Are You a Helicopter Parent?
Helicopter parents. I’m sure you’ve met them before. You may even be one.
Plain and simple, they are parents that constantly follow their children around in order to prevent any negative experience that might potentially damage their self-esteem or hinder their safety. Their motives are sincere, but they often hurt their children more than they help them.
The following 8 scenarios will help you know whether you struggle with helicopter parenting.
1. You refuse to let your teenager go on a mission trip because you are afraid something bad is going to happen to them.
2. Your 9-year-old son still has training wheels on his bike because without them he would most definitely fall and scrape his knee.
3. Your toddler is only allowed to play on the playground when you can walk by her side and make sure she doesn’t hit her head.
4. For Christmas, you give your husband an alarm system with cameras to hang throughout the house so that you can keep an eye on your kids while you are at work.
5. You rewrite your daughter’s research paper because you know it’s a big part of her English grade.
6. You schedule a meeting with your son’s baseball coach because he is not getting as much playing time as you think he should.
7. You refuse to let your high school son ride the bus to school because you want to protect him from the possibility of being called names.
8. You don’t let your kid play with the children in the neighborhood because they don’t come from Christian families.
Did any of these sound like your family? If so, there is hope for you! You can change your strategy with God’s help! Just in case you are still not sure about what I’ve written so far, check out this recent study.
One of the most recent studies on helicopter parenting came from UC Fresno management professors, Bradley-Geist and Olson-Buchanan. They surveyed 450 undergraduate students in all.
Students were asked to “rate their level of self-efficacy, the frequency of parental involvement, how involved parents were in their daily lives and their response to certain workplace scenarios.
The study results showed that students with helicopter parents had a hard time believing in their own ability to accomplish goals. They were more dependent on others, had poor coping strategies and didn’t have soft skills, like responsibility and conscientiousness throughout college.”
The Bathroom Floor
Helicopter parenting fails to help our children because it keeps them from learning valuable life skills. Just the other day, Cheryl and I were having a conversation with one of our children (who will remain nameless) about leaving his bathroom towel and dirty clothes on the bathroom floor after taking a shower.
Cheryl had noticed that he was doing this quite regularly. Instead of just picking everything off of the floor for him each time, she and I decided to make a teaching moment out of it. Interestingly, he didn’t seem to think it was that big of a deal and continued to leave his stuff on the floor.
Eventually, things came to a head and we more firmly explained to him our expectations and our thought process. We agreed with him that leaving his clothing on the floor was not a big deal in and of itself. What made his actions unacceptable was that a little sloppiness and disrespect left unchecked would lead to bigger areas of neglect as he got older.
Someday, that same sloppiness would more than likely cause tension between him and his wife over not keeping the house clean. That same lack of respect would backfire on him when his boss walks by his office and finds his desk and office a wreck. Even worse, he would pass that same bad habit down to his kids.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
So how can a parent love and care for their children without inhibiting their ability to learn important life skills? Parenting expert, Dr. Deborah Gilboa, offers the following wise words:
“As parents, we have a very difficult job. We need to keep one eye on our children now–their stressors, strengths, emotions–and one eye on the adults we are trying to raise.” Great advice! This is so true. I have also observed that the balance of the two (present and future) changes as they get older.
A toddler will need a lot more help with his present reality than a teenager. Toddlers are still learning how to walk, talk, and interact with other kids. They need us to protect them. A teenager needs a parent to focus more on making sure they know how to function on their own since they will soon be at college or be living out of the house.
Helicopter or Lighthouse?
A perfect example of this is the difference between a helicopter and a lighthouse. As your kids get older, your parenting style should resemble a lighthouse. Think about it. A lighthouse doesn’t go around chasing after the ships. Instead, it shines a beacon of light and communicates to the ships around it helping them to know where the danger lies.
Dr. Tim Elmore, author of 12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid: Leading your kids to succeed in life, shows us the distinct difference between the two functions.
- Hover and control
- Follow kids around
- Tell them how to behave
- Impose rules and regulations
- Check in and communicate
- Won’t chase kids down to enforce rules
- Let them know where they stand
- Offer wisdom (light) and guidance
Steps Away From Helicopter Mode
Perhaps you are reading this and wondering how you will ever become more of a lighthouse than a helicopter. The fact that you have made it to this point in this article tells me that you are definitely not a quitter and that there is hope for you. You obviously want your parenting to become healthier and stronger.
I have good news for you! With God’s help, you can change and begin raising your kids in a way that will prepare them for the future. The following steps will help you be most effective in your parenting.
1. Define what kind of characteristics you would like your child to have as an adult.
This includes their relationship with Christ, education level, financial goals, relational skills, and more. What do you want them to value the most when they get older? Make this a matter of prayer and discussion with your spouse.
2. Add actions steps to each of these characteristics.
For example, if you want your child to succeed educationally, you could start by spending more time with them on their homework. If it’s their relationship with God that needs to get stronger, you can do family devotions each night with your kids.
3. Be patient and reward the positive.
Raising kids is like growing trees! Growth happens over a longer span of time like months and often years. Make sure you reward them when you see them doing something mature. This happened with Trevor the other day. He is the new kid on his baseball team and he’s spent a good deal of time on the bench.
We have not heard him complain even once about it. Instead, he helps the other players and cheers them on. We told him how proud we are of his behavior. We bragged on him for a bit and we made sure that we did it in front of our other 2 kids so that they could see what kind of behavior was rewarded in the Reynolds home.
4. Pray for God’s hand on you as you parent.
There is no one you need more than Jesus! Cry out to him on a regular basis for your kids. There’s nothing that will change them for the better more than a relationship with God. Pray that God gives you divine discernment and the wisdom you need to be the best parent you can be.
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