The Long Term Effects of Helicopter Parenting

Lisa and I recently watched a documentary called ‘Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids’ which examines the phenomena of Helicopter Parenting.  Helicopter Parents is a term used to describe parents who constantly hover over their children to solve problems that may occur in their lives and make sure they stay safe.  The documentary describes these parents as ‘over involved, over protective, and over indulgent’.  This is a one sided documentary which has the position that we should back away from our children’s  lives more, let them experience the realities of the world head on, and allow them to make mistakes.  In this blog I decided to summarize some of the points made in the show and to bring some of our opinions to the discussion.  I have also let this documentary inspire some other future blogs which will look some of these ideas in more detail.  In Canada you can watch this documentary following this link.

  • Lisa and I have been all about simplifying family life and not spending money on kids just because we can.  One of the initial scenes brings us to a $4000 birthday party for a one-year old.  They ask parents to think about modest parties they had as a child and then compare it to these loving parents who think this extravagance is a necessary step of giving their child the best up bringing they can.  Lisa and I are very cautious to not shower our kids with stuff but what would we do if we had the means to do so?  One of the reasons that kids are given so much stuff is that the average person has far more buying power than in past generations.  Parents today say they want to give their child the best and that is a characteristic which has not changed and will never change.  What has changed is the amount of goods available and the ability to for the average person to obtain it.
  • As a parent I want nothing more then for my child to be safe but what steps should we be taking to ensure their safety?  One of the subjects I am often fascinated with is comparing actual risk with perceived risk due to the media saturation today.  When I hear stories of abduction, drug abuse, gang violence, and other risks as a parent it makes me want to do everything in my power to protect my kids.  As media saturation has increased and we have the resources to hear more stories of kids in danger we have the perception that our world is getting less safe and we need to take more steps to protect our kids.  As a result of this paranoia are we creating too much of a protective bubble around our kids and not allowing them experience the world around them?  I will gather some more of my thoughts on this and write a follow up blog soon.
  • How important of a message is it to teach kids that we trust them and conversely how much harm are we doing to their confidence long term if we constantly watch over them to make sure they do not do anything that may bring them harm?  How can kids learn from their mistakes if they are never allowed to make mistakes in the first place?  We are nearing the day that tracking devices can be placed in kids so parents can follow their every move.  A great safety net in case of a missing child but a huge evasion of privacy and a lack of trust.  We want nothing more than our kids to be safe but maintaining the trust they have in us is also vital.  This is quite a dilemma.
  • I found that the study showing the role of social play with a childs brain development to be fascinating.  Lisa and I strongly believe that kids need a lot of free play in a non controlled environment.   Not only do we believe that kids benefit from unstructured play where they make the rules but we also believe that kids need to do a lot of this play in natural settings.  We will still enrol our kids in a limited amount of organized sports and we will also set aside a lot of time where our kids can just be kids.  We do believe that too much structured time can be detrimental to development not that activity is bad just that there needs to be enough time for unstructured play.
  • Be wary of marketers. When I was in high school I was fascinated, and freaked out about, of the notion of propaganda.   Propaganda was taught in school as a method used by politicians to sway people to think their way and World War II and the Cold War were usually the backdrops that propaganda was used.  The amount of marketing propaganda today is incredible and parents worried about the future of their kids are very susceptible to be influenced.  How important is it to step back and question claims that a certain purchase, or structured class, is the best for kids.
  • I’m sorry if I offend anyone but formal graduation ceremonies for preschoolers are ridiculous.
  • It is amazing how many of these hyper parenting decisions play to our competitive nature.  We do not want our kids to be left behind so we must have our child compete with other kids to be the best.  We live in a competitive world but every aspect of life does not have to be a competition.
  • I was a modestly successful student.  I graduated with good but not outstanding marks.  I had some pressure to succeed but it came mostly from the system and not my parents.  I cannot imagine how the addition of pressure from my parents to excel would have helped in any way.  When I was in University after almost every single final exam period I would get a cold or some other illness.  I needed my parents for support during this stressful time and I did not need them to raise expectations further.  I paid for University on my own so if I failed it would be my own time and money I was wasting, not someone else’s.
  • I had to laugh when the documentary looked at the parent’s involvement with University as I was purposely left on my own during this period of my life.  I remember giving my parents a tour of the University grounds when I graduated.  I sure hope this documentary is exaggerating the amount of hand holding parents still do at the university and working age.  At this age we are talking about adults and if they cannot do things for themselves then they have to learn quickly.
  • Is the world changing to fit the coddled child and will the more independent child we want to raise have a harder time with this type of world?  Will the workforce change and cater to the spoiled or will children who were raised as independent thinkers have the leg up even if they do not graduate with as good of marks?
  • How prepared will the coddled child be for the ups and downs of the real world?  They are groomed to be the best but this does not always lead to success.  Will they know the value of money and will they have the skills to be able to prioritize what is really important and make sacrifices to their standard of living when necessary.

We find this subject very interesting and it makes for fascinating debates.  There is going to be many opinions on how much involvement parents should have and how much freedom kids should be given to make their own mistakes.  We have decided to arrange our work schedules so we are there for the kids when they need us however we have also decided not to structure too many activities and make sure our kids are being creative and learning how to make independent decisions.  We want them to not be afraid to make mistakes but to also use us as a resource of what decisions should be avoided.  Is our attitude on this subject the best for our kids?  Have we created a family environment better then the helicopter parent or will our kids get left behind in a competitive and fast paced world?  We have no idea and it may be years before we find out (or we may never really know) if we made the best decisions.  Regardless what path parents take we know that they want the best for their kids.  Like so many things it probably comes down to balance.  Help our kids along when it is really needed and trust them to be independent at the same time.

I will be exploring some of the subjects in this documentary in future entries at FamilyNavigation.com.  Please let us know your thoughts on this subject and if there are any related topics you would like us to discuss further.

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