Instant gratification and helicopter parents go together like cookies and milk

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

The numbers don’t lie. ACT states that 50% of kids do not return to college for their second year, and then only 25% of those graduate in five years. US News and World Report, which ranks colleges annually, changed one of its measurements from a graduation rate of five years to six years! I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know the percentage of kids that get out in four!

Letting my kids play and be kids.

Letting my kids be kids.

I’ve given my two cents worth in Four Reasons Why Kids Fail Their Freshman Year. This time around, I asked Nicolle Walters, RN, PhD, Clinical Psychologist for her expertise. In addition to being a practicing therapist, she’s the mother of two kids about the same ages as mine.

Why do our kids have such a hard time once they’re away from us? They’ve worked so hard to fill their resumes with high grades, SAT scores, leadership, community service, sports, or music. Yet, these kids who look perfect on paper can’t handle the daily demands of life on their own. How much of the failure is our fault? 

According to Dr. Walters, our kids aren’t prepared for college. She said, “Part of the reason is our instant gratification society. They want everything right now—and get it with technology like streaming, etc. They don’t learn self discipline. They don’t have to wait for things, like we did.”

She said, “I know it sounds contrary or strange, but kids who come from dysfunctional families and had to take care of themselves are more equipped to deal with everyday problems, compared to kids who had parents who did everything for them.”

“Also, A lot of kids don’t learn how to work hard. If you’re smart, you don’t need to work hard in high school, and then aren’t prepared for college. Our kids need skills like planning ahead and self discipline.”

Here’s another thought she had, “College is totally different. Class time is switched and it’s the opposite of what they are used to. They are used to spending eight hours in class and studying a smaller amount of hours at night. In college it’s two or three hours a day of class, but they need to study for six to eight,” Dr. Walters said.

Today on TV, I heard a Stanford expert, Julie Lythcott-Haims, talk about her book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” She says we are literally ruining a generation of kids. She said it’s not just at Stanford, but in colleges throughout the country. You can read more here.

This week on SwimSwam I list the things we do for our kids that we need to stop doing. Like today.

We are smothering our kids and crippling their self development. I know this because I’m guilty of a ton of it. I’m looking back at how concerned I was with performance, how busy my kids’ lives were, and because of those two factors I jumped in and did too much for them.

My kids being kids. They're okay despite my hovering.

The kids are okay despite my hovering.

Here are links to a couple other stories I’ve written about getting our kids ready and self-sufficient for college:

My Confessions as a Helicopter Mom 

10 Things Our Kids Need to Know Before College

If we as parents are over parenting like the experts claim, then what should we do to help our kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

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?