Tuesday, August 6, 2013

REPOST: How to Stop Being Helicopter Parents

What is heliparenting and how does it affect the relationship between parents and their children? This RealSimple.com article may serve as an eye-opener to all parents.

Ground control to Major Mom: Helicopter parenting isn’t great for you or your kids. Get the facts.

Why Heliparenting is Harmful (and Not Just to Your Kids)

Photo collage of helicopter mom with son - 1
Image Source: realsimple.com
Moms and dads who try to anticipate every single threat to a child’s safety and happiness— sharp edges, viral superstrains, evil math teachers—are like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia: They beat back one enemy, and along comes an army of others. The price of this eternal vigilance? For one, helicopter parents are more likely to feel unhappy. According to one study conducted by the University of Mary Washington, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, 23 percent of preschool moms who practiced “intensive parenting” had symptoms of depression. No wonder, says Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children Without Going Nuts With Worry, ($12, amazon.com): “Our society tells us that a good parent is constantly ‘on’—going to every game, whipping out flash cards. Also, we make anxiety contagious. When something bad happens to any kid anywhere, we assume that every single child is in danger.”

What’s more, the extreme measures that parents take to protect kids may actually leave them more vulnerable, according to child psychologist Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., the author of the upcoming book The Opposite of Worry ($13, amazon.com). “A child needs to learn gradually, with your help, what’s safe and unsafe,” he says. “If he doesn’t get that chance, he can take on a challenge that’s too big and get seriously hurt.”

American parents may be particularly inclined to get out the Bubble Wrap. “In many other countries, reasonable risk is considered crucial for a healthy, self-confident child,” says Christine Gross-Loh, the author of Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us ($19, amazon.com). She cites the research of Ellen Beate Hansen Sandseter, an associate professor in the physical-education department of Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education, in Trondheim, Norway. Sandseter conducted research in Norwegian, Australian, and English playgrounds and found that kids are naturally drawn to risky play because it helps them learn to manage their fears a little at a time. Other research, adds Gross-Loh, indicates that when kids are confined to an overly safe playground, they become bored, create their own risks (like standing on the swings), and end up hurt.

Physical freedom isn’t the only kind a kid requires on the road to adulthood, says Cohen: “Children need to learn to negotiate conflicts on their own. I was of the generation where the mean kids clobbered everybody, and I wish there had been some supervision. But now if two kids are fighting over a toy, an adult jumps in and says, ‘Let’s set a timer.’ ” That might calm the ruckus, but it deprives kids of opportunities to learn social skills.

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