Thursday, October 05, 2006
ARE YOU A HELICOPTER PARENT?
Helicopter Parent--Wikipedia defines this as “a term for a person who pays extremely close attention to his or her child or children, particularly at educational institutions. They rush to prevent any harm from befalling them or letting them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children's wishes. They are so named because, like a helicopter, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach whether their children need them or not.”
I was discussing this type of behavior with my friend Dan, a stay-at-home-father with a set of triplets and a pair of twins. We like to make fun of helicopter parents, because it’s fun and it makes us feel better about our own style of parenting. He told me he’s reading The Price of Privilege, which is a parenting book that explores why children of affluence are so depressed, angry and bored. This book suggests (among other things) that we should teach our children to be autonomous and we need to set boundaries between our lives and our children’s lives. The book says that a lot of parents have trouble distinguishing where their own life ends and the life of their child begins.
I’m surrounded by boundary-less, hovering parents who know WAY too much about their children’s world-- like when the next science quiz is, who’s taking whom to the prom, who’s doling out blow-jobs under the bleachers, and where you can score some smack. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating—I haven’t really heard any parents talking about where to score smack. But they do know other things.
This is in stark contrast to our parents of the sixties and seventies who barely knew where the school was and didn’t feel it was necessary to show up for every single blessed practice, rehearsal, game, and performance we attended. They just dropped us off and went back to their own lives, confident that we’d find our way home eventually. In fact, things were so lax-- we used to wait for the bus by ourselves! Yessiree, kids were kids and parents were parents and we were all slightly neglected.
Okay, maybe that wasn’t ideal either, but for some reason the pendulum has swung from a kind of benign neglect all the way to helicopter parenting in which we see parents calling college campuses to complain about the quality of the dorm food.
You may ask, How did we come to this? To which, after careful consideration and contemplation I say--I have no idea. But it ain’t right and I’m here to say stop the madness!
Maybe you’d like to stop the madness but you’re not really sure about your own parenting. You’re not really sure if you are a helicopter parent yourself and would like to know how to gauge your level of involvement. Well, a good rule of thumb is this--everyone who knows more about what’s going on in her kid’s life than I do is over-involved and everyone who knows less than I do is under-involved. Just kidding, (no I’m not, do you see the title of this website?)
Okay, that is a little bit subjective so I’ve devised the following scientific quiz you can take to find out where you fall on the spectrum of “neglectful to helicopter”. Good luck and no fair asking your kid for help.
1. Your toddler comes crying to you at the playground because another boy pushed him. You:
a. Tell him to go back and tell the boy to stop doing that
b. Find the bitch who brought the little felon to the playground and threaten to sue
c. Tell him to quit crying or you’ll give him something to cry about then wave your hand around like you’re going to smack him
2. Your 12th grade son is sad because the girl he asked to prom turned him down. You:
a. Tell him you know it’s disappointing but not everyone goes to the prom
b. Tell him he’d better start calling around because you already bought your chaperone dress and you are not going to miss prom this time around
c. Tell him to get used to it—life’s tough and then you die
3. Your daughter comes home from school and says all the kids were talking about a birthday party she’s not invited to. You:
a. Explain to her that no one is invited to every party and that’s okay
b. Call the mother of the child and say, “I’m sorry but Caitlin didn’t receive her invitation to the party. That darned post-office is so unreliable! What time should I bring her by?”
c. Tell your kid to quit whining—she’s lucky she ever gets invited to any parties
4. Your son forgets his social studies project that you reminded him to put in his backpack (three times) the night before. It is the fourth time this week he’s forgotten homework but this is for a big grade. You:
a. Leave it on the counter but it about kills you and you have to call two friends to make sure you’re doing the right thing.
b. Drive it up to school and make sure it gets taken to the classroom--you didn’t work that hard on a replica of Fort Dearborn made of toothpicks just to get a zero!
c. Throw it in the trash and think “That’ll teach the little bastard some responsibility”
5. Your child complains that she can never remember her locker combination. You:
a. Suggest she write it on the inside of her notebook.
b. Tell her what it is since you’ve memorized and she’s just called you on her cell phone to ask you
c. Tell her she’s lucky she has a locker—when you were in school you had to carry your books around all day—uphill both ways.
Scoring the quiz: Oh come on now, you know how this works. If you answered “a” to most of these questions you’re a concerned parent who respects the boundaries between yourself and your child. This will serve you both well as he grows into adulthood and with any luck he will be independent enough to move out of the basement by his 30th birthday.
If you answered “b” to most of the questions then you really are a helicopter parent and you should consider backing off. Your kid deserves a life of his or her own and so do you. Also, the other moms are totally making fun of you
If you answered “c” to most of the questions then your boundaries may be a little too well defined. Oh, and come on over Friday night. The kids have plans of their own and I’m hosting cocktails.