Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Overprotecting Our Offspring

There's been a lot of talk about the "helicopter" parents of this generation - the ones who involve themselves in every single aspect of their child's life. These parents hover constantly to make sure their children are okay, that they're doing it right, they're all set, that they have enough money, and that they don't need anything.

This kind of parenting is extremely aggravating. Despite what you might be inclined to initially think, it's not because I'm jealous that these kids are waited on hand and foot. It's actually because it's just downright annoying. Not to mention, a little debilitating.

I have a habit of trying to see things from the other side of the fence, so here we go: I understand it's done with the best of intentions. As a parent myself, I want my children to have great, happy, pleasant, healthy lives. I want them to thrive, and I want to protect them from all the nasties of the world. But there's a difference between installing a security system, or putting the scissors up high because it's just plain dangerous to have them at eye level, and then actively making life decisions for your kid or removing all obstacles so they never get upset - or so you don't have to be inconvenienced by their inevitable setbacks. I don't think these parents are necessarily bad people, but I do sense a bit of a control issue going on. Or boredom. You chose.

Let's face it...right now, I know what's best for Little Olive and Huck. They're babies. But as they grow older, they'll have to learn. And that means I'll have to step back and realize I might not always know what is best for them. (All the seasoned moms are laughing now, but I bet you felt this way as a young adult too.) I'll think I know what is best based on MY life and MY experiences. But I'll have to let go to let them learn a lesson, and I pray I have the wisdom to do so when the time comes. There is nothing more condescending than taking over an aspect of a grown child's life - instead of giving them the tools they need to do it themselves. Teach them how, and then go weed your garden.

Even though Little Olive is only 2.5, I try to instill in her the value of hard work and independence. If she can get something for herself, I want her to do that instead of nagging an adult. I want her to know she is capable and strong. I won't let her play the damsel in distress whenever something isn't quite right.
This, tattooed on my forehead, in flashing ink.

As she grows older (and this goes for Little Huck as well), I'm going to continue teaching them to first try something themselves. And to give it an honest, decent effort. None of this "Well, this sounds hard so I'll just ask someone else to do it because I can't possibly think of a way to do it myself." There's nothing more annoying than being on speed dial for a person playing the victim at every possible chance.

I'm witnessing a huge "entitlement" generation. Kids have no concept of the fact that they might not actually deserve every little thing they want or ask for. Parents, however, feed into this lifestyle by giving in. "Oh my gosh, do you really NEED an iPad? Do you know how expensive they are?" they ask, sarcastically. But then a month later, the little 12 year old is opening a brand new one on Christmas morning.

"Oh sure, I'LL run your errands for you," they complain. But then there they are, driving to CVS for that deal they saw in the paper.

"When I was your age, I bought my first car," as they hand over a new set of keys.

Parents, we have to stay strong! Being a parent (because I know, I'm such an expert, but bear with me because I speak no lies) means respecting yourself and your child enough to be loving and firm - and to be a teacher. Not to be enabling, or a doormat, or a self-rolling red carpet.

Maybe I'm writing tonight so I can look back on this in 15 years after an argument with Little Olive, after she storms upstairs, and just realize where I was coming from at one point in my life. Maybe I'm not so much as trying to prove a point or educate others (again, remember my Exceptional Parent credentials), but instead just trying to remind the current and future Me.

Or maybe I just felt like writing a long blog post for the letter O. The world will never know...


Sheila said...

I totally agree, and lately psychologists have been saying the same -- kids need to learn to take risks, fall flat, make mistakes, and make their own decisions, or they will grow up without the ability to do these things. I think it's a matter of basic respect for the child -- don't you owe it to them to let them find their own way?

I know you and I don't have kids this age, but there's nothing wrong with planning ahead a bit! There's always room for some tinkering with our ideas later, but the principle will probably stay the same.

Kathy said...

I agree with you. You can't sugar coat the world for kids. They need to experience life, the good and bad and realize that money doesn't grow on trees so they do appreciate what they have in the long run.Visiting from the A-Z challenge.


Natalie said...

I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head!

BritB said...

Have you read Nurture Shock? It is a VERY interesting parenting book. I think you would enjoy it :)