I had a brief chat with a friend this evening and it reminded me of who I don't want to be as a parent. No, no, it wasn't my friend - she is a very good parent. But we were basically talking about Helicopter Parents.
I just don't understand Helicopter Parents. You know the type. They hover like helicopters when their perfectly healthy & able children are trying to play and explore. These kids are often forbidden from participating in activities that might be dangerous in the slightest. Soccer is a maybe, but Football is a definite NO. These kids are practically outfitted in bubble-wrap when riding a bike, rollerblades, or skateboards. . .if they are allowed to participate in such a "dangerous" activity at all. These kids have Stranger Danger drilled into their heads so completely that they probably begin to fear their own shadow by the time they reach elementary school.
The children of Helicopter Parents are taught, indirectly at least, that the world is a scary place and it should be feared. I disagree. Is the world all unicorns and rainbows? Heck no! But it also doesn't have danger and pain lurking behind every corner.
Crime is down since I was a kid, but stupid jackass "stunts" and "extreme sports" are up. I kind of think that kids have less to fear from strangers than they do from themselves. Specifically, their lack of painful experiences leads them to do things that can really screw them up. Getting hurt serves as a great educator, but it's tough to get hurt when you have to suit up like a Star Wars Storm Trooper just to ride your dang bike around the block. Actually, these kids probably aren't allowed to go around the block, but you know what I mean.
I didn't always feel this way. For a period of time, I became somewhat Helicopter-ish myself. Even worse, I allowed other Helicopter Parents to dictate how I was raising my own child. Well, "dictate" is a pretty strong word to use because not a word was spoken directly to me.
As most kids do, my son went through a biting and a hair-pulling phase and he went through it at a fairly young age. Thanks to over-reaction, I spent several months jumping all over my son at the slightest hint of misconduct. In full Helicopter Parent-mode, I hovered constantly.
One day I noticed that my son was effectively being bullied by a child who he had been rough with months earlier. My son was passively taking the mistreatment and the parent who had been so bothered by my son's previous conduct didn't seem all that concerned about their own child's behavior. That really bothered me, to say the least.
I realize that I was wrong to so harshly correct such a young child. I was also wrong to change my parenting philosophy to fit in with another parent. If I had it to do over again, I'd just redirect him to a new activity rather than take the course of action that I did.
To this day, I fear that I squashed too much of my son's lively and energetic spirit. And I resent that I did it to meet some unspoken expectations that I was under no obligation to meet in the first place. No, I am not a Helicopter Parent any longer. . .and I hope to never be one again.
What I Want for My Son
I want my son to climb. . .even if he might fall.
I want my son to fall. . .so he'll learn that it hurts.
I want my son to learn what hurts. . .so he'll be more careful.
I want my son to try new things. . .even if he might fail.
I want my son to fail. . .so he'll learn to try harder.
I want my son to try harder. . .so he'll excel.
I want my son to explore. . .even if he might get lost.
I want my son to get lost. . .so he'll learn to stay close or at least learn directions!
I want my son to learn directions. . .so he'll be able to find his way around town.
I want my son to fight if he has to. . .even if he might lose.
I want my son to lose. . .so he'll learn how to win.
I want my son to win. . .because I love him.