Top Parenting Tip: Don’t help too much!

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I saw this tweet first thing this morning and it stuck with me all day. My kids are in their early 20s and if I had a do-over, I’d do less for them, not more. I love being a mom and my kids survived my over-parenting and have flourished. But I failed them over and over by doing too much along the way. When they are experiencing pain or a rough patch now, I look back and wish I hadn’t been such a helicopter or lawn mower parent and they’d have experienced more difficulties in their earlier years.

What drives parents to do everything for their kids? Here are six reasons why we do too much for our kids–taken from my own experience and observing other parents:

ONE
We want to shield our kids from pain and hurt.

TWO
We want our kids to have the brightest futures possible — and only we can guarantee that by our constant hovering and interference.

THREE
We’re afraid to let our kids fail. This is the exact opposite of what we need to do. Let them fail while they’re young, when the consequences aren’t so big.

FOUR
Peer pressure. We want to be a super parent, like those we see around us at school or in their sports.

FIVE
We do all the work around the house because their schedules are so busy. (Like ours aren’t?)

SIX
We make every decision for them, allowing them to miss the development of good decision-making skills as they grow.

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What reasons do you see for parents doing too much for their kids?

 

 

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Is there hope for helicopter parents?

rkcowboys 2There is hope for helicopter parents, according to an article in a UK news source, The Sunday Times. In “Family: how to reverse the effects of helicopter parenting” by Lorraine Candy, there are several novel ideas of how to stop hovering. One of them involved blindfolding your kids, throwing them in the car along with their bikes, and driving 10 miles from home to a place they didn’t recognize.

Would I have ever done that? No, I doubt it. I would let my kids ride their bikes with friends from DeMuth Park in Palm Springs along the bike trail all the way to Rancho Mirage. Of course, my husband was riding with them. I’d ride part of the way, too. But, I’d stop at Tahquitz Creek Golf Course, because I was too scared to cross the street to where the bike path continued. Seriously. It’s amazing my kids are as normal and self-assured as they are. My fear of riding bikes across a busy road with cars speeding is not without reason. I’ve been “scarred for life” after getting hit by a pickup truck while running across a busy highway.

From the article:

How do you reverse the effects of helicopter parenting? This question has been vexing me since I read the latest guilt-inducing survey, which followed 422 kids from the age of 2 to 10, and revealed that parents who “hovered” over their toddlers in an excessively protective manner produced less likeable, more incapable, academically underperforming children.

The research reported in the journal Developmental Psychology last month concluded that it’s best to let them fight their own battles. This is a little depressing if you are among my generation of parents (I’m 49) who gave birth just as the trend towards child-centric families gained traction. It was a parenting zeitgeist that didn’t help those with a tendency to interfere — mums including one I knew who secretly took the chocolate out of an advent calendar and replaced it with raisins. Recently I witnessed parents refusing to leave the house for a sibling’s wedding in order to hover over a revising teen.

We’ve all done it to some degree, so we need to learn how to reverse the effects in a smart way. I got advice on how from Simon Howarth, a clinical supervisor at the charity Crisis Text Line, which supports teens in need of urgent mental health guidance.

“Try to understand why you may feel guilty,” he says. “You were trying to protect your child, and what is deemed to be wrong now may not have seemed wrong at the time. The key to changing parenting style is to listen more to your teenager. You are moving from protector to enabler. Stop solving problems for them, defer to them to make the final decision even if you know it is perhaps a mistake. You are building resilience, which you have to do gradually if previously you have been overprotective. Tell them that from now on you will trust them to make their own choices.”

I used to love to problem solve for my kids. But then it was the light bulb moment when my daughter told me she was venting–and didn’t want my help. And that if I kept trying to tell her how to solve her problems, she’d quit confiding in me. I like it when my son calls and says, “Can I get your advice on something?” That gives me a clue that yes, he wants to hear how I’d handle a problem. We end up discussing what it is, whether it’s trouble with a roommate or a disagreement with a co-worker. He usually figures out on his own how he’ll handle the issue, but it’s always nice to have someone listen and bounce ideas off of.

