We all want the best for our kids, but many of us (and you know who you are) have strayed into intensive parenting territory, directing and monitoring their kid’s every move. Now that everyone is dealing with an indefinite pandemic, many of those habits are being reinforced, with negative consequences.
This over the top behavior, which includes rescuing kids at the first sign of trouble or disappointment, can do more harm than good as it limits kids from making – and learning from -- their own mistakes. Generally speaking, kids with helicopter parents tend to be less open to new ideas and actions and are more vulnerable, anxious, dependent and self-conscious.
So how do you break the hyper-parenting mode during these hyper-stressful times?
Listen. Instead of pushing your desires on your kids, listen to their wants and needs and support them in those endeavors, even if it feels like you are giving in to what you consider less-than-productive pursuits (see video games and social media!). Celebrate your child for who he or she is (i.e. maybe not the best athlete or the Rhodes Scholar) and loosen the grip on your own expectations.
Step back. Stop controlling every move and let kids be kids. Let them run around inside (if there is space) or outside, explore nature, ride a bike and even scrape their knee. You need to start trusting your child so he or she can learn to trust themselves. “It’s our own anxiety that will be the biggest bogeyman, and a great thing we can do for kids’ general wellbeing, and learning, is to get that under control,” said Wendy Tuohy, Daily Life Editor for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Stay behind the scenes. Teach your child how to accomplish tasks on their own. That means he or she talks to his or her friends, instead of you talking to their parents, when there is the first sign of bullying or inappropriate behavior online or in-person if you are having playdates. By encouraging your kids to solve their own problems, they’ll learn how to speak up for themselves.
Hone decision-making skills. Talk to your kids about the importance of making good choices and accepting responsibility for their decisions. This exercise will vary depending on the age of your child but can be as simple as allowing them to pick a summer activity to as thorny as handling a social problem between friends. By allowing your kids to discover themselves—their weaknesses, strengths, goals and dreams -- you can help them succeed.
Remember, failure is a part of life. Failure is one of parenting’s best teachable moments. Only through trial and error can children become resilient, mature individuals who can navigate life’s inevitable ups and downs. There is tendency to blow things out of importance, perhaps more so during these stressful days, but resist says Lenore Skenazy, president of the nonprofit Let Grow and author of Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry).”
“It’s all okay. Our kids are not going to seed even if they are sleeping, gaming and bingeing on YouTube. In fact, they’re growing, simply because kids are always growing and learning from everything — houses of cards, Nerf guns, Barbies, baths, videos, but most of all from that vital resource more rare and precious than toilet paper: free time.”