There are books, talks and countless newspaper articles berating modern day parents for their helicopter style (always hovering, never allowing children to just be or take risks).
Here’s why I think this whole media obsession with helicopter parents is completely unhelpful.
- If it exists, it’s surely only an upper middle class problem, hardly representative of ‘most of us’. If you have time to, as one news article claimed ‘hang out at your kids school at lunch time to make sure they are doing okay’, you obviously don’t work or have a range of other commitments that the middle and working class parents I know need to juggle like a top class circus act. Most parents in my world struggle to pay the endless bills, find time to vacuum or get themselves a haircut (got a haircut myself this week for the first time this year, bonus!). Being present 24/7 in your child’s life is just not an option, especially if you have more than one.
- The term diminishes the great advances in parenting. Anyone using the term ‘helicopter parent’ has just declared they have no faith in current parents and their offspring. As a commentator on a recent article said, ‘What about all the helicopter therapists hovering over parents, telling them they are doing it wrong.’ Well played sir, well played. This generation understands more about the brain, emotions and the interplay between nature and nurture. Give us some credit, we must be doing something right.
- It sets people apart from each other – You’re wrong, I’m right. You are different and I don’t like it. None of these things are ever helpful. It takes a village to raise a child, if you’re looking at someone else with disdain instead of ‘how can I help?’ we all suffer. Recently, on a local facebook noticeboard, a father complained about a woman who had told off his wife when her autistic son was making too much noise in a shop. With all the criticism she receives, that day, it broke her. Thinking that one generation is better than another, or one way of being is the only way, leads to this sort of public shaming. This news article about a US mum trying to explain her autistic son to strangers (Should she even have to? We should all be caring with each other) has led to some awful responses. Unnecessary http://www.aol.com/article/2015/07/20/mothers-autistic-child-sticker-causes-intense-backlash/21211389/
- Is it the parents or society wrapping kids in cotton wool. Safety standards are high. Laws and policies are consistently being updated to ensure kids are ‘safe’. I wonder if we think about the consequences of this. When The Age reported that kids are no longer allowed alone in cars at all, the interviewee said ‘Parents will need to take their children into the petrol station to pay for the petrol, or fill up when they aren’t in the car.’ Is it reasonable to drag children across a concourse where cars are traveling around, as a safer option then leaving them in the car? Is it reasonable to ask parents to reconsider every aspect of daily life to comply with the latest safety ideas? It’s not the parents creating these rules.
- It sells books, but does it help kids? There are still so many challenges in families/parenting. Abuse, poverty, divorce, trauma and illiteracy. Are we coping with these issues well enough that we can look away, to complain about the small percentage of upper middle class parents who care too much? All the articles, books and emphasis on the ‘helicopter parents’ divert our attention from the real issues. There are serious issues for families today. Some kids are really struggling. I don’t want to focus on trivialities anymore, I want to make sure we aren’t leaving any kids behind. I don’t think we are doing too well at that. Here’s the Dropping off the Edge report 2015 that highlights it http://www.dote.org.au/
Let’s celebrate that we are parents, in an enlightened era. Let’s support and help each other, with opens hearts and minds. Let’s get through this craziness together. Let’s not freak out if we are standing too close, not close enough, not doing this, doing too much of that. We are all doing are best.