Helicopter parenting: let your kids fly

Helicopter ParentDear Dr. Renaud:

I heard the term “helicopter parent” for the first time yesterday and now I’m wondering if I’m one of those too. I try to protect my daughter from bad things. That’s my job isn’t it? I don’t want any harm to come to her and this is a bad world we live in, so that’s what I do.

Good Mom

Dear Good Mom:

Yes, your job is to protect your children from harm, but, and this is a big BUT — your job is also to teach them. Parents often make the mistake of confusing protection with education. Your job as a parent is to teach your kids how to be self-sufficient. You’re supposed to prepare them for life, not protect them from everything.

Unfortunately, well-meaning parents are smothering their kids and raising a generation of marshmallows — they look like they have substance but they melt at the slightest heat. I’m seeing more and more of this in my practice and it concerns me.

Beyond “helicopter” is “cockpit parenting”, that’s where the parent isn’t just hovering over everything the child does, but actually drives everything. The child has no autonomy and isn’t allowed to do anything as the parent is doing it all for them. The poor kid is just along for the ride.

For the sake of your child’s development and self-esteem please stop hovering and smothering. You know if you’re doing this. Let them experience disappointment and failure. That’s the only way they’re going to develop self-confidence and resilience. I’m not advocating letting them play in traffic or anything extreme, but they do have to learn about consequences of their choices. Experience is a good teacher and if you don’t allow them to have some unpleasant experiences they won’t learn and, consequently, they won’t be prepared for life.

Talk about their experiences and use these experiences as teachable moments. Ask the child what they’ve learned from the experience and what they’ll do differently the next time.

Remember, your job as a parent is to prepare them for life.

Dr. Renaud