I confess. I spy on my kids. Daycare drop off - I waited around the bend of the hallway listening to my kid scream in dismay and thrash about. First day of Kindergarten - I peeked through the glass window, lingering quietly, just to see her sitting obediently in her chair at the "blue table". While my kids are fiddling about playing in their fairy garden, you can sometimes find me hiding somewhere - listening to their innocent conversations as it is heartwarming and I know that they are safe. My curiosity takes over. The first time I let my oldest cry
in her crib....I hid in the closet. This kind of spying is ok. But as they grow older, we must challenge ourselves and let go a bit. To hover and "helicopter" as they call it, can affect their personal growth and self-esteem in ways that may not be obvious, but can be damaging. We all love our children. We all want to protect them with every fiber of our being. Sometimes this goes against our maternal instinct. Our babies must explore and bump their heads at times. Our wobbly toddlers might fall or ("oh my" ) eat dirt. Our preteens might have to fail a test or struggle with a peer issue. Our teenagers, striving for their independence, will need to "fall" as well and "fail". Our college- aged young adults may have to balance work, classes, academics and socializing. In the book, "How to Raise An Adult" by Julie Lythcott- Haims, she addresses the "helicopter" movement from multiple perspectives. She addresses parental involvement in homework, art projects, literature papers and how this occurs throughout the country and across all socioeconomic categories and ages. Parents are actually completing these tasks entirely for their kids in an effort for them to be "successful" and allow them to "perform" better than their peers. This happens even in kindergarten. Is this really fair? Is it hindering them in the end? We all know that we will not always be there. Eventually, the child will need to defuse a stressful situation, efficiently complete a project, balance life. So in this effort to get them "ahead", we are potentially causing more harm than good, leaving them unprepared. This "helicoptering" only serves to make us feel better and creates a child who is dependent and feels unworthy or even incapable. The aim should be to allow them to have these valuable experiences. Let. them. fall. Guide them at the various stages, love them unconditionally, but resist the temptation to save them at every turn. Teach them to save themselves.
Let your infants explore, uninterrupted, in a safe environment.
Let your toddler figure out the ball maze on their own.
Let your grade school kids argue with their peers and learn conflict resolution.
Let your teenager experience natural consequences.
Let your college aged child fall, fail and learn.
This will not be easy. This will take strength. This will make them stronger and more resilient. Someday they will thank you.