Helicopter parents who hover, smother

When they are toddlers, we stand within eye and earshot pretty much all of the time. We walk around with our arms outstretched and our hearts on our sleeves. We cushion bumps and catch their falls.

Protecting our children from harm is job one. 

As our children age, it can be tough to know when to coddle them and when to cut the apron strings and let them soar.

To grow confident, they must sometime taste both the thrill — and sting — of free choice and freedom. I think one of the many tougher questions of parenting is to know when all that protection becomes dangerous, too.

Raising adults

I have long said I am not raising perpetual children but, God willing, future adults. I try as best I can to prepare for that. In a case of physical or emotional abuse I will rush to protect ANY child, of course. In a myriad of smaller things, I prefer a stepped back, somewhat hands-off approach.

What I am thinking of is more the many, petty slights that seem to incite some parents to tar and pitchfork riot long before such a response seems warranted — or wise. The lack of playing time or a bad grade.

I think one of the hardest lessons for many parents (including myself) to heed and learn is that sometimes having your child’s back means NOT intervening with coaches, teachers, and other leaders who come into their lives.

Step back. I see so many otherwise educated and loving parents who, quite frankly, get this one wrong. 

When any one parent tells of endless incidents with a variety of teachers, coaches, and the general public, all seemingly out to “get” a perfectly innocent child, I admit I grow skeptical. It is believable that you might throughout your child’s educational or athletic path have an incident with ONE coach or teacher — but ALL of them?

There is a saying I have found bears out time and again. To whit: “If you have issues and problems with a variety of people, you may want to consider that maybe it’s YOU.”
Growing pains. As difficult as it can be (and it is, I promise), to my own children, I say this:

We both know I could handle most of your problems expediently and with limited bloodshed (unless bloodshed was my goal). As an adult I could probably fix this, correct that, or find someone who could, but except in the rarest of instance: I won’t. 

I’m teaching you to speak up, and stand up for yourself, even as it kills me to keep quiet. 

The way things are going, in a blink, you are going to be in college, or on the job, in an adult friendship or relationship and someone is going to be unfair and even unkind. Somehow, inexplicably, some people are just not going to like you. If you know you’ve done nothing to deserve it — then that’s OK too.

Despite all our prattle about “the real world,” I’ll let you in on a little secret. Life is almost nothing like high school.

Cute, popular and athletic are rarely, if ever, going to matter more than a minute after you graduate.

In the real world, you are going to have to work harder, longer and sometimes do more than your fair share. You are going to be blamed for things that aren’t your fault. You may be stuck holding the bag — or the bill. You are going to have to learn to defend yourself.

At no time is the proper solution to an obstacle in your adult life likely to be “I told my mom on you!” or “my dad is on his way and he’s mad at you!

Tough love

I’ll let you in on another little secret: that coach or teacher who you swore didn’t like you? The one who made you work harder until you got it right? That one may have done you the greatest favor of all. Trust me.

Remember: I’m putting this in writing because I know it’s going to be hard. Sometimes impossible even, but I’m really going to try and heed my own advice and I hope some other parents will too.

I’ve got your back on the big things, but when the coach doesn’t give you playing time, when the teacher seems unfair, and when the assignment is “stupid” (according to you) I’m going to do my best whenever possible NOT to intervene.

Not because I don’t love you — but because I do.

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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