Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Helicopter Parenting is Spoiling Our Kids

This is a really great article from the NY Times.

Isn't is amazing how, despite going about life with the best intentions, there will always be someone telling you how much you are screwing up your kids??

Most of the time, I don't put too much stock in it. There are critics of every parenting method you take. There just are.

This one strikes a little close to home though. I just had a conversation yesterday with a lady at work whose son is in college. We talked about how much we do for the men/kids in our lives, how we end up totally enabling them and kind of joking about how they won't be able to function without us.

That's how I show love. I do stuff for people. I cook, I buy clothes I think they like, I put away laundry, I plan vacations. I am not the super touchy feeliest person. I don't express my love well in words. But in action? This is where I excel.

Turns out instead of raising kids that feel loved and taken care of and secure, I am creating little monsters that are completely un-self-sufficient.

Now, besides the love = action stuff, there were other concepts I could relate to in this article. For one, I don't want to let my kids fail. But failure is part of learning. I have to get comfortable with the fact that they will fail, repeatedly, if they are to accomplish anything. I need to stop snow plowing away the obstacles.

I also don't give them a whole lot of responsibility around the house because a) I'm a control freak and they will do it wrong and b) it's just faster and easier to get it done myself vs instructing and overseeing them.

Then there's the part about ignoring the kids more. This makes total sense when you look at my two boys. Gavin got all my attention when he was little. Chad worked weekends and it was just the two of us, out doing fun stuff every weekend. By the time Sam came around, my job was more demanding, we were out and about at Gavin's events all the time, and he just didn't get that "center of the universe" attention. He is much more independent, will independently take on tasks and has no problem finding creative ways to entertain himself for a long time.

Big sigh. In parenting there are no "right" answers unfortunately. It is important to reflect on what you are doing, and why, and where there are opportunities to improve. This passage, in particular, hit home.

Madeline Levine, a psychologist who lives outside San Francisco, specializes in treating young adults. In “Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success” (HarperCollins), she argues that we do too much for our kids because we overestimate our influence. “Never before have parents been so (mistakenly) convinced that their every move has a ripple effect into their child’s future success,” she writes. Paradoxically, Levine maintains, by working so hard to help our kids we end up holding them back.

“Most parents today were brought up in a culture that put a strong emphasis on being special,” she observes. “Being special takes hard work and can’t be trusted to children. Hence the exhausting cycle of constantly monitoring their work and performance, which in turn makes children feel less competent and confident, so that they need even more oversight.”

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Anonymous said...

I have been eager to read Levine's book, for a lot of the reasons you describe. With Daphne being so fragile, I have to be so careful to protect and control when that is necessary, but still allow her some independence. Lucy is a lot like Gavin. She was the center of attention and still craves it. She is not one who will entertain herself creatively, whereas Daphne will make up little worlds using dolls and Legos and gets lost in play. Lucy is also petrified of failing. I was a mess yesterday because I put a ton of pressure on her to take the deep water swim test. She was ready, but had not taken it for weeks, convinced she was going to fail. Thankfully she passed, but had she not I would have had to deal with the repercussions of "making" her take it. All I can say is we do the best we can.

Bridie Sellers said...

The first/second child dynamic is interesting for sure. I know in track this year, Chad would get frustrated with Gavin not being motivated to practice or not putting forth his best effort at practice all the time. Rather than forcing it, I said we needed to let him figure out that if he didn't practice hard, he wouldn't see the results in competition. Really hard to let them learn those lessons on their own. I just want to protect them and make their lives easy for as long as I can!