True Confessions of a Helicopter Mom

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

There’s a study from BYU that says that helicopter parents are hurting their kids. You can read more about it here.  The study says that even loving parents don’t make up for the damage inflicted by excessive hovering.

I don’t know if I’d call myself a helicopter parent or not. My kids would probably say yes, but as one swim coach told my daughter, we are far from the worst parents he’s met.

To try and determine my status I took this quiz from the Christian Science Monitor.

I earned Terra Firma.

13e7cdf4346de40aade6db55399ea91eMy two kids are so different, I question if I parented them differently? I feel like I helicoptered my first born, and was more laid back with the second. The result is one more dependent and one independent.

I used to boil my son’s binky’s after they hit the ground for a good five minutes. I’ll never forget that smell of burning rubber when the water boiled away. The joke my husband used to tell was that with our second child, I asked the dog to “fetch” the binky.

Binky's

Binky’s

When my son was born, I worked on my writing and PR business from home. I thought I could full-time parent and work simultaneously. I didn’t take into consideration that clients would want to me run over for meetings without notice.

Then, Robert went mobile. He was crawling around. Spitting-up on my keyboard.

Nope, full-time work and stay-at-home parenting didn’t work out well for me. I hired a full-time babysitter and then became jealous every day they left for the park.

Three years later, when my daughter was born, the full-time help was gone, and I switched to part-time work. I was able to spend time with the kids, and do a little work, too. It was a nice balance.

Early on, I volunteered in my son’s classroom. I corrected papers, taught computers, writing. Anything they’d let me do. I’ll never forget arguing with his second-grade teacher over the word “artic.” After all, I had drilled him the night before on the continents. “It’s arctic,” the teacher told me. Oops.

My son constantly asked me to bring things to school. Papers he forgot. Projects left behind. I always dropped what I was doing and drove to school—including during his senior year! I can’t believe I did that! I did not do that for my daughter. Mostly, because she never asked.

I helped out with her schooling, too. But, in her elementary school years, it was limited to driving for field trips and special events.

I have one child that now calls whenever there is a problem. His face pops up on my phone and I automatically ask, “What’s wrong?” A broken computer, a fender bender, a parking ticket. It’s always something. Of course, there are exceptions—he aced a test, or got asked to be a guest speaker by the Dean at a fundraiser.

My daughter calls once a week or so to talk to tell me how she’s decorating her room, about a backpacking trip to hot springs, or that she had a good workout.

Maybe the difference between my kids is this: they are entirely two different people, with different goals, personalities, and interests. 

As far as my being a helicopter parent? I think I improved over the years.

How do you define if you’re a helicopter parent? What things have you done that are over the top?

My two kids.

My two kids.

Yes. Crazy helicopter parents actually did this…

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I think my daughter was telling me to chill at SMOC a few years ago.

I was reading an article from the New York Times where they asked readers to send in their crazy helicopter parenting experiences. The title of the article was ‘Bizarre and Unusual’: Readers Respond to Helicopter Parenting.

They listed a few letters that I found unbelievable. In one, a young physician was on an all-day interview at a hospital and his dad spent the day with him!  In another, a mom called a hospital to find out and clarify the benefits her young doctor son was getting.  I wonder if there’s any coincidence that a few of them were stories about doctors? It’s very competitive and grueling to get into and through med school and I wonder if mommy supervised the entire way?

Here’s one of the stories from the article:

“My boyfriend’s mom definitely has helicopter tendencies. It is very bizarre to me — we are both 29 but I was raised to be very independent. We both went to medical school and are now in residency. My favorite story is that she apparently somehow got ahold of the information about the benefits offered by his hospital and was concerned about them or had questions about them. So without asking him about it decided to call the hospital herself and ask. The staff found this to be pretty amusing and apparently made an announcement over the intercom in the operating room saying something to the effect of “Dr. X — your mommy just called.”

The article talks about LaVar Ball, the father of the U.C.L.A. basketball star Lonzo Ball who was the second draft pick and plays for the Lakers. I will admit I was out of the loop on this story, but after hearing discussions about him and being clueless—I’ve learned that he is the big daddy of all helicopter parents. He’s the dad of three promising basketball players who has interfered with their coaches, programs and careers their entire lives. Here’s a list from USA Today of the 10 most outrageous things he’s said.

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Back when it was okay to hover and over-parent.

The helicopter parenting stories I’ve witnessed pale in comparison. I remember parents insisting that their kids be moved up in swimming or arguing with teachers about grades. One story involves me. I took my son for swim lessons when he was four years old and insisted that he be moved up a few levels. A few summers later, a swim instructor told me about the crazy parents she encountered and said, “One year we had this mom insist her four-year-old be moved up two groups, and he physically wasn’t able at that age to be in that group!” I smiled to myself. Wow, I made it to someone’s most crazy helicopter mom list! I don’t think that’s a great honor, do you?

