I was just reading an article on a student blog titled “Helicopter Parents: Is Hovering Harmful to Career Goals?” . Before reading it I was able to supply the answer – “Yes”! The thing I like about the article is that it points out that helicopter parents are not only attempting to protect their kids from any physical danger (whether real or imagined, and mostly imagined), but also from any type of conflict whatsoever. Lenore Skenazy deals mostly with the first type of helicopter parent in her Free Range Blog, but what about the parent whose child never has to stand up for himself? Never has to say to a friend, “Hey, I don’t like what you just did, or said”? At the slightest hint of conflict, this type of helicopter parent swoops in and takes over on the child’s behalf. Again, I’m not talking about situations where a child is being bullied or physically beaten. I’m just talking your run of the mill, it happens in every friendship kind of conflict. The kind where you say or do something you shouldn’t or get in an argument over some minor thing.
What if your kid never learns to say “I don’t like that,” because you are always saying it for them?
Part of living is conflict. It’s unpleasant. No sane person particularly enjoys it. But humans argue and the parent who never allows their child to learn to deal with it is doing that child an enormous disservice.
As life learners, I want my kids to know how to deal with conflict. I’m happy to talk through any problem with them and advise them how to handle it, if asked, but when they argue with a friend I expect them to work it out without my direct involvement. This is hard to do with friends whose parents fight their battles for them. I would hope that if one of my kids does something hurtful to a friend, that friend will call them on it, thereby making them aware that words have power and should be chosen carefully. I expect that if one of Maya’s friends says something to her that angers her or hurts her feelings, she will talk to them about it and not ask me to step in on her behalf. If Ben does something hurtful or is insensitive to a friend, I hope that friend will tell him. I want them to learn that friends sometimes argue but that true friends work it out. It’s not easy to realize you’ve hurt someone, and it’s not fun to be hurt, but worse is to say nothing about it and/or let someone else handle it for you.
As the article I mentioned above points out, far from keeping your child ‘safe’, this type of helicopter parenting is harmful in the long run. What kind of adult can function in the world without ever having encountered or learned to resolve conflict? How can they function in a relationship, or at work?
Call it fighting your own battles or conflict resolution – it’s a tough lesson but easier if learned young, when the stakes are not so high.