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How to Avoid Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter ParentsThere’s been a lot written these days about “helicopter parenting” — parents who hover over their children so closely and so long that their children never learn important life skills.  Helicopter parents lodge roommate complaints for their college-aged kids, negotiate their children’s salaries at their first real jobs, and simply can’t let go.  But none of the articles felt as valuable and instructional for me, as the parent of a 3-year-old, as Bella English’s recent column in the Boston Globe. She reminds us about the simple life skills our parents taught us, and how we have no one to blame but ourselves when our kids, as young adults, don’t know the basics of self-sufficiency.  But, in her masterful fashion, English does it in the gentlest of ways.  It inspired me to make a list of some of the life skills I never appreciated when I was learning them, but now value fully and need to make an effort to pass on to my own daughter.  Here are just a few:

  • My dad made me help him fix running toilets, change the snow tires on the car, and accompany him to Jiffy Lube every 6,000 miles.
  • My sisters and I were not allowed to watch TV unless we were also folding laundry. And if you wanted a specific outfit available on a specific day, then it was your job to wash and iron it.
  • We had to take the public bus to religious school (double punishment).
  • Raking the leaves and mowing the lawn (with a hand mower) were marketed by my parents as recreational opportunities, and we bought it.
  • You want a pet?  You feed it and clean its bowl — and then flush it when you didn’t do the first two well.
  • You want to go to a friend’s house after school or on the weekend? Go happily, but find your own ride (deftly paired with the: You want to borrow the car to go to your friends house? Fine, but you have to drop you sister off along the way).

All that said, I think the best lesson I learned from my mom involved an insane amount of interference. It was this: Go ahead and use all the bad grammar you want. Just know that I will correct you every single time.

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