The expression "helicopter parent," while not a new term for those of us who protectively hover over our children with our "we can fix it for you" toolkit, remains just as unflattering as it was when it first took off (get it?) in the 2000s.
We have become the pariahs of the parenting world, our efforts mocked and derided. Now we are even being told that our good intentions may have caused more harm than good and our young adult children are being advised to find ways to ground us in the hangar.
Me? I'm not buying. There's nothing new about young adults blaming their parents when they stumble over the potholes of life. Shrinks' couches have been filled for generations with young adults placing blame for their failures at their parents' feet. Here's how helicopter parenting looks from inside the cockpit:
1. The death penalty is a bad idea.
Consequences shouldn't outweigh the crime, and helicopter parents are there to ensure they don't. There was a year in elementary school when my daughter regularly forgot her violin on music day and my husband drove to school each time to deliver it to her. The penalty for not having your instrument was being banished to the library to reflect on your sins and where everyone would know you were "the kid who forgot her violin." All that was missing was the dunce cap and the corner stool.
For a second grader, this was an especially harsh sentence given the crime and the age of the perpetrator.
In general, the Helicopter Moms Club motto is "Praise in public, punish in private."
For what it's worth, eventually, most kids stop forgetting their violins. They learn better organizational skills and the value of setting reminders for themselves. And the other thing that happens, if you are lucky, is that they don't wind up hating music.
Yes, my husband and I conspired to thwart the system and dealt with the problem of our daughter's forgetfulness by absorbing the consequences of it ourselves.
Parenting requires compassion. Save the tough love for the big things like drugs and lying.
2. Helicopter kids don't get away with murder.
Everyone hopes that their kids will follow the rules, including the ones that say "use your indoor voice in restaurants" and "no, you can't run up and down the aisle of the airplane just because you feel like it." But those rules need to be fair.
For example, I don't condone playground violence, but I did empower both my children to defend themselves. My son felt very empowered when he finally nailed his fourth-grade tormentor to the ground at recess and stood over him, one foot on the bully's chest ala Napoleon. I'm told he smiled during his whole perp walk to the principal's office.
Yes, I was the mother who rushed to school demanding that the principal or teachers do something about the playground bullies. But at the same time I taught my kids that bullying doesn't stop just because you nicely asked it to. My son? He was never bullied again.
3. My helicopter is different than your helicopter.
There are no two helicopter parents who are exactly the same. Like everything else in life, it's a matter of degree. With the exception of those who think it's OK to leave their babies unattended while they score dope or shackle their kids to the radiator, I don't judge how others parent.
I didn't write my daughter's college essay, but yes I asked several editor friends to read it over. I'm not filling out her college applications for her, but I am going to proofread them before they are sent. I won't call college admissions directors on her behalf, but I am regularly on the phone with the financial aid folks seeking clarification on this or that.
Yes, I have heard the stories about parents who accompany their adult kids on job interviews. I don't know anyone who has actually ever done that, do you? I will say that helicopter parents tend to be close to our kids and they regularly seek out our advice. Who else do they know with successful work experience who has their best interests at heart? And while I won't go with them on a job interview, I will absolutely help them prepare for it and ask how it went as soon as it's over.
4. There is no manual for helicoptering.
The one thing all helicopter parents do in common is try to limit our kids' exposure to the evil forces of life: failure, disappointment, unfairness, and crazy people who commit mass shootings. There is plenty of that to go around, so believe me, they still get their taste of life not being fair.
We limit their screen time, make sure we know their friends, get involved in their schools, and spend lots and lots of time with them. Yes, some of us have been known to work on a diorama until 2 a.m.
In my family, we all stay in touch all day long. We text the family group when we get in the car and when we arrive at our destinations. We have dinners together almost every night and talk about our days. My kids know my co-workers, at least by name. Either my husband or I -- most of the time, both -- go to every soccer game and track meet that our kids are in.
What is derogatorily called "helicopter parenting" is just plain old good parenting, if you ask me.
5. Not all helicoptered kids are complaining.
My daughter loves structure and order in her universe. She makes lists, keeps a daily calendar, sets reminders for herself on her phone. She rarely forgets things nowadays, so I don't feel I need to remind her of anything very often. And while she's traded in her violin for a piano, her love of music survived second grade purgatory.
My son is a free-spirited but quiet guy most of the time. He turns into hell on wheels on the soccer field and is known around school as the kid who will jump in and defend others against bullies. It's good to have a reputation that precedes you.
As for me, I'll proudly keep wearing my chopper blades.
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