Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Experts Say "Parents, Get Out of the Helicopter!"

A year or so I took my first helicopter ride with a friend who is a rescue pilot in Texas. I loved it. The view was great even on a rainy day. It was fun looking over the traffic instead of being immersed in it.

However, it is one thing to ride in a helicopter.  It's very much another to live so to speak in one. And a number of studies the past couple of years have suggested that all the hovering parents tend to do these days to manage, control and manipulate only positive results in their kids lives is not helpful. 

A recent University of Washington study suggested,  Children of helicopter mothers were more depressed and less satisfied with life, and felt that they had less autonomy and were less competent.

"We think when parents are over-involved with their kids lives, they're undermining their sense of competence, both by sending a message that says, I think you can't do it yourself, and robbing them of the opportunity to practice those skills."

Many parents literally fly over and around their children on a regular basis thinking that they will help them prepare most effectively for the future. What they don't seem to know is that they are actually stealing healthy growth, independence and maturing from them.

As a result many kids not only have to have the best of everything these days - teacher, trainer, grades, experience, status on the team. They also have to look like it so every picture has the perfect smile, outfit and location.

Facebook for many is no longer just about communication. Much of it has become competition among parents to show how wonderful their offspring have done in life. Families subtly (or not so subtly) wage war to boast the best vacations, awards and even stories about the famous people their children have met or studied under.

So what does the research seem to imply to any of us who may be flying too closely to our kids?

Lighten up. Get out of the way. Let your children become more independent, make more and more decisions, learn from their mistakes and be imperfect. Of course, we should always be there for guidance and advice. And yes, there are boundaries we are free to have as long as they live in our house and we're paying the bills.

Provide some practical opportunities for your children to taste and develop independence. Even an elementary school child can learn from his or her mistakes or have to go to a teacher or friend and make things right. As they get older widen the path and add more responsibility with appropriate rewards or losses just like they would experience in their future education or work experience.

Admit your inappropriate role as a parent in staying too close. Are you trying to live through your child? Are their unresolved issues and events from your past that are causing you to put needless and unhealthy pressure on your kids? Talk to someone about it if need be but don't require your kids to carry your stuff around with them.

Maybe it's time to land that helicopter and just enjoy being back on the ground for a while.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

1 comment:

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