ago here.

I discovered another article that gives more examples of parents going over the line in the name of “helping” their children. The article is called “Parents of millennials are too involved in their kids’ careers” by Corinne Purtill on Quartz. She talks about a mom “mean tweeting” a company that didn’t offer her son a job and includes scary statistics from a 2016 survey of how many helicopter parents are getting involved in their adult children’s careers. You can read an excerpt here:

 

“Parents: butt out of your adult children’s job searches.

“This may seem obvious. But it’s not, in the context of the wildly inappropriate parental intrusions that hiring managers see with astounding regularity. Parents are calling to arrange interviews for perfectly functional adult children, inserting themselves into schedule or salary negotiations, and haranguing a manager by phone or email for failing to hire or promote their precious offspring.

“In a misguided effort to help their children gain short-term achievement, hiring managers say, many parents unwittingly cripple their adult sons’ and daughters’ ability to succeed on their own. What’s more, these unhealthy entanglements in their adult child’s professional life are preventing parents from being supportive in ways that actually do help their child—who is, in fact, an adult.

“Much too much
“In a 2016 survey of helicopter parenting in the workplace from the staffing firm OfficeTeam, senior managers reported parental intrusions of astonishing cheek: asking to sit in on job interviews, bringing cakes to potential employers, calling the hiring manager in the guise of an employment reference to heap praise on their son.

“After media reports of meddling parents in the workplace started surfacing after the recession of the early 2000s, Michigan State University researcher Phil Gardner surveyed 725 employers about whether they’d seen such behavior. A full 31% of respondents had a parent apply for a job on behalf of their adult child, according to a 2007 report. Another 15% of the employers fielded complaints from parents about passed-over children, 9% had a parent try to negotiate the new hire’s salary or benefits, and 4% actually attended job interviews alongside their adult children. The financial crisis of 2008 and the rise of texting, which enabled constant communication between parents and grown kids, has only intensified the trend.

“On this point hiring managers are explicitly clear: absolutely nothing good comes of a parent getting involved in a child’s job search.
“No employer is going to think this is okay,” said Alison Green, a consultant who writes the popular blog Ask a Manager. “Managers really need to refuse to engage if a parent contacts them, assuming it’s not to relay some sort of serious emergency with their kid.”

“Casey Newton, an editor at the Verge, received a baffling direct message on Twitter in 2016. The tone of the message was accusatory. It was “something along the lines of, ‘You have a lot of nerve getting someone’s hopes up like that,’” Newton recalled. He’d never met the woman, but her last name looked familiar. A quick check of her social media profiles confirmed she was the mother of a job candidate Newton had recently passed over.”

It is stunning to me that 31% of parents interviewed in the study quoted in the article, applied to jobs on behalf of their adult children. I bet they are the same parents who did their children’s homework to ensure good grades. Then, they filled out college applications and wrote the college entrance essays, too.

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My kids on their way to adulting.

What are these parents thinking? Do you have any idea of why parents would do this to adult kids?

When should we jump in to defend our kids?

When they were young.

I was always a stickler for what was right or wrong and I never shied away from addressing any issue. I would go to bat for my kids whenever I felt they were being slighted. Looking back, I see that is a trait of helicopter parenting and I might have done more good for my kids by letting them fight their own battles.

Here are a few battles I took on when I thought my kids weren’t being treated right:

I wrote an email to my son’s AP History teacher to complain about his grade. He was .05 off an A and I felt the teacher should round it up. I got a note back explaining that if he were to round up my son’s grade, he’d have to go back and do the same thing for every other student in his grade book who was a fraction off the next higher grade. (Not a bad idea, I thought!) My son was being passed over for his school’s nomination for the coveted National Merit Scholarship award because of the B, but he lived through it.

When I felt a coach was picking on my son, I made an appointment to complain about it, only to find out that he had earned the “coach’s award” for best attitude and effort. That surprised me and I’m embarrassed about that meeting to this day.

