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Helicopter Parent Ka Ba? Here's Why Some Parents Become Overly Involved
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  • Dr. Gail Reyes Galang is chair of the Family Studies program of Miriam College where she also teaches under the Department of Psychology. She is currently the associate director of the Center for Peace Education.

    Parenting does not come with a manual, so most of the time our style is influenced by how we ourselves were raised as children.

    As parents, we want to raise our children the best way we can by providing the necessary care and protection.

    The interpretation of "what is necessary" differs from parent to parent. Sure we may go overboard sometimes, but that is out of a strong desire to ensure the healthy development of our children into adulthood.

    Aside from the usual styles of parenting, that is, authoritarian, permissive, authoritative, and uninvolved, other terms of parenting have re-emerged, like "helicopter parenting."

    What is a helicopter parent?

    The term "helicopter parent" was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott's 1969 book Parents & Teenagers. In the book, adolescents described their parents as hovering over them, personalizing their children's successes and failures.

    As a former school administrator, I am not a stranger to parents who threaten schools with lawsuits because a teacher reprimanded their child in class.

    I've also seen parents running after the little playmates of their kid for rough play judged as bullying.

    Some parents even go at great lengths to argue a grade because in their minds, their child should have gotten a perfect score.

    Helicopter parents like using the lawyer, media, DepEd card, whenever they don't get their way. Without knowing it, they are doing their children a disservice, who grow up feeling entitled.

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    Worse, kids may carry the same bad habits, making them socially undesirable in their adult lives.

    Related to this would be the "lawnmower" parents, who prepare everything for their children so they won't have to experience hardships and stress.

    Similarly, the "bulldozer" parents "crush and flatten" anything that gets in the way of their child's success. I think I should add one more type, "the homing missile parent."

    Have you ever tracked down someone who has wronged your kid and exploded like a missile upon meeting your target antagonist?

    There's really no telling what parents can and will do for the love of their children. Though not to that extreme, I've had my fair share of being a helicopter, lawnmower, and bulldozer parent.

    Jokingly, I take pride in being a stage Mom, directing what I think my kids need to get into and what they need to experience to ensure a successful life.

    Why do parents resort to being overly involved in their children's lives?

    1. Limited window of being kids

    Soon our kids will be teens and will listen more to their peers. While they still need us, we try to plant the values that will help them in problem-solving later on.

    Hopefully we can teach them to be kind, truthful and fair so that as adults, they will make sound decisions that will have the best interest of others in mind.

    This will differentiate you from helicopter parents, who manipulate facts to suit their agenda. Here, the children learn to defend false truths at the expense of others.

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    2. Fear of failure

    We all want our children to enter the best colleges and have successful careers someday. As a result, parents may obsess themselves with perfection, not realizing the valuable lessons obtained from experiencing failure.

    Allow children to feel some level of distress to build their adversity quotient (AQ), so they do not easily sink into debilitating depression at the mere experience of roadblocks later on in life.

    3. Worrying about an unsafe world

    We are exposed to a world that can be scary and dangerous. Unlike before when we can freely play outdoors until dawn, now we caution our kids from being too naive.

    We feel our kids are too trusting and fear that they may be at risk from unscrupulous individuals and groups.

    It is true that the world is more volatile now, but by being overprotective, we might be undermining our children's abilities to make decisions for themselves, overthinking the activities they get into, and judging the friendships they form prematurely.

    4. Reaction to own upbringing

    Parents who went through an undesirable, if not traumatic childhood, sometimes make a vow to raise their kids differently.

    They may overcompensate to make sure the same does not happen to their kids. So they try their best to be democratic parents.

    Over controlling and its opposite, being too permissive, have respective consequences. When kids are not given the freedom to manage themselves according to their developmental stage, their self-esteem is affected.

    On the other hand, some kids may rebel and get themselves engaged in more risky behavior all because open communication is not available.

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    For overly permissive parents, the adult child's decision-making skills may be impaired since the part of the brain responsible for this (i.e. prefrontal cortex) isn't fully developed until the age of 25 or so.

    Until then, parents need to listen reflectively without judging and trivializing what their children are going through.

    5. Parent-pressure

    It is intimidating at times to be in a chat group with overly involved parents. Sometimes, you feel inadequate just by listening to how they have organized everything for their child.

    Fearing that their child might be left behind, parents pressure themselves into joining the bandwagon. In doing so, we ourselves feel exhausted in trying to make things easier for our kids.

    Let's try to help children develop resilience instead by letting them see and experience the real picture so they can rise above any given adversity even without our intervention.

    Let me end with this quote from Sue Atkins, "There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one."

    Dr. Galang also hosts a weekly program, “Our Peaceful Classroom” in Channel e. She is mom to four kids and four fur babies.

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