Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Helicopter Parents

When Philip went off to college, I first heard about "helicopter parents" who hover and make decisions for their kids and don't allow them to make their own mistakes & learn from them.

I think maybe it starts early. Do we let a kid bump his head on the underneath side of the table as he's learning to walk? Do we fret when the budding bike-rider scrapes up her knee, or do we matter-of-factly wash away the blood and send her on her way? Do we teach children from their earliest days that any bump, bruise, cut, splash of water in the face, is something for which they need comfort and soothing?

Of course, we don't want to be callous to sorrow and pain. But look at how we've been training the children: dumbing-down playgrounds, the widespread use of helmets and knee-pads, and the fear among parents of tree-climbing and mosquito-stings. No wonder we end up with a society where the adults think they have a right to a life without pain, where lawsuits allow outrageous sums for "pain and suffering," and where somebody else should be paying for my health insurance and my new & more-gas-efficient car and my house that was destroyed by the river after I built in a flood plain.

If we're afraid to let a toddler fall-down-&-go-boom, then it makes sense that we're afraid to let them make their own mistakes 15 or 20 or 30 years later when the stakes are even higher.


  1. I think this hovering extends to protection from germs too. We try to save our children from exposure to every cold virus, with the result that their bodies don't develop immunities and are weak.

  2. You've hit one of my pet issues. We have a great climbing tree in our backyard and I can't believe the number of kids we've had over whose parents won't let them climb it w/my kids-- and it's not even very tall and the kids can't climb very high.

    Suffice it to say, I agree with you.

  3. Ditto
    I have actually quit talking about that in ordinary conversation with people because it seems to be such a hot topic. I am relieved to know there are others out there that think the way I do!

  4. I am a great believer in the value of scraped knees and dirty hands, climbing trees and learning to use power tools. I miss tall slides and real monkey bars and merry-go-rounds. Playgrounds used to be fun for older kids, too. Now they're for sheltered three-year-olds. BTW--when you are the parent of a college student living at home, it takes a lot of effort to help them be independent. :)

  5. We were just talking about this today. We always had recess in school and we had GREAT playgrounds! Huge slides, lots of things to hang on. We did get banged up, sometimes, just a little...I remember getting band-aids. But we learned what we could and could not do...and we even knew that sometimes, when you are having GREAT fun, you might get a scratch....but it was worth it.

  6. Cate...we had a huge weeping willow tree in our backyard. I would climb to the absolute top and hold on and sway in the breeze. I could see many roof tops from up there. It was quiet and felt so good. It is one of my fondest memories of being a kid....and I still love trees!