Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Helicopter Parenting

Pardon me, if you and I have had this conversation; it may be boring for you to read this.

There's a trend I (and some magazines I've read) have noticed among parents currently--helicopter parenting. It is hovering over your children while they play and constantly directing them, re-directing them, and micro-managing every activity in order to have a controlled environment. This also leads into organizing activities to entertain children. ALL DAY LONG.

These parents cannot have a phone conversation with another human being because they are too busy hovering. These parents cannot get anything done around the house because they are too busy controlling their child's every move. These parents find themselves at their wit's end because they don't have anything planned for their kids to do today, and they're running out of ideas!

Well, I tried to be this kind of parent because I felt guilty for not doing as much with my kids as "so-and-so" was doing with her kids. It didn't work for me. I have always enjoyed letting my kids play in their room with their toys uninterrupted. I get more accomplished that way! I also have noticed that my kids sense that I trust them to handle situations. Occasionally, one will run and tattle on the other one. If I don't feel that it is a severe situation, I will tell them to work it out. If I think they need a mediator, I will step in. I don't ignore them--not entirely, at least. I just don't think it is very easy to be a kid when a grown-up is constantly there bossing you around.

I boss my kids around enough outside of their play time. I have nothing against play groups or outings--hear me out--but I wonder why so many moms feel like they have to be involved in so many activities. I take my kids to the library, sometimes. :) I go over and we play at friend's houses, sometimes. I just don't know for sure that it is always best to constantly try to find a way to occupy them. Plus, your kids learn that they must be entertained in life. And we all know, as adults, entertaining yourself endlessly only leads to sin.

Isn't childhood about playing and make-believe?

My kids spend most of their awake time doing one of three things--playing pretend, coloring, and playing outside on their bikes or in the dirt. Isn't that what adults miss about childhood? Would you miss it if you knew that the entire time a parent would be correcting everything you did while you were trying to have fun?

Now, I will say this: I believe it is my job as a parent to lead my kids in a God-ward direction. I do not allow my children to have a life free of consequences--just the opposite. I hand out consequences all day. However, I don't feel it is my job to make my kid feel like he/she is inadequate at living life. I won't correct EVERYTHING they do. I won't try to protect EVERYTHING we own. I will allow my kids to fail--that is a consequence in and of itself.

I have heard the other extreme of this--free range kids. A lady in NY let her 8 yr old (approx.) ride the subway alone in NYC. That is just stupid. You certainly must not put your children in situations where great danger could befall them. They have been entrusted to us. You cannot deny parental responsibility--and we must not neglect our children.

I hope to be somewhere in the middle on this one. What about you?


  1. Yep! I think constanly working to entertain kids instead of allowing them to discover ways to "entertain" themselves is a large part of why you have "kids" in high school and college that cannot focus long enough to attend a 50-minute lecture or feel that the purpose of their teacher and education in general is to "entertain" them. If it isn't "fun", they are not having it. I could not be more with you on this one....probably because I see the consequences first-hand.

  2. Amanda!
    We are right there with you. In fact, as the way our yard is set up we can watch how our children interact with one another and stay out of sight. Matt and I enjoy just being a spectator as they sort out behaviors, relationships, what is fair, and what games are most fun! As things need "mediation" as you say we will intervene or if we see a dangerous situation...but mostly we just let them play, in the sand, in the dirt, in the bushes, in the trees, on their bikes, and so forth! I think you are right on with this one!

  3. It's difficult to find the balance, but I think "somewhere in the middle on this one" it is the right way to go.

    Helicopter parenting is tempting, but it is not realistic. No matter how much we hover, there is no way we can protect them from everything that could harm them. No should we. Learning the lessons of disappointment or even getting a scrape on the knee every now and then are part of the process of learning how to be successful in this life.

    And as it pertains to activities: this summer, I have decided that some scheduling is a neccessity (though I come to that conclusion rather begrudgingly--as most self-described free spirits would), but I am trying to space it out where there is at least one day in between our out-of-the-house adventures, in order to give them some down time.

  4. I have struggled with this since bringing Bowden home from the hospital. I love schedules - it is one of my most ungodly characteristics. Please understand that I am NOT saying schedules are ungodly. They just are for me. They give me a sense of being in control. I am also a "go" person. from the time B was a baby, I have always been about going. Also a bit ungodly, sitting doing "nothing" has been a struggle, I feel like I am a better mother on the go.
    I also struggle helicoptering while my children play with other people's children. Should I step in and mediate during a problem? I am just never sure... I AM like you when we ARE at home and my little ones are playing. I try to let them work things out on there own. I also let them play outside, having fun on their own. Anyway, you really struck a cord with me... sorry to go on on your blog!!!

  5. To all who have commented thus far, it is important that I remind you all that I now live out in the sticks where there is nothing to do. :) Although, when we lived in Tulsa, I never felt compelled to GO all the time--but we had ONE CAR for 18 months as well--I think God used that big time in my life to help me be content at home to prepare me for life here in the sticks.

    Natasha, I hope the cord was a good one!? It is hard to mediate when you're with other people's kids. I *try* to be laid back when interacting with others. Just this morning, we went to this gardening thing at the library. A kid came over, shoved Sam out of the way and took his planting spot. Ticked me off. So, I gently tapped him and asked him to move (because his mom wasn't doing anything about it), and I gave Sam back his spot. You have to know your kids, and you have to trust the Holy Spirit's guidance as you parent--sometimes that may involve more intervention than other times. If anything feels like it is stretching you outside of your comfort zone, it might be good. I hope you get my spirit here!

  6. Amanda, it was a good cord. I am striving very hard to teach my children that they do not need to go go go after almost six years of taking them places all the time. God is really revealing to me about the appetities I stir up in myself and my children by needing to always be doing something, entertained, buying things....
    As for intervening... I tend to worry a lot about my children being the ones who push others out of the way...

  7. Good post :) This is something Mark and I have talked about several times. We're trying to 'practice' not being helicopterish now while Anna is still little, so that it's already a habit for us (and her and any sibs!) when she's older. We got one of those play-yard fence things and set it up so she plays in a confined space and can't see me, but I can check on her/hear her from the kitchen. I LOVE that she can now sit there for a good 30 minutes at a time and play and read her little books, without any intervention from me at all.
    This is something that goes *totally* against my micro-managing, controlly nature, so I think I'll always be a work in progress in this area..! But I'm encouraged to keep at it when I look at the results in other parents' kids. Like yours :) I know they're not perfect ... but they're pretty stinkin' awesome!

  8. This spills over into schooling as well -- even at the university level. I first heard this term 6 or 7 years ago when someone working at my university alma mater said they were having problems with helicopter parenting. It's definitely a major problem that's not getting any better, and it's taking responsibility away from our kids. We are training an entire generation of irresponsible, lazy individuals who can't do much for themselves! My daughter is little, but I sure hope I can stay away from helicopter parenting!

    Great post!

    (I found you through BlogHer ads!)

  9. i love this post. i am going to have to be careful to not be a helicopter mom. i see lots of my midland friends post on fb all the millions of activities that they drag their kids to do and just thinking about it wears me out! I love love love your ideas on this, and I would write more but M is crying.


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