It’s time for another listener question. “Recently I was accused of being a ‘helicopter mom.’ Give me some help because I think the title might be accurate.”
We need to begin by defining the phrase “helicopter mom.” The term is about 15 years old. It refers to a mom (although it could also be a father) who hovers closely in an attempt to keep their child from harm and/or failure. Helicopter parents try to resolve their children’s problems at all costs and protect them from dangerous situation. The behavior has also been referred to as “overparenting”.
Although a parents’ desire to protect their child from failure seems noble, the truth is that failure is a natural part of life. Because it is inevitable, allowing your child to fail provides a wonderful opportunity to teach that child how to recover from failure. Please take note that “failure” might be as simple as a rejection in friendship or a grade lower than anticipated on an exam. It’s important to teach your child to recover because (and we repeat) failure in one form or another (academically, relationally, etc.) will happen.
What about protecting a child from the consequences? If the failure is the result of a poor choice made by the child and the consequence is not dangerous, it is best to step away. Obviously, if the poor choice was to light a fire and the child is dangerously close to the flame, you must rescue him or her from the consequence. If the poor choice was to fail to study for a test, the consequence of a bad grade can be a learning experience. In either example it is important to help your child determine how to avoid the poor choice and the consequence in the future.
It’s interesting to note that “hovering” can continue into the college years and beyond. College professors and employers are constantly dealing with parents who assume an inordinate amount of concern for their adult children’s affairs and feel a compulsion to intervene. Mom and Dad, NOW is the time to land the helicopter for the good of your child.
How have you resisted the temptation to hover?