The term “helicopter parent” has been around for long enough now that most of us are familiar with the concept that even in parenting, there can be too much of a good thing. Even though parents have access to loads of resources informing them of how to raise a child who is kind, successful, ambitious, obedient, respectful, hardworking, and compassionate, they forget about this highly useful little concept known as balance. While having access to all this parenting information is usually super helpful, it can also lead parents to believe that they need to do all of it. All of the parenting stuff, all at once.
It can also give us the illusion that we are fully responsible for our children’s success. I’m here today to tell you to take a load off parent. Odds are you will be doing your child a favor. Sit back, put you feet up, and go check your Facebook feed. If you identify with the majority of the following signs, you may need to reclaim the sweet spot between being an intentional parent and being a suffocating one.
1. You consistently overschedule your child.
You want your child to be athletic and popular, and if they don’t start basketball by first grade, the’ll never be ready for the club team! Your good intentions are translated into exhaustion on their part, resentment on yours, and the always resounding question of “When was the last time we had a family dinner together?” If it is more stress than it’s worth, it probably isn’t in your child’s best interest.
2. You do their homework for them.
You know that school is the foundation for future success and are determined that your child put their best foot forward. It is easy for these good intentions regarding schoolwork to result in parents taking it over. By taking the reins on your child’s schoolwork, you are communicating to them that they are not capable of doing it themselves. It is also teaching them learned helplessness, which leads to the logic of “Why even bother trying when I know Mom will end up doing it for me anyway?”
3. You don’t let them resolve their own conflicts.
You’ve read up on positive communication and, frankly, could navigate a hostage situation like a Zen ninja. So why wouldn’t you step in and give your daughter eight-point instructions on how to approach the girl who’s been teasing her in art class? Because in doing so, she is robbed of the opportunity to learn how to work through social conflict on her own. If your child opens a dialogue, be a good listener and ask her what approach she’d like to try first. This will go far to develop problem-solving skills that will prepare them for the other inevitable relationship struggles down the road.
4. You are overly critical.
You so desperately want your child to do things the “right” way, you sometimes (or all the time) find yourself involuntarily “imparting” knowledge through lecturing and criticism. Your son came home to vent his embarrassment at school when he forgot his math homework at home and he was called out for it in class. Internal panic signals telling you that your son is destined to become a lifelong slacker provoke you to rake him over the coals for the next 10 minutes. The problem is that he has already learned his lesson from the natural (and more effective) consequence of embarrassment that life delivered to him earlier. This excessive criticism will not only create unnecessary anxiety for your son (because you gave him yours) but will also lead to the tendency for him to become overly critical of himself.
5. You make their choices for them.
You know your child best, so why wouldn’t you take every decision of their day into your own hands? After all, you are sure your daughter would be happier in ballet class as opposed to karate (despite her requesting it on multiple occasions). When a child is old enough, giving them room to make some of their own choices will lead to confidence and self-discovery. Allowing your child to choose what they would like to participate in will lead to increased dedication and commitment to the activity.
6. You are overly protective.
You so desperately love your child and, therefore, naturally want to protect them from the disappointment and heartbreak in life. The problem is that you’re protecting them so entirely that they are unable to experience disappointment, fear, frustration, or pain. You are certainly your child’s protector for the big things in life, but remember that one day they will need to get by on their own. Many times it’s the most painful lessons in life that give us the skills, self-knowledge, and resilience to cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs.
It is certainly not an easy endeavor to find the elusive sweet spot between nurturing and supporting your child and stifling opportunities for growth and development. A great place to start is cultivating the awareness that we as parents don’t hold our child’s destiny in our own hands. Luckily, life has a way of presenting its key wisdoms and lessons to our children, if we can just step back enough to let it.