Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No more hovering: You’re grounded mom and dad!

“Less is more; hovering is dangerous; failure is fruitful. You really want your children to succeed? Learn when to leave them alone. When you lighten up, they'll fly higher. We're often the ones who hold them down.” -Time magazine 2009

Are you a “helicopter parent?” Maybe even just a little bit? It’s okay to admit it. Really. That’s the first step: Recognizing it. And then learning to abstain as much as you can, or as much as possible. Heck, I have been known to strap myself into the cockpit on more then one occasion, certainly when my children were younger and I seemed convinced that they couldn’t possibly advocate for themselves (and, often, they simply couldn’t, so grabbing the wheel of the heli was the absolute best course of action; sometimes I even parachuted in).

It’s parental instinct to want to help your child, protect her, right a wrong - actual or perceived - and make sure he is doing the next right thing; basically to want the best for your kid. Sometimes, though, especially when your child is a teenager, the parent’s idea of the best may not necessarily be what’s best for the child. We need to check our motives when the situation warrants, whether it’s the grades they can or cannot achieve, which sport to play, which dance to dance, to what college - if any - they choose to apply.

Simply put, which battles do we fight for them, and when do we let them fight their own?

Here’s an anecdote I can offer: In high school, my son Kenny was the only player on the soccer team he was a part of, who after four games hadn’t seen a minute of playing time; he was upset. He was a good athlete and there didn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason for the coach overlooking him. Even his fellow teammates were puzzled. The thing is, my son is quiet by nature; even though he can feel an inequity, he is not one to make waves with authority. By the time the third game came and went, we encouraged him to ask the coach to put him in or, at the very least, question why he wasn’t playing. The fourth game was also played minus Kenny. On the sidelines I was livid and the old mother bear began to growl, ready to pounce. My intellect kept reminding me that this was high school now, don’t say a peep, but my emotional self was wanting to punch the coach in the face. I joke, I joke, but I did want to say something in a kind but firm manner.

After the game I began striding towards the coach but my son grabbed my arm and cried, “Don’t!” So I told him either he says something in practice the following day, or that I would. Really, it was high time for my kid to man up, so to speak. I knew it wasn’t my battle. I hoped against hope that Kenny would find his voice, and therefore be able to stop gathering splinters on his backside. The next day he did find that voice and I could tell from the way he carried himself that it had empowered him of which I was both proud and relieved.

By high school, our children need to do things without our hand-holding, such as advocating for themselves with teachers, administrators, or guidance counselors. Certainly we can step in at times, and are on occasion even asked to by the folks at school. But we need to try and let go, loosen the reins a bit.

Just for the record, even the whole college search and application process should be something in which our teen take more of an active role. Out of that hovering habit, I began the Google and Naviance searches, informing my junior and now senior daughter of some college options which might be of interest. And then it dawned on me that I am not doing her any favors, and I cried, “Wait! I am not going to college, you are. Become invested in this process or dad and i won’t become invested in it, figuratively and literally.” Viola`! Backing off resulted in her moving ahead.

And moving ahead all on their lonesome is what they have to do in order to pilot their own course and fly into their future, whether it is the next day, or the next year.

No comments: