One of the harder rites of passage for any parent is to let go – no more holding hands when crossing the road, no more accompanying the child everywhere, and no more knowing each and every one of your child’s friends. At the same time, in today’s increasingly complicated world that is so different from the one we grew up in, it might be downright dangerous not to know where your child is (or should be) at all times, who his friends are and what he is doing in their company. I try to be involved in my children’s lives, asking them about their activities and friends and keeping up with the school activities through the website. Although I must say that since my teenage son is at that uncommunicative stage in his life, when most of his replies are in the form of grunts that I am free to interpret to my personal satisfaction or not, much of our communication is very one-sided and not very revealing…… well, at least I try.
But recently my kids jokingly referred to another parent as a ‘helicopter’ parent, which gave me pause to think about my own parenting style. Of course, one always believes the best of oneself, so I think of myself as an ‘involved’ parent and not a ‘helicopter’ one, but what is the difference between the two, and where does one draw the line? Of course, this is not a scientific explanation, but to me, while both types are very involved in their children’s lives, the main feature of a helicopter parent is one who does for the child what he can and should be doing for himself. Doing his homework, ensuring his school bag is packed, calling the teachers to dispute his grades etc etc. Whereas an involved parent is one who creates the groundwork so that the child can make wise choices and decisions for himself. Both types of parents, and indeed all parents, do not want their children to fail. But, for no doubt the best intentions, the helicopter parent will take over various activities in the child’s life himself, not permitting the child to experience the ‘worse’ parts of life, such as making a mistake or failing a test. An involved parent, on the other hand, is one who understands that it is in the trials and tribulations of life that true success and true learning is achieved.