This isn’t the episode I was planning to share today, but I received a video message from a student this morning.
I nearly cried.
And then I was annoyed.
It was a whirlwind of emotion!
Today, we’re talking about the 3 hazards of helicopter parenting.
So you’ll remember that I teach English online to cute little pumpkins in China. Most of my students are between the ages of 4 and 10 so I spend almost every morning of my life wishing for a baby even half as cute as my students. Anyway, I received a video message today from one of my most skilled students. Her name is Iris You see, I am no longer able to teach her English class and so she sent me this video saying she was sad I’d no longer be her teacher.
And so she sent me this goodbye video that had me on a complete emotional roller coaster.
I laughed when she walked right up to the camera to show me a drawing she had made of me. Me. Now you have to imagine this. I wear these huge teaching headphones with a microphone attached for our lessons. So inevitably, in her picture, she drew me wearing my usual oversized teaching headphones and my big computer screen glasses. I couldn’t help but laugh.
I almost cried when she said she was sad because our Tuesday lessons were her favorite and I had taught her so much.
However, it was clear she was reading off a script. And to be completely honest with you, this annoyed me. This annoyed the heck out of me!
I was saddened and irked and annoyed and upset and a tiny bit angry, actually.
Because let me tell you. This little girl is absolutely brilliant in English. I taught her every Tuesday for 6 months and we had the most complex conversations about pets, foods she likes and dislikes, the weather, her schooling, and so much more. She has a wildly expansive vocabulary and fairly solid grammar skills for a nugget that’s only 5 years old.
And yet, her parents felt the need to script her goodbye.
This choice they made to script her last message robbed me of the last authentic interaction I’ll ever share with Iris.
But more importantly than robbing me of this special moment, they robbed her as well. They robbed her of a chance to freely express herself in this new language she is working so hard to master.
And, they robbed her so much much more. Because there are real repercussions to helicopter parenting. And that’s why even though this isn’t the episode I was planning on creating for you today, I felt it important to share.
Hazard 1 of Being a Helicopter Parent
Helicopter parenting is a style of child-rearing in which an overprotective mother or father swoops in at any sign of challenge or discomfort.
So, as you might imagine, the first hazard of helicopter parenting is that it zaps the child’s initiative to try independently. They’ve never had to try anything difficult on their own, so their excitement to try new things will slowly be stunted. Or quickly stunted, depending on your child’s personality.
This will look different based on your child’s personality and your family dynamics. But they may start needing step-by-step guidance. They may be looking at you for guidance or approval instead of jumping in on new opportunities.
They may start to become timid or shy.
And with an animated and engaging girl like Iris, well that would be such a shame.
Helicopter Parenting Hazard 2
The second hazard of helicopter parenting is that it zaps the child’s self-confidence. Whether consciously or unconsciously, they likely end up thinking, “if mom keeps helping me, it must be because I’m not good at it.”
They may become shy or lose all their self-confidence. They may lose their perseverance when faced with a new or difficult task.
You may hear them start to say things like “I can’t do it” or “I need help” before even trying.
Hazard 3 of Being a Helicopter Parent
And the third hazard, to be completely honest with you… is that they’ll probably do better if you just let them try independently. Sometimes they will do better in the short term, but they will always do better in the long term. In Iris’s case, she would have done much better in the short-term for her goodbye video. Her grammar might have stumbled a bit, but her intonation and pacing would have sounded much more natural and smooth. And that grammatical stumble would have been great for her! Stumbles are great! Making mistakes is a huge part of learning.
It’s a huge part of learning new topics as well as building confidence. The more age-appropriate and skill level-appropriate challenges your child faces and succeeds at, the more they will see that they are capable of great things. And what better way to build confidence is there?
So there you have it. Take it from me. And take it from Iris’s goodbye video. Helicopter parenting might make you feel like a supportive and helpful parent now, but you’re not doing your child – or yourself – any favors by offering them more help than they truly need. You run the risk of zapping their initiative, self-confidence, and even their long-term progress.
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