Another excerpt from The Sunday Times article about how to stop helicopter parenting:

David McCullough Jr, a teacher of 26 years and a father of four, is the author of You Are Not Special. He became famous when 2.8m people watched his 2012 end-of-school speech on YouTube, which urged graduates to get a grip. He tells me we can indeed recover from earlier overparenting.

“When you make a mistake, admit it, learn and make adjustments,” he says. “If one’s innards churn a bit when a child bears the brunt of a parenting mistake, deal with it. This will show the child his mum and dad are fully dimensional, less than perfect human beings, which for some would be a revelation.

“Show confidence in your children. Believe (outwardly, at least) in their ability to handle things alone. They will sense this confidence, which will help them develop their own.”

He adds: “When two of my children were 10 and 12 and suffering some summer doldrums, I blindfolded them, threw them and their bicycles in the car and drove them 10 miles into territory they wouldn’t recognise. I left them and drove off. They had a fine time together and wanted to do it again as soon as they got back to the house.”

Isn’t it nice to know there is hope for us helicopter parents? It’s like anything else in life, there is always room to grow and improve.

“Everyday in every way I’m getting better and better.”  —Emile Coue

 

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With his favorite blanket, he named “Ahhh.”

What is one of the worst helicopter parenting things you’ve done? Or, seen another parent do?

 

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?

Too much stuff and too much help makes adulting tough for our kids

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Back when I was young with my big brother.

 

I found an interesting article on a website called Moneyish, which by the way is filled with interesting articles by a group of writers who happen to be women with backgrounds writing for the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Media Group and other major publications like the New York Daily News and Seventeen magazine. The article I read today was called, “Overindulging kids makes their adulthoods harder, research shows” by Erica Pearson. She interviewed an overindulgence expert, Jean Illsley Clarke, age 93, who grew up as a “Post World War II Depression Kid” and had a very different childhood than kids today.

Here’s are a few excerpts and I think it’s worth reading the whole article here:

Overindulgence expert Jean Illsley Clarke tells Moneyish how teaching kids to fend for themselves makes them successful adults.

Too much stuff, too much help, too little structure — it’s a trap that leads well-intentioned parents into making life as a grownup hard for their kids.

Jean Illsley Clarke, the country’s foremost expert on childhood overindulgence — and its pitfalls — has a fresh, vested interest in helping millennial parents rein things in as they start families of their own: a brand new great-grandson, the first great-grandbaby in her family.

“I haven’t intruded anything yet. But I will!” she admitted, sitting down to talk to Moneyish in her mid-century modern Minnesota home a few weeks before her 93rd birthday.

Millennials, known for their overscheduled childhoods overseen by helicopter parents, may be the most overindulged generation yet — but there’s still hope that they won’t repeat their parents’ mistakes, Clarke believes.

“When people finally get it, how damaging this is, they’ll take action,” she said.

Her research shows that being overindulged as a kid has been linked to an inability to delay gratification, a lack of gratitude and self-control, and an increase in materialistic values as an adult. “Too many things results in lack of respect for things and people. Doing things for our children that they should be doing themselves results in helplessness and lack of competence. Lack of structure results in irresponsibility,” she said. “What we found in our big study was that nobody said ‘thank you’ to their parents, but the word ‘resent’ came up often.”

Clarke still thinks about a woman who told her that she didn’t do chores as a child and had never done laundry when she got to college. “She went to her roommates and said, ‘Which is the washer, and which is the dryer’? And they ridiculed her. And she made a very unfortunate decision. She decided she would never ask for help again. So her college years were not happy ones,” she said.

A self-described “World War II, Depression kid,” Clarke felt that she didn’t know much about overindulgence, just that it hadn’t been her own experience. She couldn’t find any research studies that adequately tackled the subject, so teamed up with fellow parenting expert Connie Dawson and David Bredehoft, a now-retired Concordia University professor, to study it on their own.

