4 Ways to Know that You May Be a Helicopter (or Lawnmower) Parent (i.e. Your Well-Intentioned “Helping” May Be Harming Your Child
As director of a kids Midwest summer camp (within easy driving distance from Chicago and Madison), I see the ramifications of varied parenting styles in how the kid recipient of those parenting styles navigate the world. As a parent of a young teen, I get to see firsthand how our parental successes and mistakes have shaped the development of our own child. A good way to evaluate whether our parental actions are harming our kids is to examine their behavior. Therefore, consider four results of an enabling parent.
Your child is supposed to take the trash out on garbage night, but routinely forgets. Instead of holding her accountable, it seems easier just to do it. Just as you regularly pick up her clothes off the floor and start her laundry although she is supposed to do it herself. You think you are being “nice,” but by not requiring or enforcing your child to be responsible, you are programming her/him to expect other people to cater to them. So, whether it’s doing your child’s chores, running her/his forgotten paper up to school or micromanaging schoolwork at a level inappropriate to their age, you stunt the maturing process, and keep them dependent. Instead of preparing your child for the next stage, you’re setting them up for irresponsibility and failure.
2. Your Child Crumbles Under Adversity
Your child’s feelings were hurt by a few kids at school who went off by themselves at recess. When he came home upset, you called the teacher insisting that he not be left out. True, it’s natural to not want your child excluded, and a sad child hurts your heart. However, when you jump in to solve every problem for your child, your child will become incapable of navigating his/her own problems and also expect everything to always work out in his/her favor. Additionally, by being so busy fixing, you miss opportunities to have him/her develop diligence and resilience. These days, many youth–even college age and young adults–become immobilized when even the slightest difficulty strikes. Therefore, instead of mowing over potential adversity before it affects your child, help them learn to endure when adversity hits. So, though watching your child navigate hurt and suffering can be even harder on you us a parent, your child actually needs to experience disappointment and rejection while still in your home so you can help them mature through it.
3. Your Child Is Self-Centered
Your child doesn’t want to go to the restaurant the rest of the family picked, so the family changes their plans to accommodate him. Rearranging everything to suit him has become the norm. The world revolves around him. When as a parent, you are always trying to make your kids happy, ordering life with the kids at the center, it is almost inevitable that they become self-centered. You have trained them to expect to get their way, only compounded by the message of today’s selfie culture. Therefore, they need not always get their way, so they learn to sacrifice for others. This may mean saying “no” to their plans with friends in order to prioritize family time. Or, “no” to a new outfit even if it’s within your means so they do not grow accustomed to instant gratification.
4. Your Child Has Disregard for Earned Authority
After showing up late to practice and then not following the coach’s instructions, the coach told your child she would be benched for the upcoming game. But instead of humbly seeking forgiveness and acknowledging the coach’s earned authority, your child bad-mouthed the coach to the rest of the team. How dare the coach try to bench her! She knew all it would take was a call from her dad and she would be back in the starting lineup. For her, the rules didn’t apply. Her parents habitually wielded their control to either get her out of trouble or garner her extra time, attention or special treatment. When we don’t allow our kids to suffer the natural consequences of their mistakes; when we overstep other authorities in their lives; or when we make exceptions to the rules, even lie, to keep our kids happy, they will not easily submit to fair external expectations…including our own.