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Monday, January 11, 2016

Are You a Helicopter Parent?

Come In for a Landing and Let your Kids GROW

By Carrie Vittitoe

All parents are periodically guilty of being a little too involved in their children’s lives, but if we’re helicoptering more than just occasionally, we really aren’t doing our kids any favors. We may be actively hobbling them. We need to be willing to let them fail on a small scale when the consequences aren’t life-altering.
Dr. Charles Pemberton, a licensed professional clinical counselor with Dimensions Family Therapy, says most parents don’t have an exit strategy for how to let go and turn responsibilities over to their children. “Many parents say, ‘I guess I’ll say goodbye at college,’ but the cell phone then becomes an electronic umbilical cord,” he says. According to Pemberton, the latest trend in parenting is “cockpit parenting,” whereby parents retain so much control over their children’s lives that they can grab the controls at any time.

He suggests parents give children small responsibilities and then gradually add to them over time. A first grader can match socks, fold underwear, or put out utensils for dinner. By third grade, children can pre-sort their laundry, carry it to the washing machine, and put it away when dry. Parents need to realize that handing over responsibility may mean the process of laundry or dinner preparation takes longer for the parent, at least initially, he says. It is much quicker to do things yourself, but that doesn’t teach the child anything.

Heather Mohr, a counselor at Kammerer Middle School, urges parents to put school responsibilities such as schedules and homework onto their children and step back. “When kids take it upon themselves to advocate for themselves, it is a whole new level of skill,” she says. Teachers and administrators will take these students more seriously and will often respond more quickly to them because of their initiative. But the only way students will learn to do this is if their parents don’t do it for them.

Mohr’s biggest advice to parents is to not check their children’s online grades, and if they insist on checking, to not obsess about every single assignment. “It gives you an idea of what is going on, but it isn’t the complete picture,” she says.


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