Mothering Vs. Smothering: Part 2 of 3
There are new gadgets that overprotective parents can now use to check on their child constantly. With the advent of the cell phone, some parents are calling their children hourly or watching their position on a Global Positioning System (GPS) every minute. The GPS device can be part of a wristwatch or even an option on a cell phone. Every movement that the child makes can be tracked with the device electronically and monitored by the parent on a computer. (If you’re thinking “Ooh, that sounds good to me,” read on!)
Helicopter Parents Don’t Land, They Hover
As the children of overprotective parents make their way through school, the over protective parents garner a new name, helicopter parents. Many teachers and administrators find these types of parents offensive, yet they must cater to them. While teachers and administrators need supportive parents to help students succeed, these parents go beyond a natural and healthy interest in their child’s education; they unwittingly impede the educational process with their constant questions and need for reassurance about their child. Moreover, as a natural consequence, anxious parents produce anxious children, and not because of osmosis. Rather, they instill a climate of fear and dread into every aspect of life that is not known and predicable.
To figure out if a parent is a helicopter parent, take a look at some of these warning signs to see if these attitudes and behaviors present themselves. Does the parent:
- Hurry to help their child whether their help is wanted or needed
- Call the teacher several times a week at home about questions or issues
- Feel that the child’s academic success is their success too
- Plan every moment before and after school
- Consider themselves the child’s best friend
- Jump to the rescue any time the child is mildly uncomfortable
- Defend the child even if it was clear that it was the child who was in the wrong.
Being Overprotective Has Many Negative Results
Although many overprotective parents don’t think that what they are doing is wrong, they are causing problems for their children. Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman reports research that shows the many negative side effects of parents being over protective. First and foremost the children’s confidence of being able to take care of themselves and accomplish tasks is undermined. Since parents are not allowing their children to handle taking a few risks, they are instilling in them the fear of failure. The children also are not good problem solvers or able to negotiate to get what they need. Their growth and development has been stunted by their parents’ constant intervening. Some are not able to go out in this world and live on their own— they don’t know their passions or what their direction should be because they have never had to do anything on their own.
Renown child psychologist Gregory Ramey, Ph.D. states, “When parents routinely intervene on their child’s behalf, it prevents children from learning how to solve their own problems. Even at an early age, beginning in preschool, children should be thinking in terms of looking internally for how to solve a problem rather than always seeking an adult solution.” He adds, “There is nothing wrong a child feeling badly while involved in some activity. While the feeling may be uncomfortable, such feelings do provide children with a wonderful opportunity to work through an unpleasant situation rather than living in a world where an adult always tries to make things comfortable.”
No one would argue that children need unconditional love, support, time, and attention. However, they also need to learn independence and that means that they need to fail once in a while. It’s much easier for a young child to fail and figure out how to get back up than for an adult child to fail and have no coping mechanisms other than calling his or her parents. If parents don’t want their children sleeping on their couch when they are thirty-years-old, they’re going to have to learn how to let go, and allow their children to find their independence.
Being a good parent is a true balancing act; and the line between protective and overprotective is easily blurred, and can shift based upon the individual needs and temperament of each child.
So when should a parent step in? We’ll take a look at this in the next column, as we conclude this series.
To be continued . . . Copyright © 2010 by D. Lieberman