 

What are some of the crazy stories you’ve heard about helicopter parents?

What is the purpose of parenting?

robert 1Isn’t that an interesting question? I heard this asked and answered during the recent David Benzel seminar that I listened to last week on whether parents should push their kids. Benzel is a sports parenting coach and he’s written several books including From Chump to Champ and works with many youth sports organizations.

Benzel said this question has been answered by Madeline Levine PhD, who is the author of two books I ordered today from AmazonSmile. (FYI, AmazonSmile gives a small percentage of purchases to whatever nonprofit organization you choose. Mine goes to the Piranha Swim Team, which we’ve been affiliated with for more than 18 years.)

Here are the books by Levine:

Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success

The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids

After I read them I’ll report back to you on what I learned.

Back to the question, “What is the purpose of parenting?” Another way to phrase this is what do we want for our children? How does parenting serve our highest purpose? Here are the three objectives Levine expresses in her book The Price of Privilege that we should help our children achieve:

ONE
Lead independent lives.

TWO
Maintain loving relationships.

THREE
Enjoy a sense of competence.

Isn’t that impressive? In order to become functioning adults, we want our kids to be independent of us. We desire them to have loving relationships because that is the essence of happiness in our lives. Also, we want them to be good at something they enjoy. That’s another area where people lead productive happy lives. How do we go about helping our kids become independent, loving and competent people?

According to Benzel, our style of parenting makes a difference. There are four parenting types. The two worst are Tiger and Helicopter parents. Next is the Supplier and the best, which we need to aspire to be, is the Hero.

Here’s a breakdown of the four parenting types and the consequences:

The helicopter parent hovers and protects. We—yes I’m using the word “we”—aren’t allowing our kids to experience life without us making sure they never fail. They become too dependent upon the opinions of others and risk hurt feelings if people don’t think they’re the best. They also may develop a sense of superiority.

If you’re a tiger parent, you’re in command and have total control. Your children will grow up believing that they are how they perform and therefore a project. They will believe that if they aren’t performing, they are worthless in your eyes and aren’t loved.

Supplier parents are more concerned with their own lives than their kids. They pay the bills, sign kids up for sports and make sure they go to school, but they aren’t spending much time with them. They’re waiting for those 18 years to be over. The child may feel like an inconvenience, but actually, they’ll learn to be independent and self-reliant. However, how awful would it be to feel like a circumstance and a problem?

The best option is to be the hero parent. According to Benzel, the hero gives their child the message “you are a beautiful creation and therefore valuable and full of potential.” They give their children unconditional love with no strings attached. The children grow up accepting themselves and able to rise to challenges. These parents encourage their child’s interests. They don’t worry about performance and they let their kids learn from their mistakes.

It sounds simple, right? Knowing how we should parent is the first step in becoming the best parent we can be. Now, if only I had learned this years ago. I can still apply the hero parent approach today. Better late than never.

What is your goal as a parent?

bilrobpony

FYI: I discovered Benzel from USA Swimming, which is our national federation for swimming from first-time beginners to Olympians. His sports parenting website where you can join and get his newsletters, webinars and books is called “Growing Champions for Life.” Yes, I’m a big fan. I wish I discovered him about 15 years ago instead of after my kids were done age group swimming.

From their website “Growing Champions for Life Inc.® was created as a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the youth sports experience. We nurture the bond between sports parents and their children by providing parents with positive and practical strategies for playing their role as a sports parent effectively through the gift of unconditional love and the pursuit of personal excellence.”

 

 

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?

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

 

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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???

 

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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?

Who is the worst sports parent ever?

 

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College sports include cheering for teammates.

Have you been keeping up with the real-life drama of the Ball brothers and their outrageous dad LaVar? Noted to be one of the worst sports parents ever, LaVar Ball dad of basketball players has been in and out of the news. That’s probably his goal since he runs a reality show on his FaceBook page. But seriously, what is this guy teaching his kids? If you haven’t heard of LaVar Ball here’s the scoop: his kids are Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo; LiAngelo, who was enrolled at UCLA briefly with a basketball scholarship; and LaMelo, who he pulled out of Chino Hills High School recently.

I’m not a basketball fan, nor a fan of the NFL, but I can’t escape hearing about LaVar Ball. I ran across a snippet on Fox Sports 1 with Cris Carter who asked after hearing that LaVar was pulling his son out of UCLA because he isn’t being allowed to play. Carter, a former NFL star, commented that UCLA receives more applications than any other university in the country and why would he want to take away that opportunity from his son? He said, even if his middle son LiAngelo plays for the NBA, and starts at age 20, he’ll most likely be done with his career by 28 or 29. “What’s he supposed to do with the rest of his life?” Carter asked.

 

You can watch the video from FS1 here on ‘Cris Carter responds to LaVar Ball pulling LiAngelo out of UCLA: ‘What kind of parenting is this?’