Eventually, parents started coming up to her during workshops to ask, “I want to know if I’m doing it.”

Through their research, Clarke and her collaborators discovered that overindulgence of some sort was happening at all income levels, and that it has serious consequences — serious enough that she grew to consider it a form of neglect.

They also found that “spoiling” is about much more than just stuff — while too many clothes or toys isn’t a good thing, it isn’t as damaging as doing too many things for kids that they should be doing for themselves.

 

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My mom and dad grew up with one of these to wring out clothes.

 

I think about the childhood my parents had compared to mine, and then again versus our kids’ generation. My parents began life before every household had a washing machine and dryer, or refrigerators. Mom told me about the ice man who delivered ice for the “icebox.” Clothing was washed on a washing board, and then there was some strange contraption that you’d run through the clothes to wring them out before they were hung out on the lines to dry. Mind you, these aren’t my memories, but my mother’s. Because nothing was automated like it is today, their lives as kids involved a whole lot more work around the house.

I do remember we would hang the wash out in the backyard, too. We had a pole in a cement circle that had arms extending with lines going around in a circle like a big spider web. I remember the wooden clothes pins I’d play with while my mom spun the clothesline around to hang up our laundry. We did have a washer and dryer, but she preferred to hang clothes outside in the spring and summer. 

 

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This is what the clothesline looked like in our backyard.

In comparison to my kids’ generation, I had less homework than they did in middle school and high school. Also, I had a ton of chores, which my kids didn’t have.  My mom was a firm believer that busy kids stayed out of trouble. But if the chores were done, most of my time away from school was unstructured. I had a lot of hours to read, sit outside and watch the clouds pass by. My childhood was very different than my kids, who grew up on a competitive swim team with practices six days a week, and hours and hours of homework each night. I didn’t burden them with chores and perhaps I should have.

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At the time, I thought my kids were too busy with swimming and homework to have many chores.

What do you think of the advice from “overindulgence expert” Jean Illsley Clarke? Is doing too much for our kids just as bad as giving them too much?

Six complaints millennials have about their parents

 

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My two cuties.

“What Millennials Say About Their Parents During Therapy” in the HuffPost, written by Brittany Wong, lists six of the most common complaints—and they’re all about parents.

“We went from a parent-focused society to a child-focused society, and this generation are the products of this flux in our parenting focus,“ Deborah Duley, a psychotherapist and founder of Empowered Connections, a counseling practice told HuffPost. “As a result, I hear consistent complaints that their parents are micromanaging their lives to the point of it being suffocating and overbearing.”

Duley and other therapists across the country share more parent-related complaints they hear from clients in their 20s and 30s.

The number one problem is helicopter parents who don’t allow their kids to grow and develop into independent adults.

“You know there’s a problem when the mother of a 28-year-old calls to schedule a therapy consultation for her son. Parents of millennials are notoriously helicopter parents, which inhibits young adults from becoming independent and learning to solve their own problems.” ― Tara Griffith, a therapist and founder of Wellspace SF, a San Francisco community of licensed therapists, nutritionists and certified coaches.

The other points listed include:

2. I feel like a failure by my parents’ standards.
3. My parents don’t think I need therapy.
4. My parents have become helicopter grandparents.
5. My parents are overly involved in my financial life.
6. My parents didn’t teach me how to navigate negative emotions.

I thought those are very interesting complaints, especially because I have two kids in their 20s. I wonder if my kids feel I have been too involved? Am I too involved in their financial lives? Do they feel like failures? I wonder if I taught them how to deal with negative emotions? I’ll have to ask them and I’ll report back on what they say. Maybe—if it isn’t too awful.

Back to the basics of parenting, it’s not helpful to do too much for our kids while they’re young. They’ll learn more from their mistakes and failures than us picking up after them, packing their lunches, doing their laundry, waking them up for school, and running back to school with forgotten homework. It’s a temptation to have every day perfect for our kids, but then they’ll be unprepared for when life isn’t perfect. Also, they may feel insecure or incompetent because they don’t think they can manage on their own without mom.

