ThursdayMan | el hombre del jueves

Are you a helicopter parent?

Posted in Family by James Pat Guerréro on 02/24/2011

Family Events
“Prepare the child for the path,
not the path for the child…” 

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qotw-Q.gifMost of the parents I know are very overprotective. They won’t let their kids walk to school, ride bikes to the park or stay at home alone for even short periods of time. I’m comfortable allowing my 10 and 12-year-old children do these things, but I’m not comfortable with the snide comments from other parents questioning my judgment. Sometimes, they even say things in front of my kids that can be scary, like, “Aren’t you worried they’ll be kidnapped?” Any advice for coping with these parents? Post answers on our Family Events Facebook Page.
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qotw-A.gifLast week we asked Family Events readers to offer advice on taking control of the family calendar when activities and obligations crowd out family time. Here’s what our own FE experts had to say: 

Just do it. You’ll never have this time again when you are all together. How many things on your calendar will be important, one week, one month, or one year from now. If you can’t do that, take time at bedtime or wake up a few minutes early and spend a few moments connecting with each of your children. Also, disconnect any technology and talk. Too many kids are texting or playing video games while being toted here and there. Talk. — Chrystal

If the calendar has become your enemy, take control using it instead as your ally: schedule in a family evening and set it aside on the calendar so nobody in the family can double-schedule by accident. —Kami

You don’t need advice–you already know what you have to do. You must decide as a family that you want to make time to be a family. Then, you have to make the hard choices to make that happen.
— Sara

Be the parent, not the taxi driver
—Carl

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Last summer, with a writing deadline fast approaching, I had to face facts. I hadn’t been grocery shopping in a couple of weeks and we were out of food.

Really. No peanut butter. No baked beans. No rotting onions in the basket at the bottom of the pantry. My family was subsisting on Cheerios and left over Chinese.

There was no getting around it – we needed a major restocking. With my husband and college daughters off to work, and me hunkered down at my computer, I had no choice but to enlist my two younger children, 16 and 12, to do the shopping.

Keep I mind this wasn’t a quick run to the corner for milk and bread. When you’re out of flour, rice and dish soap, you know it’s going to be a big haul.

I made a list of groceries (aisle by aisle from the back of the store to the front, because we women know the layout of our grocery stores like the streets in our neighborhoods), and then sat down with the kids for some quick coaching. “No fighting. No Pop Tarts. No bulk candy. And put it all away when you get home.”

Then, because I knew I wouldn’t resist the temptation to unload groceries when they returned, I went to the library and set up shop in a study carrel. When I returned home at the end of the day, I found a pantry full of staples, a fridge full of produce and a freezer stocked with beef, chicken and pork. They even cleaned the strawberries.

In my mind, the only remarkable thing about this story is how many parents think it’s remarkable. Consider that my son is only two years away from leaving home for college. If he can’t find his way around a grocery store by now, we have a lot of catching up to do!

Yet many parents are more focused on helping their kids to achieve success in childhood pursuits, rather than rearing them for independence and autonomy.

The way to achieve independence is to gradually give our kids more responsibility as they grow up, and to accept that this process will include risks and even failure.

But increasingly, the quest for a successful and risk free childhood is eliminating the chance for kids to learn-by-doing. The result? Kids who believe they’re not capable of negotiating the world in which they live.

For example, some school districts now prohibit children from walking or riding a bike to school on the grounds they’re unsupervised by an adult. And police have been called to investigate cases of children simply riding their bikes unaccompanied in their own neighborhoods. (See more examples at FreeRangeKids.com.

In this environment, parents are unsure of when it’s OK to leave children at home alone, or let them go to the mall or the movies with friends, or even answer the home phone. Some parents literally won’t let their children play outdoors – even in their own front yards – for fear of “bad strangers” lurking in the bushes.

Responsibility and risk go hand in hand. By gradually helping our children to take on limited responsibilities when they’re young, we build their capacity to handle greater responsibilities as they mature.

I won’t lie, one of the hardest jobs in my years as a mom has been giving my children opportunities to take care of themselves, knowing that there are inherent risks in the process. Not every attempt at self-sufficiency has gone swimmingly, either! But I’m certain of this: investing our children with the freedom to grow in responsibility ultimately builds their competence, self-confidence and self-esteem.

Each experience – whether it’s a bike ride to a friend’s house, a trip to the grocery store or even a journey abroad – all prepare them for the path to adulthood.

There’s an adage that says, “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” We can’t smooth out all the roads our kids will take in life. Better we should raise them up to take good care of themselves along the way, knowing that they’re strong, capable, resourceful and resilient.

Thanks for reading and sharing Family Events!

Take good care until next week,

Marybeth

Articles to Follow
022411-free-range-kids-article-125.jpg Learn to let go and give kids more freedom – safely – on reality TV! 

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022411-babyzone-article-125.jpg Babyzone.com quiz: Are you a helicopter parent? 

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022411-college-bound-article-125.jpg Collegeboard.com quiz: Are you a college-bound helicopter parent?  

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022411-gps-article-125.jpg GPS trackers for school kids?  

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Bookstore
This week’s best buys at your local bookstore
free-range-kids-book.jpg Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry  

by Lenore Skenazy

One mom’s quest to dispel the myths that are ruining childhood in America.

dangerous-book-boys-book.jpg The Dangerous Book for Boys  

by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden

Climbing trees, playing marbles, tying knots, reenacting the battle of waterloo – anything but video games!

do-hard-things-book.jpg Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations  

by Brett Harris and Alex Harris

Exploring the radical idea teens can tackle tough stuff and make a difference!

childrens-treasury-book.jpg The Children’s Tresury of Virtues  

by William Bennett and Michael Haque

A classic for every family library!

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