Sunday, April 15, 2007

Helicopter Parenting!

Desi Momz Club Rocks! It is amazing to see so many articles and so this many moms participating. Way To Go! Thanks Sandeepa, it was indeed a brilliant idea.

I am writing about this topic because it interests me greatly and from time to time guilty(?!) of the same. Here is my understanding on the topic. It will be very interesting to hear all of your opinions.

Helicopter Parenting is a term I have not heard until recently but which I have come to recogonize and understand! Should this be viewed with alarm?(not exactly) but it is getting to be a popular word in the media. As Parents at one time or the other we are guilty (atleast I am) of helicopter parenting. This term is generally used to describe late baby boomer parents but it might as well aptly describe Gen X and Gen Y parents too.

Who exactly is a helicopter parent?
Parents who hover over their children at all times and are afraid of letting them fail. The lessons that we learn for life are the ones we learn from our mistakes. If we protect kids to such an extent and make them afraid of failures there will be no futute Einsteins.(that reminds me,Sorry to say but I am not a big fan of Baby Einstein videos which in itself is a genius marketing ploy!) If they cannot experiment and learn for themselves where will they get the spark that will prod them to achieve? Remember the pleasure we gained by playing for hours together in sand, mixing it with water and building castles? There are things we learned by osmosis, which is impossible with videos, computer games and other electronic toys. They are useful toys but they can never substitute the real deal. Kids learn a lot when they experiment, learn from looking at creatures (there are plenty in our own backyards) and from unstructured play. We over schedule our kids to such an extent that they cannot find things to do for themselves leading them to whine "I am bored!" at the merest hint of lack of stimulation. Over stimulation is common. In my opinion it is ok to be bored. Life is not going to be full of excitement all the time so learning to deal with boredom will be a well learnt life skill. ADHD which was uncommon couple of decades ago is common in kids today. Watching too much TV is one reason. There is a lot of research on this subject and everybody uniformly agrees that too much is not good. For ages 1-5 1 hour of TV is optimum is what I read.

Teacher and Educators confess it is harder than ever before to teach kids because at the slightest hint of lack of stellar performance parents are there arguing with the teachers to set it right. Stand in the teacher's shoe and think for a moment how frustrating this must be for her. What works for one child will not work for the other, how is there going to be balance. So teachers spend a lot of time putting out fires and see how frustrated they might be. We also jump up and do their homework all in an effort to make your child get the best grade. But we are kidding ourselves right? what did the child learn?

Parents especially mothers are more educated than ever before. We sometimes end up making child rearing a competitive sport. We define our efforts as parents depending on the number of extra curricular activities the child participates in and the extras we do for them.

So how do we strike a balance? It is only for a short time that they will be kids so how about letting them be kids. It is ok for them not be the very best at whatever they do. Let them enjoy the simple pleasures of being kids and let everything they see amaze them. Too much structure bothers me. As a kid I pretty much was allowed to do what I wanted. I scheduled my study and play and what a relief I did not have one scheduled extra curricular activity to deal with.

I have too many questions and not many answers. Dear fellow moms what do you all think? How have you solved this conundrum?


Tharini said...

What an interesting subject. Very thought provoking. Yes, I have done the same as in hovering over my son sometimes.

Sometimes I worry that I am not able to stimulate him much...and its good to know that that's quite ok too.

Helicopter parenting is an interesting phrase. Henceforth, it will always remind me how tostrike a balance.

Praba said...

Hi I -

A very interesting topic. Yup - familiar with the term. My daughter's school had a parenting workshop last year for all the parents, and we were given questionnaires to fill, articles to read etc..Obviously, I've forgotten all about what was said during the presentation...thanks to you, it is all coming back to me again. I think at the workshop - we discussed 3 or 4 different parenting styles - sergeant style, helicopter style, consultant style ( i added my own - big bird style or stand-up comedian - ya - i talk like big bird sometimes and hover over my kids :-)))...:-))pretty good at mimickry...:-)))!)...

of course, goes without saying the best being consultative...I think we all agreed in the end that most of us are trying to balance our styles - between mostly helicopter and consultative...and we agreed - as our kids grow older - probably might make sense to be more consultative...

that was my one cent...will add more if I can.

Shivapriya said...

Hey I
Never heard of this term, may be in a year so I will start understanding these stuff, Its too early for me :D
Very interesting post. I'm really glad to be a part of "DMC".

Roopa said...

a very interesting topic. I think though many of us have not heard of the topic but definately we are in the same shoes. Making an educated mom always maked our thinking very different from the different workshops and artificial thinking or building up an environment to make kids improve their learning. i am not aware how many of your kids are in the primary education. It is really making tough for me to be so hard for my D, though she is intelligent to make her focus on her work and to make topics interesting is very difficult.

Asha said...

Hi Indo,good to see this article from you!:)

LOL @ *Helicopter Parenting*!! Never heard of that term before but I have seen plenty of parents who hover even in the swimming pools.Their kids has to throw the ball and catch the ball,God forbid if any other kid catches it!;D

My kids know where we stand.As long as they don't physically and verbally hurt each other,anything goes,freedom of expression includes questioning our actions as well.

My parents were like your's,I pretty did what I wanted,so never strayed from my path!I am proud of that fact I CHOSE to marry Arvind.

I have always told my kids,we will not financially support them once they reach their 25th b'day whether they have degree or not! Whatever college they want to go ,it depends on their own achievements and merits until then and we will pay the tuition as long as they pass thru' with good grades and good behavior.That has made them think and work hard in school and they also know I DO what I SAY!!:D

When they were in elementary school,the only complaint teacher had was "they don't pay attention" but that came from being bored.I provided them with lot of reading materials ,so they can keep themselves occupied.Other than that,they are teachers pets!;D

I think we fit Praba's "Consultant"

Sandeepa said...

