The main reason parents helicopter over their children is because people are having children much later in life and are having fewer children in total. For example, if you’re 40 and you only have one (or two) kid(s), all of your eggs are in one basket, which is why you may take minimal risks with your one child. You offer up all of your resources and foster their developments, which is positive, but the downside is you have every motivation to hover and watch too closely. When parents have 4 or more children they can’t possibly overprotect them because they’re outnumbered and there are too many of them (ha)! They’ll practically raise themselves and compete with one another to develop, push each other to improve, and attempt to outdo the others. So, here are the choices: you can overprotect and keep them safe from everything that opposes them and poses as a threat, or you can let them out into the world by having them touch the stove many times, getting a slap on the wrist from someone with authority and allow yourself as a mother or father to purposefully fail in order for them to learn independently. Therefore, the child(ren) will learn how to navigate the terrain themselves and be more prepared once they leave the nest, hopefully as they head off to college and venture out into the world.
The question I have for you is this; do you really want to make the life of someone you love easier? I believe that we should not do anything for anyone that they can do for themselves. A friend of mine used the perspective of a nurse at an elderly care facility watching an elder struggle buttoning their shirt and then taking over to speed up the process. Which isn’t right because you are stealing the last of their independence! So when you tie your kids' shoes and dress them, going into their later years, they will gradually become more dependent on their parents to take care of them. The fundamentals, the things we do every day, are the most important things that we do because they constitute 75% of our day. Getting up, making your bed, brushing your teeth, eating breakfast with your family, showering, getting dressed for work/school, going to work/school, repeat. You want your children to struggle enough so that they can solve problems on their own and face consequences when they aren’t sufficient, when they aren’t respectful, and when they aren’t disciplined. Obviously, rules must be implemented and boundaries have to be established. That’s why it’s important to make things black and white, the child(ren) can make whatever choices they want, but they cannot choose the consequences. You want your kid(s) to go explore and meet new people so they can differentiate healthy and toxic relationships and experiment to know where the line is when it comes to handling freedom properly and fairly.
The notable signs and habits of overprotective parents are those who: over-schedule their children so that they have as many opportunities as possible, which can be crippling to an extent. Being too protective by providing and offering them everything tends to be a negative in the long run if these things are not earned. This is how entitlement forms and later on in life they will expect their parents to be scouting and laying out every step ahead of them. Meaning minimal privation is essential so that the child learns to troubleshoot spontaneously and become aware that true success and fulfillment takes time and dedication; an important skill later in life. Another example is when parents turn to the teacher as the problem for declining grades instead of their kid, giving the child a false sense of understanding. This plants a seed in their head that they can always point the finger. Of course, in some cases, a teacher is slacking, but I would say most of the time, it’s usually the student not spending their time properly in and out of class. We want young people to fail and lose so that they can feel that terrible feeling of defeat and failure in order to do everything in their power to learn from it and prevent its recurrence in the future. Essentially, that’s what memory is, not to remember the past but to learn from it. It’s not a child’s prerogative to always be right, which is why it’s crucial and important to explain to them where they went wrong, and why. Parents have a habit of putting a bandaid on a situation, which is all well and good in that present moment, but a bandaid is only temporary, and painful wounds need air and time to prevent the wound of later scarring or reopening to something worse. Hard now, easy later.
This is a difficult topic and a hard label to accept, but it’s important to know that once you are aware of it, you can learn from it. As with all things in life, right? Higher Grounds helps draw the line in the sand, removing the power struggle and allowing your child to go through the necessary struggle they need for long-term success. This isn’t a shot at any parent out there, most of the time the parent(s) went through a set of tragedies and overcame a ton of adversity to get to a place where they could supply anything and everything for their child(ren) so their kid didn’t have to experience what they did. With that said, you have to remember those scarring moments and screw-ups are what makes us a person. You want there to be obstacles and tears along the way so they can overcome and achieve. Once they do that once, twice or three times, etc, whatever they come across later won’t scare them off and they will become unstoppable and obtain whatever it is they want in the material world. These are the habits we need to incentivize young people so that they do the same for their children later. We want to teach them strength and encourage them to take on more and more challenges so they can bear the duty of responsibility; for themselves, for their family, and for their community.
Written by Nicholas Salvemini
HGMT Behavioral Specialist & Mentor