We went camping with some good friends this weekend in western Maryland. It was a great time of camp fires, hiking and s’mores. And my little one, Will, got the dirtiest he has ever been. It was heaven on earth for him.
He’s only eleven months old, but I am already working on not being a helicopter mom. I’ve decided that he needs to make his own mistakes, learn some things the hard way, and eat some sticks and dirt along the way. Yes, I watched my child eat dirt and sticks this weekend and I didn’t stop him. Now, when he went to eat a rock, I stopped him. Those can be hard to poop out if he didn’t choke on them first. But dirt? It comes right out. Tiny bits of sticks? Yep, those come out easy too. So I let him.
My mom is a kindergarten teacher and she has told me so many horror stories of helicopter parents of some of her students. You know the ones: those that hover outside of the classroom door to make sure class is going their way, those that come in to help with a class party and completely take over the child’s gingerbread house, those that micro-manage every aspect of their kids’ lives, and those that call a full on conference at least twice a week to discuss every aspect of every issue their child had that day. To those removed from the situation it’s funny to hear how ridiculous Helicopter Mom was today, but it’s a very real issue our society has.
When we take care of every little piece of our child’s life and never let them have the freedom to mess up or try things, we take away so much from their childhood. Not to mention that we make everyone else around us crazy.
Helicopter parenting does a disservice to our children.
The point of parenting is to eventually raise up a functioning, independent adult. If I am always taking over when my child tries to do something, how is he ever going to learn to do it well? If I never let him try anything, how will he learn in a way that will stay with him? In addition, when he grows up he will look to others to resolve all of his problems rather than learning to resolve them himself. I believe trial and error is typically the best way to learn and I would rather my kiddo to fail when I am there to pick him back up and can help him start again rather then when he is out on his own. I want him to learn to deal with problems on his own and to fail well.
Obviously, there are times that children need a little extra supervision: i.e. when there is a major safety issue, if there has been a recent issue with disrespect or unkindness, or you just don’t have the time that day to give him a bath before dinner at a restaurant. Now, scrapes and bruises are not life threatening and can be really good teachers. I’m talking about when you are taking your two year old to the pool for the first time. I’m going to stay with him in the pool whereas I’m going to let him run and be free on the playground.
The distinction is that a helicopter parent doesn’t know how to let go versus an observant and decisive parent that can see when there is real need for close supervision and when to let the child loose.
Will had a great weekend of eating sticks, getting crazy dirty and just exploring on his own. He made me cringe on occasion as he ate dirt, but he was having the time of his life, and it reminded me to let him explore on his own. Some day he will learn that eating sticks and dirt probably isn’t the best choice. For now, I’ll just laugh as he grins at me with a mud-drool trail running down his chin.