Wow what a term, what will they come up with next :)
Good article Indo.

I think though this is a fallout of todays culture and lifestyle. Since kids today are part of small families and they lack the spontaneous play that we used to have with cousins or neihbours kids.

When I was small I remember during long summer vacations it would be a month at my Nani's place and then for the next month would be on my own playing with the neighbourhood kids in the hot afternoon when everybody was sleeping. We wouldn't think twice about banging our neighbour's doors and dropping in to play. So there was not much organised activity

Now There is a lack of that both here and in India. So I guess some structure has to be brought about to keep the kids busy

Dee said...

A very interesting article. Waiting to hear from the moms , so I can know what to expect when Chintu grows up!

Praba said...

Agreed, overstimulating your kid through tv/video games/ etc. and extra-curricular activities can be bad.

I have a question. We don't do the above in our family. I limit screen time and extra-curricular activities. But, my daughter wants me involved in all her playtime activities - art/craft, reading, etc. and ask that I work with her on some craft project so she and I could sit together and play... like a playdoh project, or walk in the yard hunting for flowers (which we did yesterday - learned about dandelions, and learned how fun it is blow the seeds and let them pollinate etc..)Since my daughter can't work on these projects alone by herself or come up with ideas for little projects - is it bad to provide this kind of structure for her... I don't over do it, and I do tell her when she is after me sometimes while I am in the kitche - you go play by yourself, and show me what you've done or work on an art project and show what you did...

But the point is our kids need company. And we end up being their playtime buddies. Is that bad parenting? Like sandeepa pointed, we can't knock on the neighbor's door and let our kids play on the street...

gayathre said...

Hi friends,
thats one interesting topic!this is something i have been thinking about a lot lately.when we were kids,we had a lot of age-related activities that kept us occupied throughout the year,since we had a lot of friendly neighbours and relatives around.According to the season the game varied like the marbles,kathadi(small fans made from paper,leaves etc.,)kites and what not!also,our parents didnt force anything on us.they let us choose but made sure that we didnt do anything times i think,our mothers,though not much exposed to the world like us,had more control and sensibility abt issues.i feel panicky when some moms list the achievements or classes attended by their kids.but my hubby is quite level-headed abt this.i keep assuring myself that though we gave birth to our kids,they arenot made exclusively to execute our unachieved dreams.let us show them the path of truth and virtue and let them choose their careers.also,everyone has to live his/her share of joys and,its very important to teach our kids to deal with disappointments and go on with life.this is something we can really teach them from our way of life.

Sandeepa said...

Regarding activities I think around the age of 5 some extra-curricular activities is needed, don't you think so ?

S is only 3 and she doesn't go for anything yet except for her school, though I want to start swimming this summer. Also her school has Karate classes and I was thinking to sign her up.

Do you think that's bad ?
When I was a kid my Ma did try sending me to singing/dancing lessons etc. but the adamant kid that I was I did not want to go for anything other than the Painting class which I enjoyed.

However now looking back I regret a bit, I wish I would have gone for those singing lessons to tune my voice at least a teeny bit :)

When we are small often we do not understand what we might or might not like. So giving kids options (not forcing) to try out keeps them busy and I think also broadens their mind.

What say ? Not like fitting every hour into a routine but once or twice a week shouldn't be bad, should it ?

indosungod said...

Sandeepa, I laughed when I read your comment my mom did try to send me to a dance class I ofcourse refused after a couple of classes. I too regret the fact that I don't have a serious hobby.

But our parents did not force us do something we did not have our heart in. That is the key we should take the cue from them if they do not like it just let them
not do it.

I enrolled DD in Piano when she was 4 3/4. The teacher said lets us start her but if she in not ready we can start a year later. We were lucky in a way because the teacher actually advised us on what the best course of action was. He is 74 years old and routinely advises me on what needs to be done. These days everything is so commercialized so we cannot get our cues from the teacher.

So we should be careful in finding out if the kids are ready or not before we push them into any activity.

Praba said...

I think the key is not to "overstimulate" or "overstructure" - some amount of stimulation and structure can be good, isn't it? We need to strike a balance though...

speaking of piano, I would love to get some info on piano instructors in NoVA. My daughter has been taking lessons here where we live. Would love to get pointers on where to look for good teachers. I saw some websites - music teachers' associations etc..Would it be possible for you to give any referal? What would you recommend - a private tutor at home or private tutor in a music school...


Kay said...

That's a great word - helicopter parenting! I've seen moms and grand moms, always hovering around, protecting their children by 'Oh, don't do that, don't do this', from getting into 'what they think is' trouble. Thereby, the children don't have an opportunity to think/learn for themselves. I feel so sorry for these kids.

I'm so glad my mom gave me the freedom to chose to do what I want (provided I didn't break any body's head!). The only she was adamant was that I stop taking dance lessons and do music lessons. I loved dance so much, so much that I was always dancing at home.

'Lil Kay, Can you get a glass of water for me please' was followed with me dancing to the kitchen and bringing her water, still dancing! 'Lil Kay, Can you run to this near by store and get this stuff for me please' was followed with, well, you guessed it, dancing to the store to get that stuff. Poor mom could only take so much! :)

Then, well, we put a full stop to the dancing class and She got me enrolled in music lessons. After a painful (for others, that is) year of music lessons that I hated, we moved and all was well after that!!!

Kay said...

It was great reading everybody's thoughts on this.

indosungod said...

Prabha, I do not have much information about No.Va but it is a very vibrant place, so getting information should not be hard, I am sure there are a lot schools and private tutors in that area.
You can even post in Craigslist looking for tutors in your area.

Mine goes to a private tutor at his home and I like him because he has kept DD interested and is a good teacher.