Helicopter parenting. I’d heard of the term before but I never thought it would apply to me. Sure, I hated letting my kids out of my sight every time they went outside and I followed behind to make sure no harm comes to them but that’s normal right?
So maybe I took more interest in my kids’ schoolwork and edited some of their essays to ensure they got a passing grade. I mean, I know they would’ve done better if they hadn’t been so tired. There’s also that time I went up to my daughter’s music instructor and asked her to adjust her lessons. That wasn’t bad, I am her father and I know what teaching methods would work best for her.
Well, that’s what I used to tell myself.
Anytime I caught myself micromanaging any of my kid’s lives I’d find a way to justify it. I just didn’t realize how bad I’d gotten until my wife pointed out that I exhibited most of the classic signs of being a helicopter dad.
I didn’t set out to be one but somewhere along the way, my goal of protecting my kids had morphed into stifling them. Like most helicopter parents, I hovered above their lives, doing my best to ensure they came to no harm. If I wasn’t hovering, I was being a snow plow dad- going before my kids clearing all obstacles from their lives because I didn’t want them to come to any disappointment or harm.
After my wife pointed out my behavior, I took a step back and analyze my actions and motivations. I found out that helicopter parenting was not only detrimental to kids but to their parents as well so I resolved to make some changes:
I allowed my kids to make their own decisions.
Letting my kids make their own decisions was a huge learning experience for me. I was used to imposing my ideas and goals on them without stopping to think that maybe they would like something different. I started out by letting them pick the extracurricular activities they wanted, allowed them to decide how to spend their allowance and even involved them in making some family decisions like where to go on vacation. As a result, they became more confident and self-assured.
I started teaching them basic life skills.
I didn’t want my teens to go on to college without having some basic life skills, thanks to my helicopter tendencies. So I started teaching those skills that would help them become more independent and self-reliant young adults. With my encouragement, they opened bank accounts, got jobs and even learned to prepare several meals all on their own. I even gave each of them certain chores and responsibilities around the house to help them get ready for the real world.
I allowed them to fail and learn from their mistakes.
The hardest thing I had to learn was not to step in every time my teens made a mistake. It was tough for me to watch them feel the sting of failure or experience the consequences of their actions. My natural instinct was to protect them but I understood that failure builds resilience in kids. If I stepped in and rescued them all the time, they would never develop the conflict resolution or problem-solving skills that they needed to succeed in life.
Making the shift from being a helicopter parent to a more balanced parenting approach was difficult but the changes I saw in my teens was worth it. Now they’re more confident, independent, resilient and ready to take on the world.
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