We’re all familiar with the saying: when I was a kid, I had to _____fill in the blank___. All parents have used this line at some point in their lives. It’s not new. Each generation finds fault in the previous and the next generations. And I’m pretty certain it will continue to happen ad infinitum.
I hate to be a traitor to my generation, but having had the unique perspective of being a parent to a child born in 1987 and another born in 2001, I have been privy to observing the differences in parenting, and I have to say that the current trend is not looking good.
I haven’t read this author’s book, but definitely agree with the title. The new so-called trend of “helicopter” parenting is definitely creating more problems than good. Recent studies show repeatedly that children raised with over-involved parents suffer more anxiety and depression than children who are raised more independently. Aside from the internal damage this style of parenting is creating, I am nervous about what kind of adults these children will become.
One of the main over-reaching activities Lythcott-Haims scolds parents for is doing their children’s homework. I couldn’t agree more. Not only as a parent, but as a prior school teacher, I can tell you that instilling independent school habits early on will be one of the best traits your child develops for life.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remind our kids they need to do their homework, and even occasionally help them work through a tough question or assignment. But what I hear from many parents today is that they are literally sitting down at the table with their kids everyday while they do their homework and often do the work with them, and sometimes for them. Especially “projects”. I have seen 4th grade projects that look like a famous artist made them. It is quite obvious that a 10-year-old child didn’t make that miniature perfect replica of Apollo 13.
Another negative practice parents are using today that on the surface seems good, is over-praising. As my husband has grumbled about for years, we give awards to kids today for everything and anything. All a child has to do today to earn a sports award is show up. Yep that’s right, we now award people for doing the very basic thing they all have to do every day of their life- show up.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer in fostering positive self-esteem. But you see the thing about self-esteem is it isn’t something you can “give” to someone. Yes we can nurture it, but self-esteem is something the individual develops over their lifetime and usually comes as a result of “doing” things themselves and feeling proud or a sense of accomplishment from it.
And I have proof that more hands-off parenting works well (please indulge my bragging as an illustration of how this parenting style can work). My 27-year-old daughter, a child of divorce (btw, my ex and I are good friends and worked hard to provide a stable and loving environment for our daughter, another area parents today fail, but that’s a whole other article), got her driver’s license at 16 (many kids I know today are scared to drive), has had a job since she was 16, moved away to go to college, and stayed there the whole time (yes, she actually stayed at college, so many children today get nervous away at college and move back home), graduated college with a Bachelor’s, has lived on her own since she was 18, and works full time for a company that she has been with for almost 5 years now. She also hasn’t married yet because she hasn’t found the right person, and she refuses to settle just for the sake of marriage. She has rarely asked for money (if she has, she has paid it back). Also, she does not take any type of psychological medications (anti-anxiety meds, etc), and is pretty happy.
My 14-year-old son does his homework either in study hall or as soon as he gets home from school, and seldom even asks me a question about it. I have never sat at the table with him, or even need to ask him anymore if he has homework to do. He achieves mostly A’s on his report card, doesn’t get in trouble in school and is pretty much a happy, kind, funny and very smart kid.
Sure some of this is good genes, some of it is luck, but mostly we allowed our children to succeed (and here’s the hard part, sometimes fail) on their own. I’m not saying we were perfect, or even great parents (a mythical creature for sure), and I personally made lots of mistakes; but the one underlying parenting tactic that governed us was a little bit of healthy neglect (a term my own mother often used).
Now let’s talk about why parents today don’t let their kids ride the bus to school… (ok I’ll save that rant for another time).