In case you haven’t heard, the reason the middle Ball son was suspended by the Bruins basketball team was because he shoplifted in China and wound up in a China jail along with two of his teammates. It took the POTUS to get him out of jail and returned to the United States. LaVar didn’t think shoplifting was any big deal and didn’t condemn his son’s actions. Now LaVar isn’t letting him take the punishment that UCLA decided on, but instead will take LiAngelo away from facing consequences and completing his college education at UCLA. Why was he shoplifting in the first place? Was it a game? Was it for thrills? I have heard this adult-aged kid drives a Ferrari, so it certainly wasn’t because he didn’t have the money.

“Tipsheet: LaVar Ball is the worst basketball dad ever” written by Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has some quotes from LaVar Ball that show his arrogance and inability to acknowledge the wrongdoing by his son.

“We learned today of LiAngelo Ball’s intention to withdraw from UCLA,” Bruins coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We respect the decision he and his family have made, and we wish him all the best in the future.”

(And the unstated P.S. was “Good riddance!”)

As Donald Trump correctly noted, shoplifting in China can be a really big problem. The President had the back of Ball and teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill and helped get them home after their arrest.

But LaVar has steadfastly downplayed his son’s crime and whined about his punishment. “I’m not sitting back and waiting,” he told ESPN. “He wasn’t punished this bad in China.”

And . . .

“We get back over here and the consequences were even stiffer than China. So basically they’re in jail here.”

And . . .

“I’m going to make him way better for the draft than UCLA ever could have. He’s not transferring to another school. The plan is now to get Gelo ready for the NBA draft.”

That will be a heavy lift. “He’s not on any of our scouting lists — even the extended lists,” one NBA general manager told ESPN.

So this withdrawal is no great loss for UCLA.

Younger brother LaMelo could become a NBA player like big brother Lonzo. But his personal sneaker deal and his dad’s antics make it unlikely LaMelo will play at UCLA or anywhere else on his way to the pros.

Here are more details about the crazy Ball family in an article called “UCLA basketball got exactly what it wanted out of the Ball family” by Mike Rutherford for SB Nation.

 

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LaVar Ball in a photo from SB Nation.

 

“The relationship between the Ball family and UCLA basketball appears to have reached a premature end. One side came out as the clear winner.
After one exhibition game appearance and one international incident, it appears the LiAngelo Ball era at UCLA has come to an abrupt close.

In various interviews with a number of national outlets Monday, LaVar Ball revealed he was pulling his middle son off the UCLA basketball team and withdrawing him from the university. LiAngelo Ball had been indefinitely suspended since he and two freshman teammates were caught shoplifting during UCLA’s trip to China last month. The incident made international headlines and resulted in a public war of words between the patriarch of the Ball family and the President of the United States.

This marked the second time in 2017 that LaVar Ball has abruptly pulled one of his sons out of school.

In October, LaVar announced that his youngest son, 16-year-old LaMelo Ball, was being pulled out of Chino Hills High School and would be home-schooled. LaVar reportedly had issues with first-year Chino Hills boys basketball coach Dennis Latimore, who had yet to coach his first official practice at the school. It was also revealed that LaMelo, one of the top players in the class of 2019, was being given his own signature shoe via LaVar’s “Big Baller Brand,” making him the first 16-year-old ever to own such a distinction.

On Monday night, Yahoo reported options were being explored to send both LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball overseas to begin their professional careers. Essentially, the turbulent relationship between the Ball family and UCLA has come to an end years before the pair had originally intended.

That’s probably just fine with everyone in Westwood.
The relationship between the Balls and UCLA, which officially took effect in January 2014, was always primarily about Lonzo Ball. The five-star virtuoso point guard was bound for greatness regardless of where he played in college and regardless of how preposterously one of his legal guardians chose to behave. He was the type of player who could transform UCLA basketball, even if he was only a Bruin for one season.

LaVar Ball was always going to be a distraction, but he was a manageable one for UCLA when Lonzo was the son in question. With LiAngelo, things were bound to be more difficult. Play the kid too much, and it might cost you team chemistry or even a couple of wins. Don’t play him enough, and get ready to see his dad’s criticism as the top story on your ESPN scream-at-each-other show of choice the next morning. It would be hard to blame Alford, and anyone else caught up in the situation, for looking to find a way out.

Now they don’t have to.

As a sports parent myself, I am sorry for these young men and that their dad isn’t allowing them to learn the life lessons that sports can teach. I guess the family’s goal wasn’t to be the best they could be, learning good sportsmanship, time management, perseverance and the ability to pick themselves up after defeat. No, I think the lessons LaVar Ball is teaching his sons include that they are better than everyone else and the rules don’t apply to them. Also, that money is their almighty savior.

 

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My daughter learning about being part of a team.

 

What lessons do you think LaVar Ball is teaching his kids and those who may look up to them?