Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Helicopter" and "Lawnmower" parents

I was enjoying my usual morning coffee and perusing our local daily paper the other day, when I came face-to-face with a term I'd never heard before. (At least I don't think I had) At any rate, the term helicopter parent aroused my curiosity as I saw it sitting there, prominently, in a headline on the editorial page. As good headlines are intended, my curiosity was up, and I was eager to jump in and read and find out what this was all about. It became very clear that the term helicopter parent was a less-than-flattering name given to parents who pay way too close attention to their child's experiences. Once I finished the editorial, which was about how these hovering parents basically ruined an Easter egg hunt for all the kids, I agreed that the term was a pretty darned good one at that! 

I was so intrigued with the term helicopter parent, I did a quick Google search and immediately found an informative Wikipedia article. Interestingly, the article also described lawnmower parent. What surprised me most, though, was how long these terms have been around. According to the article, the term was first coined in 1990 in a book titled Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility. (Cline & Fay) I think we always just referred to these kinds of parents as "pains in the ass!"  But I like the terms helicopter parent and lawnmower parent.

Looking back to my own days of raising a son and a daughter, I often found myself  on the very same precipice of being one of those helicopter parents. Not sure if I ever went quite that far, but there were instances where I could have easily done so. (e.g.-little league, high school sports, etc.) I'm sure everyone's intentions are admirable  for attempting to make  life for their kids as good as possible, especially in a world that all too often is anything but good. However, it would seem that the more these parents try to remove the obstacles so Johnny or Janie won't stumble and lose out, the more they become an even bigger problem in the vast scope of things! Johnny and Janie learn at a very young age that there is nothing to worry about: they can't lose! They've been set up for major disappointments later on when the reality checks kick in.

Everyone on the team gets a ribbon or a trophy--"Everyone plays! Everyone wins!" That's all fine and dandy until it becomes the norm as the kids participate and come to expect that they need not apply themselves fully to achieve a goal because they're going to be rewarded regardless. In my 35 years of teaching middle school kids, I saw this kind of thing over and over and over again. It never did the kids one bit of good--maybe a temporary bit of glory that was soon gone--and they would have been better served to be left alone by their helicopter parent(s).

Our society, right now, is way too crowded with young people who don't know how to compete--or even want to, for that matter. It would probably do everyone well to get back to one of life's very basic lessons: We learn from our failures. Not everyone makes the team, wins the game, or is the best at everything he/she does. What good is done for kids by constantly hovering over them, smoothing out all roadblocks in their way? Instead, teach them responsibility and go "hover" someplace else...MLA

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