The term “helicopter parent” was coined in a book where teens described overprotective parents as always hovering over them like helicopters. Perhaps the terms hover over mother or overprotective dad are more familiar to you, but all these mean the same. It’s the kind of parenting that makes sure their kids do not make a mistake or get hurt, emphasis on “makes sure,” because they go way out of their way to make the world perfect and danger-free for their kids.
Does this sound like you? Of course not, who would admit to being an overprotective parent right? To make sure though, let’s take a quick test.
- Do you tend to do for your kids things that they can do on their own? (Like tying their toddler sneakers or boots?)
- Do you feel the world is not safe for your child?
- Do you always protect your child from disappointment, failure, and pain?
- Do you keep them from making decisions, e.g. you always make the decision for them?
The stronger your “yes” is to these questions, the more likely it is that you’re an overprotective mom or dad.
Most of us have all sorts of excuses like, “He eats slow and messy when I allow him to do it on his own,” or “The other kids always tease her so I don’t let her play anymore.” The truth however, is that too much protection could cause more pain in our child’s life in the long run. This is because a “safe world” where everything is done for them prevents them from developing skills they need in life, whether that’s motor skills for tying their toddler shoes, or coping skills for handling disappointment.
So maybe you are not a hover over mother or a lawnmower dad (that’s another term coined for copter parents), or maybe you’re at the borderline, or maybe you’ve just realised that you are one, what should you do? Here is some helpful advice that are actually good for any kind of parent out there.
Prepare them for the future, not just protect them from the present
You want to remind yourself of this, that it is our role as parents to train them for independence, not to make them dependent on us. This goes the same way for kids playing in the pool and a teenage girl who’s starting to date. Teaching a child to avoid danger is better than shielding him from it. Training your girl to be a good judge of character is better than scaring bad guys away. Better said than done, of course, but it’s good to be aware and to always keep trying.
Check your motives
Where are your decisions coming from? Are you lazy to clean up their mess, their toys, and their toddler sandals? Are you too tired to explain to her why she should give way to her younger sibling?
We all have our reasons and sometimes it’s not really a good one. It’s true that we need rest too as parents and so sometimes we’re lazy to clean up kids who spent an afternoon in the garden. But this should be an exception rather than the rule. Kids need room to play in order to grow in skill.
How can you trust a 3-year-old right? It takes a lot of discipline to train a child, that is, discipline on the side of the parent. You have to explain things, model it, reward obedience, and repeat these all over again. Even after we’ve trained our child, we still find it difficult to trust them. Sometimes it’s because it’s way to risky, but at times it’s because we have not yet given them a chance. So this one takes a lot of exercise, and trial and error. But it pays to start with little things.
Entrust them with a task like putting their little toddler shoes at the right place or sweeping the floor (even if it doesn’t get swept properly). Then observe how they do it. As you give them more opportunity to prove they’re trustworthy, you’ll also find yourself trusting them more. And they will also learn to trust in themselves! First step though is to take a small risk.
These are but a few of the things we can remind ourselves as parents. Moreover, these are not just for helicopter moms and dads, it’s for every parent out there who is learning to be a parent. And we all are, no one has really perfected the skill.