A. Parents are not involved nearly enough in their kids’ lives these days (25%).
B. Parents are more involved in their kids’ lives these days, and that’s a good thing (33%).
C. Parents are much too involved in their kids’ lives these days (42%).
Two data points that received no votes, were removed from the results. The two options not selected were, Parents today are about as involved as they were when I was a kid, and Parents are less involved in their kids' lives these days, and that's a good thing.
We have an interesting split in the poll results this month. About one quarter of you believe that parents are not involved enough in their kids’ lives. A third believe parents are more involved and that this is a positive thing. The rest of you believe that parents are much too involved and would agree with critics of so-called helicopter parents who say they are hyper-parenting their children.
Retrieved March 30, 2011 from http://blogs.studentlife.utoronto.ca/intersections/2011/01/24/helicopter-parenting/
Helicopter parents are accused of hovering over their children attending to their every need and protecting them from potential dangers, both real and imagined. Want to know if you are a helicopter parent? Take this quiz. I got a score of 15:
11-19 Nice job! You’ve found a good balance between being too hands-off and too involved. Encourage your child to make some easy confidence-building decisions like choosing what to have for dinner, or where to go for a playdate. Giving her a bit of freedom will benefit you both.
Phew! Thanks to that highly scientific test I can finally relax about this issue. “I AM NOT A HELICOPTER PARENT! Woo-hoo!”
But maybe I shouldn't be trumpeting my horn so loudly. I've come a long way since the beginning of my motherhood career. Not hovering over our children isn't always easy. It's not surprising that parents sometimes don't know where to draw the line. We live in a dangerous world, if we believe what the news reports have been telling us for more than a decade.
When Jack was born three and a half years ago I heard about recall after recall and hazard after hazard. Suddenly, motherhood got a whole lot more complicated. I had to check toys for LBP and bottles for BPA. I had to tie up cords and cover electrical outlets. And every time I went anywhere near a nurse with my baby, I was warned about SIDS. The fact that I did not become completely paranoid is something of a miracle.
Retrieved on March 30, 2100 from http://www.babylifestyles.com/tag/plastic-baby-bottles/
In addition to the physical dangers we're cautioned about, we are bombarded with warnings that our children will not get into the best schools if we don't put them on waiting lists before they are even born. Kids are in preschool at the age of three so that they'll be prepared for real school when they get there two years later. The pressure to develop a well rounded child is intense, so we start them in swimming lessons, register them for sport leagues, teach them art and music and language skills as quickly as they can possibly begin to pick them up. Our kids need to have an edge if they are to succeed in this world.
Maybe we should give helicopters parents a break! Adriana Barton writes that "hypervigilance is often a rational – if misguided – response to dramatic changes in major social institutions." That is, parents are naturally influenced by societal pressure to protect their kids from every potential harm. Some even believe that helicopter parents have got it right. Brian Joura says the helicopter parent understands that his role is to protect his children "24 hours a day, seven days a week when they first come into the world and then gradually ease off." He claims that "while kids fight for more freedom, it is ultimately up to the parent to decide what they are ready to handle on their own." I see his point, but I think that, by definition, helicopter parents have a hard time knowing when to let go.
Retrieved March 30, 2011 from http://www.maritz.com/News-Events-and-Insights/Social-Community/Man-vs-Brand/Neuroscience/Generation-Abstraction.aspx
With all of the external pressure to raise our children the right way, how do we know if we are on the right track? How can we avoid overparenting our children?
Nancy Gibbs writes of a counteractive movement sometimes referred to as slow-parenting or free-range parenting. According to Gibbs, "failure is fruitful. You really want your children to succeed? Learn when to leave them alone. When you lighten up, they'll fly higher. We're often the ones who hold them down." Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids asks, "Do you ever... let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk to school? Make dinner? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free-Range Kid." You might remember the name Lenore Skenazy. She's the mom that let her son ride the subway by himself at the age of nine. I remember how horrified some people were that she would put her son in danger, however remote that danger might have been, and I also remember the overwhelming support she received for standing up to the paranoia.
Free-range parenting sounds reasonable. If we're not careful though, we run the risk of being accused of raising latch-key kids. A quarter of respondents in this month's poll think parents are not involved nearly enough in their kids' lives. Obviously we need to achieve some sense of balance here between hyper-parenting and uninvolved-parenting.
So what's wrong with being involved in our kids' lives? According to at least a third of this month's respondents, nothing! Kathy Seal agrees. She writes that "...much hinges on your definition of 'involvement.' Does it mean going to parent-teacher conferences? Watching kids play soccer? Checking their homework? Helping with school fundraising? There are infinite ways to take part in a child’s life." None of these types of involvement cross the line into overparenting. Seal advises that "more subtle forms of involvement, including the encouragement of autonomy, produce superior achievement [and] may help parents resist [the] pressure to push and control their children."
The reality is that pressures and conditions exist to produce hyper-parenting, and there is a risk of falling back to the equally undesirable rebound condition of uninvolved-parenting. It seems the goal should be to achieve a balanced position of involvement in our children's lives. Kelly Herdrich puts it nicely: "Just be sure to watch from the passenger seat--don't offer to drive." This statement accurately reflects my own view of parenting. Some of you have heard me call myself Jack's tour guide. The way I see it, my job is to point out the bathrooms and emergency exits, and to help him find his way in the world.
Retrieved March 30, 2011 from http://www.myspace.com/silverbirch1959