Tips for Parents

How to Avoid Being a “Helicopter Parent”

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By Lorena Roberts, Uloop

If you don’t know what it means to be a “helicopter parent,” it’s pretty likely that you’re already guilty of this parenting style. It means you hover. You like to be involved in every aspect of your child’s life. You’re not just on the sidelines at all of their soccer games — you’re the coach, and the water-boy, and the cheerleader, and you bring snacks. Your children are grown up, but you still treat them like they’re five. You order their food for them at restaurants, you shop for their clothes, and you feel left out when they make a decision without you.

In short: you’re not good at letting go. 

Kids hate having the parent who hovers. The parent who’s always asking questions, who’s always trying to be involved. They hate having the mom who’s both the PTA president and the classroom parent volunteer. It might not be so bad when they’re young – it’s almost exciting to see your mom or dad at school! But by the time they’re in high school, the last thing they want is for you to know all of their business.

If you’re thinking you might be guilty of helicopter parenting, here are 5 ways you can be sure to avoid it:

Let natural consequences serve their purpose.

Sometimes the best way to parent is to simply let life show your child the consequences of their decisions. As you journey through life with your child, try to see yourself as more of a “counselor,” instead of a disciplinarian. Now, of course, this depends on the type of child you’ve raised. Rebellious, defiant children need a little more… love. But by allowing life to take its own course, you’re showing your child you trust them enough to let them make their own decisions, and even more, you trust them to be able to handle the consequences because of those decisions.

Allow your child to fail.

Parents often think they should take on the role of “fixer.” Especially the parents who are guilty of being a ‘helicopter parent.’ But allowing your child to fail can sometimes be the best way to parent. So instead of taking their forgotten lunchbox to school, or reminding them their permission slip is still on the kitchen counter, just leave it. Tell yourself you’re becoming a better parent because of it. If you’re constantly saving your child from the consequences, you aren’t allowing them to take responsibility for their own actions. Eventually, they’ll start relying on you to fix every problem they encounter in life.

Recognize your own feelings.

When you start pulling back, letting your child take ownership of their actions, it might feel a little bit weird — uncomfortable. You’ll truly have to resist jumping in and taking care of them. When you start to feel this way, tell yourself you’re a phenomenal parent. You’re doing the right thing. Depending on how hard this adjustment is for you, you might want to explore the possibility of keeping a journal, just to process your emotions.

Monitor your daily contact.

Once your kids go to college, there’s really no need for them to be calling you after every single class. Sure, on their first day, they want to share their thoughts about their professors, their hopes and fears for the semester. But there’s no reason you should be talking to your college student multiple times per day. If you’re the one initiating phone conversations, try letting them call you. Sometimes this can be tough — avoiding picking up the phone just to hear their voice isn’t easy. You’re worried about them; you want to make sure they’re happy and healthy. But trust me, they’ll call you when they want/need to talk.

Encourage your child to develop their own opinions/ideas.

Oftentimes, college is the place where students finally learn how to form their own opinions. They start thinking about life in different ways, on different terms. Politics, global warming, social issues, and different interests are all things college students have to face once they’re away from home. The more you support and encourage the development of their own ideas, the more prepared they’ll be as an adult in the ‘real world.’

Parenting is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. And most people who become parents, have no idea what they’re getting into. Helicopter parenting is what feels the most comfortable for parents who tend to be overprotective. Having only one child can lead parents to feel like they must constantly protect their prized possession. But in reality, the more you ‘protect’ your child, the more likely it is that they won’t be able to handle life on their own. You’ll still be doing their laundry when they’re thirty. You’ll be paying their cell phone bill after they have a stable job and are capable of paying it themselves. Don’t let yourself fall into the hole of being a ‘helicopter parent.’ You can do better.

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