When my daughter was given five days of after-school detention for forgetting to bring the photocopy of Christmas song lyrics to music class, I complained that the punishment was over the top. In fact, other kids were given two nights detention, so there was a definite crossing the line by the music teacher—in my humble opinion.

There are countless other incidents where I went to battle for my kids. I do believe I taught them the difference between right and wrong and that they should stand up for themselves. At least that’s what I told myself at the time.

I couldn’t understand why other parents would stand by and let bad things happen to their kids. I do now. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and shrug your shoulders. I’ve found that some of the things that would have bugged me to no end, will soon disappear on their own within a few days or weeks. By making an issue out of little things, they can turn into big ones and burn a lot of energy and create angst.

My daughter complained to me last night that during a meeting with students on a group project, the guys were complaining that all the women coming forward about sexual harassment were “just looking for attention.” That infuriated my daughter to no end. I asked her if she was going to put up with it or wanted to go to the professor or counselor and complain. She decided to let it go. She’s a week from being done with the class and just wants to get through it. I told her I would stand by whatever she decided.

When my son received a letter telling him he was kicked out of school during the summer after his freshman year for bad grades, I was horrified. But, then I stood by and watched him research his options online. He wrote a letter to contest the decision and got hospital and doctor records to substantiate his unfortunate circumstances of an injury and surgery which caused too many missed classes. He was let back in without me doing a thing. After that, he earned As.

Me and my boy.

One thing I know about parenting is all we can do is try our best. It’s been my goal to raise kids who know the difference between right and wrong and will try their best as well.

What do you think about parents fighting battles for their kids? Are they helping or hurting them by getting involved?

The not-so-funny truth about helicopter parents

 

rkcowboys 2

The goal is to raise happy, healthy kids who experience failure at times so they can also experience success.

 

I often joke that I’m a recovering helicopter parent. But, it’s not that funny after all. It’s important to raise kids who can handle the curve balls life throws at them. By not allowing our kids to fail, we’re robbing them of the ability to learn, grow, and understand hard work. Not only that, but studies show that kids with helicopter parents suffer more from anxiety and depression.

In an article in USA Today by Katy Piotrowski, M.Ed. called “How to help your adult children find success,” it appears success comes most often after failure. So, if we’re not allowing our kids the chance to fail, how will they be successful later in life?

Here are a few tips from the article:

“In a study reported in Psychology Today, the majority of children with helicopter parents have higher anxiety and view life’s challenges as being more daunting than those with more hands-off moms and dads. So what can we do, as parents, to truly support career success in our children? Psychiatrist Joel Young, M.D., suggests these strategies:

“Rather than sharing your goals and wishes for your child, listen to theirs. This builds their skills in independent thought and critical thinking, and sidesteps imposing your values on them.

“When your child receives a consequence, such as not getting hired for a job you think they’d excel in, don’t try to intervene to change the outcome.

“Avoid being your adult child’s keeper and don’t remind them of deadlines. By middle school, they should have learned to stay on top of their to-do lists.

“Instead of offering your solutions to their career challenges, encourage your child to come up with remedies on their own.”

Honestly, is there anything worse than watching your kids suffer, feel hurt or experience failure? We want to make life easy for them. But, while they are young, let them flunk a few tests, or oversleep for school. These are minor things that they can self-correct. They can learn from their mistakes. If we’ve helped our kids every step of the way from kindergarten through their senior year in high school, and they’ve never experienced failure, they may feel overwhelmed when they get a lousy grade on a college paper or fail an exam. They also may feel they aren’t worthy and are incapable on their own without their helicopter parent at their side to save them.

It reminds me of a book I learned about at a writer’s conference more than a decade ago called “Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones” by John C. Maxwell. It was recommended for writers to read this book because in this tough profession we face rejection after rejection and the key is to keep going and fail forward, rather than failing backward. I believe it’s an important read for parents, too, so that we allow our kids the growth experience that only failure provides.

rkcowboys

Before my kids experienced anxiety, stress or failure. Those were the days!

What other sad side-effects do you think helicopter parents may inflict upon their children–with the best intentions? Do you know any helicopter parents? What have you seen them do that you would never do yourself?