Recently the New York Times published an opinion piece on the benefits of “helicopter parenting” – when parents take a proactive role in helping their children throughout their academic journey. The term “helicopter parenting” has had a negative connotation, mainly because it conjures an image of hyper-anxious, authoritarian parents who won’t let their children just be kids in the hope that their ultra-attentiveness will translate into adulthood success. The reality of helicopter parenting, though, is that it can actually work. Helicopter parents are best described as authoritative, not authoritarian. The key difference between the two is that authoritarian parents demand children do things a specific way, whereas authoritative parents provide a framework for accomplishing tasks well, and allowing their children to experience success within that framework.
If you feel that you may be a helicopter parent, and are wondering if it’s OK, ask yourself: Is my child succeeding and happy about his or her performance in school (most of the time)? If the answer is “yes”, then it frankly doesn’t matter how you characterize that level of support you’re providing. Most students need a high level of support throughout their academic careers, whether from parents, tutors, friends, teachers, or mentors. If the answer to the above question is “no”, then ask yourself: What am I doing that isn’t allowing my child to express his or her individuality, and to make mistakes? Often the best learning experience is making a mistake and learning from it in the context of a positive interaction with a parent.
The New York Times piece referenced an important element of being a helicopter parent, in that to be a proactive, highly-involved and supportive parent, you will be working hard and experiencing moments of heightened stress. The most important thing will be to maintain your own life balance, as that will be the model that your child follows. Don’t forget to take the time to see the big picture, and realize that as long as you and your child are trying your best, you are succeeding.
John Posatko, M.A.Ed.
Director of Education