This past week, National Public Radio (NPR) featured a piece on parenting called “Helicopter Parents Hover in the Workplace”. In summary, it described how “helicopter parents,” parents who are overly involved in every minutia of their child’s life, are also continuing this behavior into their children’s adult lives, in the workplace. For example, they are sending their children’s resumes to companies, and in some cases actively campaigning for better salaries and other compensation, for their children. Once again, it begs the question, what type of parent are you? Are you a “helicopter parent,” a “free range” parent- who takes a more of a hands-off approach to parenting her children and lets them explore and experience childhood at their own pace, or somewhere in the middle?
Generally speaking, I am more of a “free range” type of parent, but with “helicopter parent” tendencies. For example, when it comes to their play, we are fortunate to have lots of land for them to roam around on. They are given much latitude while outside to explore on their own. At the tender ages of four and a half and seven and a half, the girls can go behind our barn, down a few paths nears our home, etc, together. My seven and a half year old could go alone, but not the four and half year old. Also, our baby is not covered with antibacterial anything and gasp, has tried whipped cream, frosting, and a chocolate cake already.
Yet, sigh, I worry at times when I allow this all to occur. Will they encounter something poisonous? Will they get to close to the road and I won’t see them? Will our baby be the baby to have that ever so rare, but possible extreme allergic reaction to something I am allowing him to try? –Probably not. On the milder side, I think I should be setting up more play dates for our youngest daughter. Our older daughter had many at this age. Is she missing out and is something in her social fabric going to suffer because of this fact? (Joking here) No again, she is a very happy and social little girl on her own.
So what fuels this phenomenon in us as parents? In terms of helicopter parenting, it seems like several factors might be at play. Many parents cite safety concerns when it comes to their children being outside on their own. Many parents today were children when the National Center for Exploited Children was founded in the 1980’s Actual stranger child abduction numbers are low. A 2002 study done by the National Center for Exploited Children found 115 were victims of stranger abductions. However, more sadly, statistics show that most abductions are committed by family members, friends, or acquaintances.
When one occurs instant media analysis and reaction make it feel like it is common practice. I think this is true for many safety concerns. We are bombarded by instant information. We know of every possibility and chance occurrence of something newsworthy, thus it can feel pressing, relevant, and every day. Additionally, parents are more in tune with their children than ever before. This is not a bad, of course, in and of itself. This is a very great thing! It’s what we do with this in tune nature. I believe we have to ask ourselves are our actions serving our children well or are they from our own anxieties and serving ourselves. I believe children can’t be micromanaged. Obviously certain things need our express, constant, and continual attention. But I really think, like the saying, childhood is not a race, but a journey….