When I was a kid, I’d leave my house in the morning only to return at dinner time when my mom would yell my name out the front door. As long as I was within yelling distance, I was free to roam about the neighborhood for hours at a time. I wouldn’t think of doing such a thing with my kids. Why? Because I have been misled into believing that “good parenting” means monitoring every move my kids make. With age and insight, I have now come to believe my helicopter parenting is doing a disservice to my kids.
Crime statistics tell us that violent crime occurs far less nowadays then it did in the 1970s and 80s. Yet, as parents, we errantly believe a boogeyman is waiting in the bushes for our kids the minute they walk out the front door. So, parents (like myself) make the mistake of preventing our kids from experiencing real world adventures, for fear of a boogeyman that statistically doesn’t exist. We also prevent our kids from feeling the pain of their mistakes and suffering consequences because we jump in to fix their problems. I don’t know how many pairs of wrestling shoes I have unnecessarily purchased for my son when he forgets one or both at home. In retrospect, if he had to wrestle without his shoes, perhaps he would learn to be more organized. The fact is, I and many of my peer parents want our kids to have as close to a “perfect” childhood as we can provide, and to not endure the pain of bad decisions that we suffered as children.
Fear-based parenting and a desire to give our kids a “better” childhood than we had has created a generation of kids who are crippled in the face of adversity. Indeed, recent studies indicate kids suffer from depression and anxiety at a higher rate now than ever before. When faced with the slightest bit of adversity, kids can’t cope and overcome. Parents don’t shoulder all of the blame, but helicopter parents such as myself must recognize the road to your-kids-living-in-your-basement-forever was paved with good intentions. We should allow our kids to suffer the consequences of their mistakes while they are kids, knowing the consequences of adult mistakes are far more significant and sometimes life altering. If we don’t teach our kids coping mechanisms, the same pain we hope to prevent in childhood will be experienced by them in spades as adults. So, my 2019 resolutions include hovering less and providing my kids with advice rather than interference, hoping they enter adulthood with the requisite skills to effectively overcome life’s inevitable obstacles. And I refuse to buy any more replacement wrestling shoes.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.