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Voom. Voom. Voom. Do you hear that? It's the sound of helicopter parents, hovering around their children, wings of over-protectiveness beating at a half-mile per minute. If you don't watch out, you might get smacked by their well-meaning intentions.
I don't know when this happened, the idea that parenting meant overzealous involvement in every single aspect of our children's lives. My generation grew up in the last of the "look it up yourself" philosophy of parenting. How do you spell rhinoceros? Look it up yourself. How do you cook fried chicken? Look it up yourself. How do I ride the bus to the mall? Look it up yourself.
I hated that as a child. I loathed turning to dictionaries and phone books, encyclopedias and newspapers for answers my parents could have easily given me. Yet, that disregard for my instantaneous satisfaction gave me much more than quick answers to my queries would have given me alone. It encouraged a type of resilience I find lacking in many of today's youth, the kind that fosters self-sufficiency and adaptation in difficult situations. Basically, it's the stuff that keeps people grounded when things starts to fall apart; it's the ability to roll with the punches instead of having a complete meltdown.
Today, it's completely different. Kids aren't being held accountable for their mistakes, parents are overstepping their boundaries, and narcissistic, entitled young adults who cannot (and will not) cope with life's inevitable pitfalls are the end result. Is that really what we want for the generation that will be making decisions for us (and maybe wiping up after us) when we hit our senior years? Um, I'll pass on that. I'll take my future caregiver with a dose of fortitude and compassion, thank you very much.
If you sum up your job raising your children as equal parts security guard, referee, lawyer, sugar mama, homework-helper, snack-maker, taxi driver, private investigator, health analyst and talent agent, then you, my friend, might just suffer from over-protective parenting.
I hate to break it to you, but the solution to this problem starts with our parenting. If you sum up your job raising your children as equal parts security guard, referee, lawyer, sugar mama, homework-helper, snack-maker, taxi driver, private investigator, health analyst and talent agent, then you, my friend, might just suffer from over-protective parenting.
If you are reading this right now, and know (or even suspect) that you might be an over-protective parent, consider this your intervention. If you're not, then today is the day you commit to never walking down that road, for your own well-being and that of your children, too. Although helicopter parenting might not be in your genes or part of your heritage culture, as a mom straddling raising your kid to respect and honor two cultures, it can be easy to get caught up in social norms and start doing it.
Kids need room to do things that are very scary to parents. They need the chance to work out personal problems with peers and to negotiate with difficult teachers. They need to dress a wound on their knee, to cope with disappointment when they aren't chosen to play on a team, to earn the money to pay for things they've broken or lost, and even to fail when they didn't work hard enough on an assignment.
Children need these hard-to-swallow experiences the way they need fresh air, sunshine and healthy food, which are all vital to healthy growth and development. Making things easy for our children by removing every obstacle that stands in their way, excusing their mistakes and paying the price for their consequences robs them of the emotional development they need to be strong on the inside.
Randy Pausch, author of "The Last Lecture" wrote a brilliant quote about obstacles that I love.
"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough."
In his world, brick walls (aka obstacles that seem difficult to overcome) were opportunities to weed out the people who wouldn't try hard enough to achieve what they wanted.
All the organic food, free-trade cotton and homeopathic medicine in the world won't change the fact that a child needs to be challenged, to fall down, to get back up and figure out how to scale their own brick walls.
Give your children the opportunity to surprise you with their ingenuity and ability to overcome hardships. Foster in them the courage to move forward and create their own happiness, and stop relying on you to provide it for them.
These kids deserve to have a full-fledged childhood — bumps, bruises, hurt feelings and all. Those experiences are what create healthy, adaptive, self-sufficient, productive members of society, which, if you think about it, is the basic goal of parenting.
Letting your child learn from their mistakes might be difficult, but it is essential to their growth. The next time you find yourself hovering over your son or daughter, ready to undo whatever problem they've stumbled upon, stop.
Really, just stop. Take a step back and see what your child does on his or her own. Give them the opportunity to surprise you with their ingenuity and ability to overcome hardships. Foster in them the courage to move forward and create their own happiness, and stop relying on you to provide it for them.
The reward will come as they mature and develop into strong adults who can conquer whatever situation arises in their lives. That is the gift we should be working to give our children, even if it's hard in the interim.