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.

17 Comments

  1. I admit I can be a helicopter parent at times. By nature, I am an anxious person, so I tend to hover around my children quite a bit. It mainly comes in the form of hovering for their safety…like at the playground or around water. My son took a major fall (head first) off of a playground structure 2 years ago, and it has scarred me since. Thankfully he is okay, but I am so, so anxious around playgrounds now. Every day I try to get better about it though. Especially as my kids are getting older. I am slowly but surely allowing them to have more independence and letting them learn for themselves.

    Reply
    • I totally get that Sumer. I am a naturally anxious person too and tend to hover. But through intentionally not hovering, we can break our natural tendency toward helicoptering! Stick with it Momma!

      Reply
  2. Great post! Helicopter parents drive me batty. I just want to scream at them, “Let your kid figure it out”!! It really is a huge disservice to them.

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  3. Good advice. I have a neighbor whose sons are in high school….they have never had a moment without their mom. It’s so sad. So sad. Nice blog

    Reply
  4. I love this post! Ha…ha…ha it takes me back to when my son was a baby (over 20 years ago!) and one day I went to change his diaper and there were worms crawling everywhere! I was a young mom, like 18 years old, and my precious baby was being eaten by worms! So I thought! I couldn’t get him to the doctor fast enough! Well, come to find out we all have worms…Ugh! However, the doctor told me this incident was due to eating dirt, lol. I had to give him medicine and all was good! Due to the education I had received I knew it was okay to let him continue to be a boy. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this because you, and your mom, are spot on! We have to give them room to be them and to grow and learn on their own. We can watch without interference from the sidelines. 😉

    Reply
    • Oh my goodness!! I had no idea that could happen! I’m so glad it worked out and it didn’t push you over into helicoptering after that!

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  5. Hilarious! I totally agree – kids need a chance to learn and explore (as long as it’s safe). And eating a stick is no big deal lol. Also — my husband’s family is all from Western Maryland we travel there a bunch 🙂

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    • That’s awesome! It was our first time over to Western Maryland. We just moved to the DC area in November so we are still working on exploring our new state 🙂

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  6. So much yes to this!!! Sometimes I worry that others are judging me for letting my kiddo make mistakes but I know it’s good for him in the long run!

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    • It’s so true Susannah! I regularly worry about that too but have to remind myself it’s best for him! Keep doing you!

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  7. This makes me feel better about my ‘dirt don’t hurt’ parenting philosophy. 🙂

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  8. Preach it! I totally agree with you and I try my best to raise my kids like my parents did me in the 80/90s. ?

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  9. I absolutely love this!! My girls are always running around outside, we live on a cul de sac with 5 houses on it so there is a lot of room to run and ride bikes and be kids. 4 of my girls are outside right now (11, 10, and my two 8 year olds) and I haven’t looked out the window once. They know all the rules, if you ride a bike or scooter put on a helmet, don’t be disrespectful to the neighbors (who adore them and love that they are always outside) I completely agree, kids have to make mistakes so they know how to fix them, they have to fail so they know that they can come back stronger, they have to know that I trust them enough to play on their front lawn. Every one has a different parenting style, no one is better than the other, but the parents who do every thing for their kids will probably be cutting their meat when they’re 30, but if that’s what floats their boat…so be it. LOL. Thanks for a great post!!

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  10. Wow i feel like I am a helicopter mom. How do i let go though? Just a bit

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    • I honestly tend towards helicoptering. I’m a very type A, in control person. I just have to be super intentional about backing off and letting Will learn on his own. Start small, just noticing little choices you make in parenting first. Stop yourself from running straight to his aid in the little things and it will start getting easier. You’ll realize how much they can do on their own and how much they enjoy learning to do it on their own. Good luck to you, Mama, and know you are still the best parent for your littles!

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  11. I love this post!! I can be that “Helicopter Mom” depending on the situation but for the most part of two years of being a mother i am not. I agree with you on letting our little ones have some sort of freedom and let them make their own mistakes, even at a young age.

    Reply

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