Avoiding Helicopter Parenting: 8 Tips for Parents of Young Children

10807Recently, we had a visit from Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of  “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” Cannon’s Lower School counselor, Jennifer Calvert, recently weighed in on ways parents can help their young children (aged 5-10) grow up to be independent, successful adults. Below is an excerpt from a piece she wrote for the Lower School newsletter.

Many have heard the term “helicopter parent” and understand that it means a parent who is trying to pave the way for his/her child. We all want our children to be happy, but part of their satisfaction in life comes from their being self-reliant. I wanted to share some tips I’ve gleaned over the years regarding raising children who can succeed independently of their parents.

Tip #1 – Wake Up Themselves
Let your children learn to get themselves up in the morning. Purchase an old-fashioned alarm clock and let that be the sound they first hear instead of their parents rushing them out of bed.

Tip #2 – Let Them Make Their Own Lunches
Instead of packing their lunches, purchase food you are comfortable with them eating and let them learn the responsibility of doing this one task. If you are worried the child will only pack sweets, don’t buy any. My husband and daughter went off sugar. Not me. At one time, I had as strict a diet as an NCAA college athlete and I have no desire to revisit that. However, I honor their wishes by not having sweets in the house.

Tip #3 – Logical Consequences
Don’t go back home to pick up a PE uniform or a project that was left behind. This is the one I wasn’t so great about because I live near the school, so it was easy to do the few times I was asked. However, in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t. Life is full of logical consequences and they can be painful, at times, but we all survive. My daughter didn’t think it through to ask for permission to miss class to attend the Final Four and then, subsequently the championship game as a Duke University student. She assumed the professors would support the students being there in person to cheer for their team. She got hit with a fat 0 for a lab by one professor who could have cared less that the school sent students to watch the game.

Tip #4 – Plan Ahead
Have a family meeting over the weekend to discuss everyone’s plans and needs so that you are not hit up the night before a project with a panicked student who needs poster board on your way home from a late sports event.

Tip #5 – Laundry
Have your child involved, at an early age, with helping with the laundry. It’s not complicated to do a load of towels and fold them. This way your child is contributing to the running of the home. As she/he develops, they can start to do more. By high school, for sure, you want your child to know how to do laundry before he/she sets off for college.

Tip #6 – Manage Money
Those dream items they have, let them learn the value of a dollar by either doing chores or saving gift money for those unnecessary but highly coveted items. That way, when they enter the working world, they won’t be shocked about how much things cost.

Tip #7- Food Prep
Whatever they can do, developmentally, to help with the preparation of a meal, allow them to participate. It may take longer to get the meal going, but there is a learning curve here as well as a sense of accomplishment.

Tip #8 – Let Them Choose Their Friends
Don’t say these words: “I don’t want you playing with so and so.” There are seasons of friendships. This is hard to watch as a parent especially when you feel like your child is being left out of a friend group. Don’t try to manipulate the situation. Let it play out. TheOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA friend group will change many times over the course of their time at Cannon. If someone is being unkind to your child, he/she needs to learn to assert himself in the situation. We want to raise children who can appropriately stand up for themselves.

The easiest thing for us to do is parents is to use our life experience and rush in and micro-manage everything our children do. Of course, we do need to facilitate things from time to time, but self-esteem is enhanced when children know you believe in their abilities to negotiate, as is appropriate, through life events and challenges. The end product is a young adult who is able to live independently and is happy doing so.