Advice to Helicopter Parents- Stop Pissing Me Off


I was wearily overpaying for a pair of girl’s dress shoes at Nordstrom (Target was out) when I spied a sign for a shoelace-tying class.  Out of curiosity I casually inquired with the young lady helping me as to the target age of the children who attend these classes.  She leaned in close and checked over both shoulders as if she were going spill her darkest secrets, so I leaned in a tad too.  “You’d be surprised, ma’am (that word always stings a bit), but we see tons of ten-year olds who can’t tie their own shoes!  They’ve been wearing velcro their entire lives!”  I was aghast to hear this.  I really was.  Up until this point I was pretty certain shoelace-tying was actually a state standard for California.  I walked away in a bit of a fog, pondering the idea of a fourth, possibly fifth grader, NOT being able to tie his own shoes.  It seemed as ludicrous as it did frightening!

This led me to do a bit more pondering, at which I became increasingly frustrated and angry, about how Helicopter Parents are not only ruining their own children, but slowly dragging the rest of us down with them.  I have always known that I am a free range parent, one that does not cut the crusts off bread, peel grapes, never used a wipe warmer, used rubber bands to baby proof my house and has always held true to the notion that a parent should never begin a habit with her children that she doesn’t plan to keep up for a very, very long time (i.e. peeling grapes).

This doesn’t mean that I shun all forms of child protection…pool gates are a must, helmets are a good thing and allowing young children to watch inappropriate television or movie content is bad.  However, hovering, swooping in, protecting my children from all forms of adversity and keeping them from learning the true meaning of the phrase, “life isn’t fair,” are not part of my parenting plan.

What is the cornerstone of my master plan is teaching my children the following:

  • how to be personally responsible
  • how to be independent
  • how resolve conflict & negotiate
  • how to problem solve
  • how to self-regulate their behavior, emotions and reactions to situations

And this is how I believe the actions of Helicopter Parents are dragging me down and inhibiting my ability to support these attributes in my own children:

  • teaching their child that it isn’t his fault when he makes a bad choice…i.e. bringing a homework assignment to school when the child has left it at home rather than allowing him to suffer the consequences (this goes for lunches too.  None of our kids are going to starve if they miss a meal).
  • doing everything (i.e. projects, cutting food, making beds…and the list goes on) for a child who is clearly old enough and capable enough to do it herself.
  • swooping in every time the child has a problem or argument and taking over before the child has a chance to navigate and negotiate the situation on his own….i.e. calling the parent of a friend when someone isn’t nice, doesn’t get invited to a birthday party or has a playground tiff.  Children need opportunities to resolve conflict with their peers or they will never hone their skills to do so.
  • solving a child’s problems so that she doesn’t have to experience anything negative….i.e. going to the teacher about a grading mistake on a test.  Children need to learn to advocate for themselves, which, in turn, leads to improved problem solving skills.
  • making excuses for inexcusable or inappropriate behavior.  There are standards for behavior in a civilized society.  The younger our children are when they learn to regulate their own emotions and behavior, the better off they will be later on.  Ever heard of delayed gratification?  If not, you are probably a Helicopter Parent.

Am I being a tad harsh?  Probably?  Are Helicopter Parents really bad people?  Probably not.  However, there is a saying I like to use, “The road to Hell was paved with good intentions.”  And to Hell in a handbasket we’re going if we continue to coddle our children with grading policies that do not allow for them to fail, team sports that reward everyone, regardless of whether or not they earned the win, and recess periods that no longer allow for free play.

We’ve lost our common sense people, and I’m on a mission to find it.  So Helicopter Parents beware, you may one day find yourself spinning out of control because you have failed to arm your kids with important life skills, but you are not taking me, or my kids, down with you!

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2 Comments

Filed under Education, Parenting

2 responses to “Advice to Helicopter Parents- Stop Pissing Me Off

  1. Beth Roberts

    Curious, what is your opinion on homeschooling? You write a lot on traditional schooling but nothing on the choices we have (private, public,homeschooling)

  2. @Beth. Thanks so much for the comment. Around 2005/2006 I worked as a consultant for a small company that was trying to market it’s program to home school parents. This opportunity allowed me to attend several home-school conferences and observe how it works, etc. However, overall, my experience with home-schooling is limited.

    As with any school, there are positive and negative aspects to home-schooling. My personal experience was that many parents chose to home-school for the following reasons (this is also based on my experience living in Florida, the state w/the largest home-schooling population in the nation): they did not agree with the agenda being pushed in the public school, they did not have access to a good public school or alternative in their area, they felt they could cover more material and more in depth than other school environments, and for religious reasons. Again, this is just what I observed and heard from parents at these conferences.

    I believe that home-schooling can indeed allow parents to cover more information in a more in depth manner. I also believe that home-schooling better allows children to work at their own pace, whether it be faster or slower. There are also some fabulous home-schooling networks (I now live in CA. and have heard that from many people) that allow parents to pool resources and allow for their children to take some classes together and to socialize (not enough socialization is often seen as one of the biggest drawbacks of home-schooling).

    Some words of caution as a teacher. Teaching is harder than people think. Or should I say that being a great teacher is harder than people think. I am not sure all parents are cut out to be their own child’s teacher. I traditionally do not even advocate that parents tutor their own children, so home-schooling is a bit of a tough sell for me…from that perspective. I do see some advantages from other viewpoints (in the paragraph above).

    At the end of the day, it is a very personal choice, one that I certainly encourage parents to explore. If you need resources or contacts, please do not hesitate to get back with me. Thanks again for commenting!

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