The Perils of Helicopter Parenting

A teacher has written a nice little piece about what she sees as the danger of overprotective parents. Here are the money paragraphs:

These are the parents who worry me the most — parents who won't let their child learn. You see, teachers don't just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. We teach responsibility, organization, manners, restraint, and foresight. These skills may not get assessed on standardized testing, but as children plot their journey into adulthood, they are, by far, the most important life skills I teach.

I'm not suggesting that parents place blind trust in their children's teachers; I would never do such a thing myself. But children make mistakes, and when they do, it's vital that parents remember that the educational benefits of consequences are a gift, not a dereliction of duty. Year after year, my "best" students — the ones who are happiest and successful in their lives — are the students who were allowed to fail, held responsible for missteps, and challenged to be the best people they could be in the face of their mistakes.

If you spend enough time at schools, youth sports events, scout meetings, etc. you'll see plenty examples of what this teacher is talking about. What will really blow your mind is what parents of some high school students will do to make sure their kids' transcripts are pristine for the all-important college application process. They'll manufacture "community service" projects, write their childrens' application essays, do their kids' school projects or let them drop a class if it's too challenging or threatens to lower the GPA by a smidge. In their minds the purpose of education isn't to help their children truly learn and grow, it's to get them into a prestigious school so that they can get a prestigious job. And what happens when those same kids get to college and struggle? They call home and guess who comes running to try and bail them out?

Obviously there are times you should help your kids, but providing help is often more about the parents than the kids.  It's actually harder to watch your kids struggle than it is to intervene and do it for them – it's literally painful – so when we step in and bail them out we're actually being very selfish. We're assuaging our own pain to our children's long-term detriment. If we really care about them we will let them fall and learn how to pick themselves up. It ain't easy, but no one ever said that good parenting was easy and that's why they pay us parents the big bucks anyway. Right?

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