Helicopter Parents

When I was in the fifth grade I told my dad about how I had gotten into an argument with a classmate, Michelle, and that she was being really rude to me. I do not even remember what the argument was about now. What I do remember is my dad calling her mom, complaining to the principal and yelling at the teacher – accomplishing nothing other than embarrassing me in front of all my classmates (who still talk about it to this day) and ensuring that if there ever was a chance for me and Heaven to resolve our differences, it was gone now.For the most part, my parents were good at encouraging me to reach my full potential without being overbearing. But I tell this particular story because it is an excellent example of how being too involved in your child’s life can do more harm than good. “The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting,” a Times magazine article by Nancy Gibbs, refers to this as “helicopter parenting,” and it applies to more than just bullies. Parents are not allowing their kids to play outside anymore or even walk to the store. Their logic is that there are bad people out there: murderers, kidnappers and child molesters.This makes a lot of sense especially if you watch the news on a regular basis. But according to Gibbs, crime is at an all-time low, and most child molesters are family members or close friends (Gibbs, 2009). What parents should be doing is teaching their kids what kind of things to look out for, who it is and isn’t okay to talk to, and where to find an adult if you need one. The fact is, you will never be able to watch your kid every second of the day. That is why instead of stepping in every time there is a problem, we need to teach our kids the proper way to deal with those problems themselves.As for parents who will not allow their children to play outside and force them to use hand sanitizer, it turns out that a little dirt is good for kids. It helps them build up their immune systems so they do not end up with a lot of health problems when they get older. One of the leading causes of both allergies and obesity in children is too much time indoors (Perry, 2011). But helicopter parents are usually concerned about more than just their child’s safety. Last semester I spent a few weeks observing one of the kindergarten classes at a local elementary school.What I found surprised me. Of the seven hours a day the students spend at school, they get one 15-minute recess. The rest of the day is filled with structured activities – most of which are done while seated at a desk. They took tests, did homework and were given letter grades and progress reports. When I asked the teacher about this system, she said the parents wanted it that way. They demanded letter grades for their children and insisted the students spend more time “learning” and less time “playing. According to Gibbs, this is becoming the norm for most preschools and elementary schools across the country (Gibbs, 2009). Parents want to do everything they can to ensure their kids reach their full potential, so they give them books that read for them, building blocks that come with an instruction manual and movies that teach Spanish. And they insist teachers follow a strict curriculum, even in preschool and kindergarten. In my opinion, it is not a bad thing for parents to want to be involved, but there has to be a limit.After all, the whole point of sending kids to school is to prepare them for adulthood. How is forcing them to sit at a desk and memorize facts preparing them for adulthood? For kids, especially younger ones, playing is learning. What we need to be doing is allowing them to develop social skills and teaching them how to use their resources to problem-solve and learn new things on their own. By trying to force them to reach their full potential, we are effectively limiting it, and kids are growing up hating school and resenting their parents.I had a classmate in high school whose mom would come up to the school every week and clean out his locker for him. I have friends in college whose parents call every day to make sure they are doing their homework. This reminds me of the old saying, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. ” If you give your kids the tools to succeed, they will succeed. And even if they fail, we can teach them how to learn from their failures.

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