If you want instant reassurance that you’re a good mom, Google “extreme examples of helicopter parenting.” You’ll read about the woman who enrolled in all of her child’s college classes to make sure she was doing her work. Or the one who showed up at the job interview to personally tell the supervisor how amazing she was (spoiler alert: she didn’t get the job).
However, there are many cases when good moms hover without even knowing it. We think we’re doing the best for our kids, and we probably remember our parents doing this for us too. “I’m not controlling, I’m caring!” -- says every Filipino mom who raised a mama’s boy.
But Larry Nelson, a lead researcher for a study on the effects of helicopter parenting, says: "Overall, stepping in and doing for a child what the child developmentally should be doing for him or herself, is negative," Nelson said. "Regardless of the form of control, it's harmful.” Catch yourself when you’re tempted to over-parent in these situations:
Your child is crying over a broken toy / a fight with playmates Your child needs to learn how to deal with negative emotions like disappointment and frustration. Do you try to swoop in and make it all better by saying, “We’ll buy another one!” Do you feed on his victim complex by reassuring him, “Those kids are mean, you don’t need them!” or immediately writing a letter to the teacher? (There’s a difference between being bullied, and a friendly tampuhan that will blow over by the next day.)
And of course, there’s the classic Filipino Mom move: “I’ll feed you until you feel better.”
He refuses to wear a jacket or sensible shoes on a rainy day You know that he’s going to get wet, cold and uncomfortable. So do you force him to wear the “right” clothes, or do you let him learn first-hand the consequences of his decision? And by the way, there are lots of kids who never learn to make these choices because mom picks the outfit from the very beginning and hangs it on the door. “Wear this. It’s cute.” It’s not going to be cute when he’s a teenager and still asks you where his socks are.
He doesn’t like his teacher Life lesson: you won’t always like your teacher.
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Unless she’s verbally or physically abusive, chances are your child is just adjusting to his teacher's teaching style or struggling with the topic. First, coach him on what he can do to learn better -- with or without her. Look for resources, make reviewers or worksheets, coach him to raise his hands when he has questions. Once your child is in Big School, you’ll also want to teach study skills like making an outline or taking down clear notes.
If you do meet with teacher, don’t make it look like your child’s failure is her fault. Work together to help your child perform better in class. Ask about his behavior in the classroom and her observations on his strengths and weaknesses. Remember: you’re on the same side. And needless to say, don’t do his homework just so he can get a higher grade.
Helping too much with homework Think of homework help as “scaffolding” -- yes, like the building scaffolds or support that construction workers use then remove when they’re done. Give support only when and where it’s needed, then ease back once you see that your child can do a task on his own. If you always sit next to him and give hints at the first sign of struggle, you’re helicoptering. The best thing you can do is to create a good study environment and routine. Instead of nagging him to hurry up, use a kitchen timer. Check his work, but don’t give the right answer immediately. ‘You got number 2 wrong, try doing it again in front of me so I know where you need help.”
Every day, the playground Monkey bars. Rowdy kids who push and grab toys. Dirt and germs everywhere! Do you follow your kid around and say, “Careful!” every 10 seconds, or interrogate yaya when he comes home with a scratch? Are you germophobic?
Relax, mom. Sweat and tears never hurt anybody, and there are but a few playground mishaps that can’t be solved with soap and band-aids. (Or, as one of my cool co-parents once joked, “Getting dirty is fine! Mud is organic!”)
Buying way too many toys So your daughter loves Littlest Pet Shop, but does she really need 100 of them to be happy? Admittedly, we overindulge because our own collector mentality (or parental guilt) kicks in. And it feels darn good to know that we can afford to indulge their interests.
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But remember: we can afford these toys because we learned to work hard, and when kids get too much too easily they will never learn the satisfaction of waiting and working for what they want.
Cleaning up after them This is why husbands think that little fairies come out at night to flush toilets and put laundry in the hamper. Please don’t raise kids who will drive their future wives crazy.
Too much praise Not only does overgushing teach kids to become praise junkies (and miss out on an important lesson on grit) but it also starts to lose any credibility and meaning. They realize everything they do is “Amazing! Beautiful! Perfect!” even when they know that they rushed their work. Then they’re completely shocked when their teachers don’t feel the same way. Raise your standards, praise effort and not the end product, and think of other ways to show love and appreciation. Child gives a drawing? Say thank you and give a tight hug. Child isn’t so great in her first day of ballet class? Say “Isn’t this so much fun!? I can’t wait to see what you’ll learn next week!”
Too many extracurriculars Enrichment classes are great, but don’t overdo it or feel pressured if you can’t afford it. Kids can learn in many ways -- they learn a lot just from being at home and finding ways to entertain themselves, too -- and you really need to ask if you’re trying to build their character or just their resume. Even a well-intentioned parenting act goes dangerously into helicoptering when your motives are based on your own pride and desire to show off.