This is my third article about parenting youth, specifically adolescents. This article will focus on “helicopter parenting,” overscheduling and how our children have become members of the “teacup generation.”
Have you ever watched parents’ engaging with their child on the playground or on the ball field, at school, or at scouts and thought they were hovering over their child? One of our generations greatest disservice to children is something defined as “helicopter parenting.” This expression was presented in the book “Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility” as an ineffective parenting style. Basically the parent lingers over the child from the womb and continues into adulthood by relentless contact with teachers, disagreement about a child’s grades on exams and report cards, worrying about them going off to camp, scraping their knees and superfluous micromanagement of their lives. These children never learn how to fend for themselves and are unable to solve their own problems. As a result, the child, teenager and later adults lack the confidence and ability to make daily decisions and often expect that the world will cater to his or her needs. The child has not learned to cope with basic disappointments and has no survival skills other than calling Mommy and Daddy to rescue them. They feel entitled to receive an A without providing the work in school, that they should be on first string of their sports team even though they lack the ability and finally be able obtain a promotion at work without having achieved success at their current position. The intent by the parents may be to make things easier but the results are disastrous. The Merriam‐Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary just added the term helicopter-parent to its 2011 edition. Its definition: “a parent who is overly involved in the life of his or her child.”
The best support a parent can give is letting a child fall on his or her derrière when they are young and not over respond. Children wait to see how their parents react before they do. If you teach them tools by modeling, reading aloud to them and other means they will follow your lead. The rest of their learning will occur by making mistakes. I am not suggesting you neglect your child. Or refuse them appropriate emotional comfort. But you have to know where to draw the line. For example, if your child falls, it is reasonable to check for an injury before sending them back out to play. If they receive a bad grade, you can help them obtain tools to improve their situation. If they don’t receive a job promotion you can offer moral support towards future attempts. You don’t pretend that they are perfect little angels who should automatically receive A’s in school, be picked as a starter on the football team or given the raise at work just by virtue of their existence. You can teach techniques for them to achieve their goals and do better in the future. With each misstep, a youngster learns how not to make the same error again, if you let them figure it out for themselves. Albert Einstein, the German born American physicist wrote, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Trying new things helps your youngster to figure out what the true journey is for him or her.
In addition to hovering, many parents overschedule their children. These youth have to participate in a sport every season or some similar function. Mom and Dad frequently make these selections. Sure, it helps to build character to be in scouts or play an instrument or participate in sports but there needs to be some down time for your child (and you too) in order to recuperate and just have fun. Also while it is great to encourage your child, be sure he or she really wants to participate. The power of choice will help with decision making in the future. For example, if keeping them busy is really important to you, suggest that they choose from a
variety of possibilities such as chess, softball or playing in the marching band. Make it a win-win either way.
Finally, the expression “teacup generation” fits many young adults to a tee these days. Some university professors have called incoming freshmen (as well as other Generation Y youth) by that name because “they will shatter if asked to handle their own problems.” As a result of making decisions for your child, demanding that they receive good grades whether they have earned them or not, overscheduling them, and expecting immediate results, these young people have become very brittle.
My advice to you is to give your children plenty of opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them; to encourage them to make good choices and plan their own schedules; and to show them strong parental support without always coming to their rescue. After all becoming independent of you is really the greatest gift you can bestow upon them.