Why It Pays To Be a Helicopter Parent

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

If you Google “are helicopter parents bad” a huge list of articles from places like Forbes, Psychology Today, and the Huffington Post (Not a fan of everything coming out of HP) saying being a helicopter parent is the worst possible thing you can do for your child. I’m about to tell you why it isn’t so bad.

Some people may describe me one of those parents who do too much for their children. I drive them to the bus stop even though they’re both in high school now. (In my defense, the bus stop is not near our house, we don’t have sidewalks or street lights and the majority of the school year the bus arrives in the dark.) I do their laundry, make their lunches, I’ve been known to bring things to school when they’ve forgotten something. I have also been involved at school; Class parent, library volunteer, Girl Scout leader, PTA volunteer, Band Parent volunteer, and probably other things I’ve long forgotten. Oh, chaperone for class trips! And I wouldn’t let Noodge 1 fly with the marching band on his first band trip at the age of 14.

Am I ruining my children’s lives? Well,the verdict is still out on that. Ask them in twenty years.

But here’s what happened. Noodge 1 forgot his marching band uniform on the bus on Friday and didn’t realize he left it on the bus until 6 pm Friday night. He needed that uniform for a performance on Sunday. A performance, if missed, that takes seven points of his grade. Yes, they get a grade and credit for being in the marching band. This isn’t your average extra-curricular activity.

I could’ve let my son sink. In fact, many of you and all those articles say let him sink. It’s how he learns. Let me tell you what, you need to know your kid before you make that decision.

Because I’m involved in my kids’ activities I’ve had the great fortune to get to know people. Nice people. Moms like me. (And a few moms nothing like me.) So I sent a text. And we were able to get him another uniform. Mom to the rescue.

I rescued him because something bigger was going on. A more important learning lesson for both of us. Just the idea of losing seven points was enough of a consequence for him. You see, he’s my rule follower. Always has been. I keep waiting for that to change. Especially as he entered the teen years. It hasn’t. Most likely it won’t. Sometimes I wish he would, but he is and always has been an old soul.

His reaction to the idea of losing seven points worried me. Leaving a uniform on the bus wasn’t the end of the world and a very fixable problem since I knew the right person to ask for help. He didn’t see it that way. He had a committed an unthinkable act being so irresponsible. And he didn’t know how to handle how he felt.

Now we were dealing with the lesson; how to handle stress. Much more important in my book. Especially since I come from a long line of Italian people swimming in stress. What can I say? We’re hot-blooded passionate people.

Allowing him to blow a simple thing out of proportion, and punish himself over it, (the rule follower thing) without the tools to change that thinking process wasn’t worth my taking a stand not to help him so he could learn a lesson. He learned it. All by himself. I just saved him extra anguish he would’ve piled on over nothing.

Mistakes happen and what I think childhood often is a time when we’re taught mistakes are bad. “Don’t forget your gym clothes or you’ll get in trouble.” We all forget things. More importantly, we need to learn not to sweat the small stuff. Do we need to learn to follow rules? Yes. Should we make kids learn to fear making a mistake? No way.

Now, if you have a kid who could care less about making mistakes, doesn’t worry about the consequences, I don’t have answers for you because I’m not an expert. I know my kids. I try my best to be the best parent I can and pray everyday I don’t screw up too badly.

I may be a helicopter parent at times, but there have been enough times I wasn’t. My kids know I’m not an open threat. That’s good enough for me. I won’t let them go down for making an honest, harmless, fixable mistake.

What I hope I showed him was be nice to people, give of your time, be helpful because someday you might be the one asking for help. Show your appreciation for their kindness. (We gave our savior a big bag of truffles.) Don’t sweat the small stuff.

And mom is always near by flying her helicopter.



2 thoughts on “Why It Pays To Be a Helicopter Parent

  1. Coping with stress is definitely not something we’re teaching our children in this day and age; if anything, these days were all in a heightened state of anxiety — parents and children alike — because of phones that give us direct and immediate access to one another all the time. When I was a kid, I’d leave the house on Saturday morning to run around the Bronx with my friends, and my mother just had to trust I’d be home by the agreed-upon time, because when I was gone, there was no way to get in touch with me. (And we always did come home on time, else risk losing the privilege of freedom.)

    I think, Stacey, if this essay makes a secondary point, it’s that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all parenting philosophy, and parents should make they best effort they can to really know their kids, and to parent to their particular needs. I’m always amazed by the number of parents who don’t fundamentally know or understand who their children are; they have an idea of who the kid is based on whatever notions they’ve projected onto him/her throughout the course of their life, but they haven’t really taken a step back and made and effort to understand who this flesh-and-blood person really is, independent of the (biased) image a parent may have in his head. I think it’s great that you keep your approach flexible and tailored to the emotional needs of your particular children.


  2. Sean,
    You bring up a great point. Parents don’t always know their children. I’ve seen parents attempt a parenting style on one child that works well and when that same style doesn’t work well on another they don’t know to modify it. And I have seen more times than I care to count a parent projecting their own wishes and hopes onto their child. Many parents live vicariously through their children. It’s sad, really.

    Thank you for the kind words about my parenting style. I usually feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and just when I start to get a handle on something the rules change without warning. I will say, I’m not sure what I’d be doing with myself if I wasn’t running around after my kids. And literally, yesterday, I was running through the streets of town to meet my kid at the car. All I could do was laugh.

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