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Helicopter Parenting

I recently heard a wonderful talk about what we know as “helicopter parenting”. The term “helicopter parenting” was first used in Dr Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Parents & Teenagers, by teens who reported that their parents would, “hover over them like a helicopter”. The term became so widely used that it was included in the dictionary in 2011. Included in the dictionary!!! That is the extent of this phenomenon in our society. Given the enormity of the issue today, the term now has developed a variety of sub-categories. These include, “lawnmower parenting” (whereby parents run ahead of their children to mow the lawn before they walk on it), “bulldoze parenting” (whereby parents mean to protect the child from all short-term harm), and even “blackhawk parenting” (whereby parents, in an overly aggressive manner, come in “guns blazing”, right to the very top, demanding action. They start at the principals’ office, no matter the issue)

As a parent myself, I fight the helicopter parent impulse every single day, and sometimes I lose that battle. However, it is clear that this generation is creating psychologically fragile children. Anxiety in our children is rising at an alarming rate. Our children need to solve their own problems. They need to go through difficult times. This includes allowing them to have social problems with their friends. It means allowing them to go without lunch when they have forgotten it. It means letting them deal with failure and hurt. Not all the time, and not on an ongoing, abusive basis. However, they need to experience unhappiness and challenging circumstances in order to develop resilience. This sometimes looks like short term anxiety – and we need to let them sit with that. We guarantee that things will go wrong for your child, because they are on a learning curve.

Some suggestions: don’t carry their bag (no matter how much they complain). Do not pick them up. Once they can walk, they need to walk for themselves. Expect them to assist with or later independently prepare their own healthy snacks and lunches. Expect them to clear the table, wash up dishes, assist with household chores. Do not pay them to do this. You do not get paid to do household chores and neither should they. It is not your job to do this alone, they are part of a family and chores should be handed out equally between all family members. Of course they should first have lessons on how to complete these tasks (we call this scaffolding. We give lessons then back away slowly as we see that a child is able to do it by themselves. And then we do not give in – they must do these tasks). We are preparing for life as an adult with all its responsibilities, and the ability to deal with its pitfalls.

At a school level, we can see some of this manifesting in the engagement of parents with staff. Whilst we encourage these positive relationships and we try to give plenty of information to parents, we also believe that parents need to allow their children to just “be” in school. If you have a serious concern, please do contact the teacher. That is your first port of call. If, on an ongoing basis, an issue is not being resolved with a teacher, then you might want to contact me.

A wonderful article, providing perspective on this issue can be seen here: http://theconversation.com/bulldozer-parents-creating-psychologically-fragile-children-32730

On the whole, I look around and see a beautiful community of well rounded, independent, polite young people. For the most part, our parents do a fabulous job. Keep up the good work!

Raquel Charet

Principal