Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Helicopter Parenting: Approach with Caution

I read a great article from Time Magazine last night - "The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting" by Nancy Gibbs. Basically, the gist is that we're slowly realising that letting our kids be kids doesn't actually equate to bad parenting. In fact, thanks to the wonders of the internet, there are now many blogs and sites out there where parents can confess to their less-than-perfect moments and get a little reassurance that merely being human is a-ok. That if their kid would rather glue paper to their face instead of going to the Art Museum, that's ok. That if you don't purchase every piece of shiny battery-operated plastic claiming to 'educate' your kid, that's ok. That if you don't take them along to an extra-curricular activity every afternoon, that's ok, too.

And that's such a relief. I know as well as any parent the urgency with which one feels to make sure their precious bundle has every opportunity to succeed. To make sure they never go without, are never bored, not missing out on activities or toys or events that other kids experience. Unfortunately this means kids are getting less and less of a chance to just be themselves, to gain some independence and confidence and self-awareness. I think back to afternoons when I was little, hooning around the streets on my bike or flitting between friend's houses and going to the local shop for a 20c bag of mixed lollies. No mobile phone so Mum could keep in touch, not much more than a "be back before dinner". The thought of letting my daughter do that is a bit scary, but when I consider it, I was outside being active; taking the initiative and making up games with friends; learning how to safely get myself places; and taking the responsibility upon myself to be back home by teatime. Many of my friends walked by themselevs or used public transport to and from school without a second thought. Nowdays the traffic gets ridiculously congested around school areas because every 4wDrivin' parent 'needs' to drop their kid off at the school door. Heck even in Kindy we got the school bus by ourselves, with Year 6 kids appointed 'Bus Monitors' to look after us - responsibility all round!

Helicopter parenting, as it's termed (ie parents 'hovering' over their kids) isn't just for tots though. Nope, Time reports of parents attending College Enrolment Days to 'help' their kids 'choose' their subjects and get settled in. So how are these kids going to fare when the big wide world opens up to them? Will they be able to make risky business decisions, take the plunge and invent, chair coroporate boards - or will they expect or need somebody else to do it for them? And how will they in turn parent? Probably, hopefully, in the complete oppposite.

Nobody is a perfect parent. All we can do is our best in whatever way suits us. I think we can all take a leaf from our kid's books, so to speak, and try to remember what it's like being a kid -and then take a step back and let our kids be just that.

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