Beyond Helicopter Parenting
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I often speak and write about “Good Enough Parenting”.
This is not because I or my clients aim low. On the contrary, we are all high achievers and by nature cringe a little when we hear the two words, “good enough”.
We think that good enough is the opposite of perfect. Show me a high achiever who is not aiming for perfection and I’ll show you a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The antithesis of Good Enough Parenting is Perfectionist Parenting and it rests on the foundation of the belief that we need to optimize every aspect of our children’s lives. Much has been written about this way of raising kids and I don’t see the need to explore it further here.
But the consequences of raising our children as our projects are now evident to so many of us.
There is a considerable demographic of young adults (17 — 30ish) who are optimized to within an inch of their lives but are also held back by some seemingly invisible thread from fully embracing their capabilities and forging their own paths.
What did we do wrong?
First, let me say this. We didn’t do anything wrong.
We were simply reacting to the generation of parents before us who were somewhat absent. Again, they didn’t do anything wrong either. It’s just how things were. They let us roam freely (because the environment was far safer than today), they smoked in front of us, and well, let’s not even talk about seatbelts (what seatbelts?)!
The pendulum always swings to the other extreme before it settles somewhere in the middle and we were the generation who stepped into parenting at a time of profound reactiveness to the style of parenting we ourselves had experienced.
As a Professional Life Coach to young adults, my goal in this article is two-fold:
- Help any parent out there who is still stuck with blaming themselves for their child’s reluctance to engage with life whole-heartedly, to let go of the blame and shame. We did our very best and that’s all anyone can ask for.
- Request that you stop being your child’s personal assistant, operations manager, and alarm clock.
Yes, I’m asking you to go cold turkey and literally just stop.
Your fears for your child, should you stop playing the above mentioned roles, are not entirely unfounded. Afterall he or she has been dependent on a slew of helpers to simply get through a day, let alone a life.
Expect failures, anger, and near disasters. Expect your child to regress and try every manipulation possible to shame and guilt you into reporting back to your post.
Stand strong and give your child the only two things that are the actual pillars of effective parenting:
- Unconditional love and
- Respect for their uniqueness
Beware, this practice is not for the weak-kneed. Bad things can and probably will happen when you stop being the driver of your (now adult) child’s life. But you have to let them (and you) suffer in service of a greater good — the ability to build actual life skills.
Although I help my clients build life skills, it’s always an uphill battle when their parents (regardless of my requests) continue to be their child’s right and left hands — their assistants and managers, their alarm clocks, snooze buttons and calendars.
The famous Marshmallow test of 1972 which measured how well children could delay immediate gratification to receive greater rewards in the future, now ironically, is the one test that we parents need to successfully pass.
We need to show our children that we are not fragile and can handle their failures!
In doing so, we model actual resilience and confidence and show them the only path forward — the ability to believe they are anti-fragile and can handle failure without falling apart.