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Bye-bye Helicopter Parents: Overparenting is so…Over

December 16, 2009

Regular readers know I am constantly battling against being an overprotective mom (I learned from the best; see Memoirs of a Professional Worrywart).  

I guess I should take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone, as evidenced by the recent Time Magazine article The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting.  In fact, after reading the article with all of its egregious (and somewhat nauseating) examples of Helicopter Parents I actually feel a lot better about my parenting style.  Although I tend to be a bit overprotective, I’m pretty sure I’m not raising a pair of “teacups” or “crispies” (the descriptive monikers college deans have given overly fragile or already burned out incoming freshmen).  But there is still room for improvement. 

After reading Dr. Michele Borba’s online article, Guilty of Helicopter Parenting? How to Step Back from OVER-Parenting and Help Your Child Become Self-Reliant,  I realized that my tendency to jump in and help solve things when my kids have a problem is actually stifling their emotional growth.  I’ve always thought of it as helpfully imparting some of my hard-earned wisdom and experience in order to make things easier for them.  But how are they supposed to gain their own hard-earned wisdom and learn to take care of things themselves if I always step in before they can take a shot at coming up with a solution?  So I’m consciously backing off, fully confident that life will bring plenty of situations in which sharing my wisdom will not only be appropriate, it might actually be welcome.

There are plenty of great references and support sites on the web for those of us struggling to say “no” to paranoia and just let our kids be kids.  (Remember?  The way we were kids, back in the good-old days?)  My favorite is Free-Range Kids, a website – really, a movement – started by a New Yorker  named Lenore Skenazy who was vilified in the national press for allowing her nine-year-old son to ride the subway alone.  The Free-Range philosophy promotes “sane parenting” and is simple:  Giving our kids the freedom we had without going nuts with worry.  I’ve become a regular reader of her blog, and have managed to loosen up a bit as a result.  She makes the point that, as a society, we worry too much about scary things simply because they’re scary, regardless of whether or not they’re likely to happen.  It’s hard to argue with common sense and statistics.  (Did you know kids are 40 times more likely to be killed in an auto accident than by stranger abduction?  Anyone out there protecting their children from the family sedan?)  

One of Skenazy’s latest posts, The Greatest Gift of the Season: A Free-Range Childhood, sums up Free Range  parenting eloquently.  It is also a great reminder that allowing our children to experience this amazing, beautiful, exciting, crazy, and yes, sometimes messed-up thing we call “life” is good for them…and I think it’s pretty good for us parents, too.

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