 

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Despite my helicoptering, they’re growing into wonderful adults.

What are your thoughts about these six complaints millennials have about their parents?

 

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.

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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?

 

Low Self Esteem: A Side Effect of Helicopter Parenting

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Practicing to be superheroes.

Helicopter parents are all around the world these days. I thought of it as a United States phenomenon, but after reading this article from the Times of Oman (which is between Yemen and Saudia Arabia—I looked it up) I realized helicopter parents are everywhere.

Written by Farzeen Ashik, author of the prize-winning novel ‘Rainbow Dorm Diaries-The Yellow Dorm’ “The Hard Truth About Helicopter Parenting” spells it out simply and effectively:

 

The hard truth about helicopter parenting

Have you heard about helicopter parenting? As parents, we want the best for our kids. It almost seems like we keep wanting to raise the bar, so we turn into Supermoms and Superdads. But in the process, do we end up becoming a bit over-protective, aggressive, pushy, or overconcerned? Don’t think so? Let’s take a quick, hard look then. Are you the one finishing your child’s homework and school projects? Is it ultimately your responsibility to ensure that your child’s deadlines are met and work is submitted on time or even that the school bag has the right books for the lessons the next day? Do you take it as a personal affront if your child gets a low grade and get an immediate itch to send an email to the teacher about it? Do you pack your teen’s lunch box and iron his/her uniform? Does your child look at you when someone asks him/her about what he/she wants to do when he/she is older? A whole lot of parents will nod reluctantly. Let’s face the fact that we are a generation of helicopter parents. So, what is helicopter parenting? The term “helicopter parent” was first used in Dr Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Between Parent and Teenager, by teens, who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter. The term became popular enough to become a dictionary entry in 2011. There might be a whole section of readers who strongly believe that they are doing nothing but their duty as good parents to be so involved in the lives of their children. The fact that there could be such a thing as over-involvement does not even occur to them. But as parents, don’t we also have a responsibility to make sure our kids grow up making their own little mistakes and facing their challenges and fears? Here are some reasons why you should stop hovering over your children.

Low self-esteem

If you are constantly around then your children will get used to turning to mommy or daddy for all the answers. Not only that, they will start losing confidence in themselves and their instincts. Every time they make a decision, they will feel the need to run to you and check whether they are right. That’s because your constant presence sends out the signal that you don’t trust their judgement.

Lower adaptability

Kids today will be adults tomorrow and before you know it, they will be out there battling it on their own. They have to graduate, get jobs, find partners, and finally raise their own children. Looking at your gawky teenagers now and imagining them doing all that will certainly seem remote to you but you have to start envisioning them doing things by themselves. Give them opportunities to adapt to different scenarios and challenges. Else, they will be misfits in the real world.

I know I did too much for my kids. I was trying my best, but I wanted to make sure they didn’t fail. I was constantly in their classrooms talking to teachers about assignments and tests. I emailed coaches or met to let them know if my child wasn’t being treated fairly. I helped with homework. I found new teaching methods when I didn’t think their teacher was up to snuff. Today, when I hear my son give himself horrible self-talk, I wonder if I am the cause of it? Was it because I pampered him? I reread the part of the article about low self-esteem, and I did trust my kids’ judgment. I wonder if they knew that? Did I make it clear? I have enough self-doubt on my own that maybe it can be spread like a cold and they caught it from me. 

In any case, my daughter made the comment that negative self-talk is very common. I listened to a webinar by David Benzel, a sports parenting expert, focus on self-talk. He said we can stop our kids when we hear negative self-talk and help them rewire what they say to themselves. I think it’s worth getting out his parenting book “From Chump to Champ” and rereading the chapter on self-talk.

robkatwaterWhat do you think the pitfalls of helicopter parenting are?