Saturday, October 25, 2008

Helicopter Parent

To hover or not to hover, that is the question. ..At least, one of the questions that pops in to my head on a regular basis.

The term "helicopter parent" is used to refer to those parents (usually moms) who tend to hover around their kids at ALL times.

They pick out their kids clothes,
walk them to school,
volunteer in their kid's class to observe their child,
pick out their kid's friends,
hover while the kids are playing to make sure that it is all going smoothly,
take way too much interest in their child's sports,
and other extra-curricular activities...and this isn't just for a kindergartner. It seems to continue for some up through High School, and even in to college.

I had a neighbor, who works at a college Health Center, tell me that a mother of a Freshman boy called her to find out about her son's last medical check up results. "I am sorry, I can't give you that information because it is private, and he is over 18," she said.

It sounded like the mother didn't take it too well.

There are mothers who argue with the coaches in High School so that their kids get put on sports teams that they didn't make it on, pick out their kids college courses, etc... I wonder if these mothers are picking out their children's prom dates, and later their spouses...scary!

It seems to me that if you felt secure in your childhood; Your parents were "there for you" but didn't intrude in your space, then you probably don't feel the need to be a "helicopter parent".

On the other hand, it seems like the parents who were latch-key kids (ME), feel this need to "hover" and do things differently.

I did not get to do any extra-curricular activities, so by-gosh, my kids are going to get to try out for every sport and play on every team that ever existed!

I felt awkward and ugly with acne, bad teeth, and oily hair, so I will ensure that my kids have braces at the age of six, regular dermatologist appointments, hair cuts at the fanciest salons, and the most expensive clothes.

My parents weren't interested in my academic success, so I will therefore completely stress out about my child's test scores, making sure he is in the top of his class, and get him tutoring if he needs it!

Didn't have many "play dates", so my child will have at least one, IF not two, preferably with children from varying ethnicities and socio-economic groups, just to ensure that he is well rounded, and exposed to different environments.

Don't we get it?! This extreme is just as bad as the other, just with different consequences.

Instead of feeling abandoned, the kids feel suffocated.

They are not given any freedom to express themselves, mess up (heaven forbid they actually LEARN a life lesson) or try what THEY want to.

The kids who feel alone, with little parental supervision tend to act out to try to get attention, even if it is negative attention.

While the ones with the "hoverer's" for parents tend to act out by controlling whatever aspect of their life they can (eating, cutting, stealing, etc..) Not to say that every mom who picks out her 7th graders clothes is going to be visiting them later at the Betty Ford clinic...

I am just thinking out loud here. I am wondering where I am at right now.

  • I let Dalton walk to school by himself,
  • but I do volunteer once a week in his class (to his utter embarrassment).
  • I do not pick out his clothes,
  • but I do arrange his play dates a week in advance
  • and get him on all the sports teams.
  • I don't hang out with him and his friends,
  • but I do tend to intervene a bit too often and too soon when I hear someone teasing or getting left out.
  • We have all the "fun stuff" at our house, to ensure that kids want to play here,
  • but I watch them from my bedroom window to make sure they "play fair"

So, to hover or not to hover...that is the question.

And I think I have answered it for myself,

I need to give Dalton more space, and go hover somewhere in my laundry pile!!


Chip and Lisa said...

This post was a great self evaluation post and I have come to a conclusion myself. My mom never took us anywhere! Of course I am probably exaggerating but she really was a homebody and I didn't like it. So I over compensate by planning fun and unusual things all the time for my boys. When I know there is a free Saturday I make sure to try and come up with something fun but when I tell my kids they sometimes respond by saying, "I just wanted to stay home today". I think to myself, are you kidding me??? I would have killed for a mom to take me everywhere. But the reality of it is that we need to find that happy medium or our kids will complain and moan about our ways. I guess that is live, it goes full circle. Always love your deep thinkers. Miss our long talks in Boston.

Ashley said...

So true Lis...seems that kids always want whatever they don't have. It is hard to find the balance sometimes. Glad to know that I am not the only one who wrestles with it...and I miss our "Boston talks" as well! :)

Anonymous said...

Ashley, I host a podcast called Body, Mind and Child (, and in preparation for today's interview with Hara Estroff Marano, I've been reading her book, A Nation of Wimps. (The subtitle is The High Cost of Invasive Parenting, so you get the gist.) When you write that the extreme of helicopter parenting is as bad as the other end of the spectrum, you have no idea how right you are! This books lays it out in detail. I highly recommend it.

Hawk Highlights said...

Hey Ashley- First off you are such a great writer - I truly identify with this particular post and know that this is one of the reasons that I am so happy I have more than one child... It helps me to divide my "hovering" by 3..can you imagine poor Jacob if he was my only child? Well I was an only child, latch-key kid etc, I know I over compensate and then get frustrated when I feel they are not appreciating or working hard enough for all that they have - balance - is still my search - thank you for the reminder

Craig and Jessica Smith said...

I found your blog through Kristin's and I am so glad! You are such a great writer and express your feelings so well! I think every parent struggles with whether or not to hover. I think we are all a little of both.

I am such a worrier! I worry about everything and I don't know why because there is nothing I can do about certain situations! (That is Craig talking...way more laid back than me!) But, I think in today's day and age, we need to be a little bit of a "hoverer" because there are some weirdos out there! (I hope I am making sense)

Anyway, we still need to get the kids together! Carter had such a fun time with Dalton! I think Chloe and Shelby would have fun playing together too! I hope it's okay if I add you on my blog! Our blog is I will talk to you soon! I LOVE your blog!

Ashley said...

Hey rae, thanks for the comment. I will look in to that book.

Roz, I think that it must be the worst with our first. Too much energy directed at just one kid. I always thought that you gave Jack so much opportunity to be himself. You are great at letting kids be creative and unique.

Jessie, I think that you are right that now a days we have a bit more reason to hover (pervs) as well as more opportunities (50 million extra-curricular activities that did not exist 30 years ago). However, I saw a piece on Sunday Morning a while back that showed how out of touch our kids have gotten due to our hovering. When our grandparents were kids they had a "leash" a couple MILES long. They could walk to the local fishing hole by themselves. They knew the land, and how to navigate it. A generation later, our parents could walk to school, a couple blocks away, by themselves. Our generation could walk to the end of the street on their own, and now our kids can not leave their yard! Because of this, the report showed that children today are completely unfamiliar with their environment and have a fear of their surroundings. They say that the cause for this radical shift in parenting style is the hype that surrounds the kids that go missing or are abducted, when in reality, the kids are more likely to get struck by lightening or hurt by a member of their OWN family! Anyways, interesting stuff to think about! And YES, lets get the kids together to play soon!

dan shaw said...

Ashley: As I read this post i realized how impressed I am with your parenting skills. To have the ability to step back and look at how you are parenting is an assume skill. I look at how I raised my kids and the parenting that I did and I realized that I to over reacted to my up bring. I am sure my kids got tired of hearing about Malta Id. and how I suffered growing up and that they should be greatful for all that I had provided for them so they didn't have to suffer like I did. then as I got older I realized that my parents did the absolute best they could with the knowledge they had at the time. Just like I am doing know in this time of my life and the on going parenting that I am doing now (by the way it never ends) I am sure I will look back in a few years and say to myself why did I do that? I am impressed that you have the ability to look at what is happening today and say I can improve. My mother is still trying to be a good parent to me (and I am way old). You know as I think about I guess we are all in the same boat we do the best we can everyday and in the end we hope someone tells us we did a good job.


LOve you

Jared and Delia said...

Gosh I never thought about that. Thanks for the thought provoking post. I may be guilty of hovering too!