As a mom of four, I want the best for my children. Over the years, I have witnessed, been guilty of, or been affected by helicopter parenting. As a result, I have learned that there is a clear distinction between advocating for your child and doing for your child what he or she can do for themselves. The following are two stories used to differentiate between helicopter parenting and child advocacy.
Story 1: A parent wants their child to play on an undefeated sports team. The parent emails the coach, sends a resume of the child’s athletic accomplishments, the parent’s job title, how much money they donate to the school, and tells the coach their child would be a great addition to the team. In the email, there is no mention of the child’s interest to play the sport.
Story 2: A parent picks up their child after school. The child says a classmate is causing trouble and it’s a repeated behavior. The parent coaches the child how to stand up and speak up for what is right. If the behavior continues, the parent suggests gathering the facts, scheduling an appointment with the teacher/counselor and address the situation to find an appropriate solution.
Parents that hover, or are “helicopter” parents:
- Desire to be hyper involved in their child’s life.
- Use ego, pride, financial or social status to influence their child’s future.
- Coddle or entitle the child’s behaviors and protects them from consequences.
- Have difficulty letting go.
- Prepare the path for the child.
Parents who advocate for their child:
- Cultivate independence and self-sufficiency.
- Train their child to be goal oriented and have a disciplined work ethic.
- Teach problem solving and critical thinking skills.
- Encourage the child’s decision-making abilities and resourcefulness.
- Prepare the child for the path.
What are the effects of helicopter parenting?
In 2011, a study of 300 students by Terri LeMoyne and Tom Buchanan at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga found that students with “hovering” or “helicopter” parents are more likely to be medicated for anxiety and/or depression.
Parents, wouldn’t it be great if you were discharged from the hospital with a manual on how to be an advocate for your child? I think so. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. The more you advocate for your child, the more likely your child will overcome adversity and be mentally prepared for the future. Advocate for your child by understanding the facts, devising a plan (and a back up plan), learning from the past, and looking at the big picture.
I love being present in the moment. Every day is an opportunity for me to be an advocate for my child: socially, academically, athletically or relationally. My job isn’t to fix it for them, but rather to equip them with the tools they need to become self-reliant adults.
P.S. Last week was busy. I found myself in offices and buildings, advocating for all four of our kids. When Friday rolled around, I was ready for an early evening, good book and glass of wine!
Niccole Maurici, University Park mom of four and former certified personal trainer, is the co-founder and creator of the StrongestMom.com website and fitness videos, which promote values important to moms: encouragement, support, positive thinking, and dedication. To learn more visit our website strongestmom.com.