Jan 15

Helicopter Parenting: How to Reverse the Overparenting Trend

In today’s lingo a thing to be avoided is helicopter parenting. Psychologist Linda Sapadin‘s definition:

Helicopter parents are so named because they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach, whether their kids need them or not. These parents rush in to prevent any harm from befalling their children – not just physical harm but ‘unfair’ treatment at school, on the athletic field or in extra-curricular activities.

Helicopter parents ‘do’ for their kids when their kids have trouble doing for themselves. The reason they ‘do’ always seems reasonable. A child with a filled social calendar is too busy, too distracted or too forgetful to take responsibility for his own stuff. So, a caring parent picks up an application, drops off an assignment, fixes a fight between friends or ‘helps’ him do his homework.

Hara Marano, author of A Nation of Wimps, has addressed on her website the differences between “spoiling” and helicopter parenting, otherwise known as overparenting:

Spoiling is driven by the demands of the child. For any number of reasons, a parent gives in to a child’s demand for something–say, a toy. A child gets his or her way.

Overparenting is driven by the demands of the adult. And it isn’t necessarily focused on things (like toys) or on rules. A parent consumed by anxiety for a child’s achievement calls a teacher to protest a grade given to the student. Or sends a kid off to ballet camp with an eye to developing an array of extracurricular skills that will ultimately impress college admissions officers. It isn’t necessarily something the child has asked for. It is something that soothes the parental anxiety. It may have the effect of spoiling a child, giving a child a sense that any demand will be met, but that is not preordained, and it has many other negative effects as well.

Effects on the kids? Whereas spoiling may lead to kids who are “self-centered, throw frequent temper tantrums, have a low tolerance for frustration, and grow up having problems controlling anger,” the overparented kids don’t develop a sense of self, for one. Also: “They grow up overly compliant. They lack coping skills because everything has been done for them by anxious parents. They’re weak from within, and it’s a pervasive weakness. The grow up risk-averse and unable to make decisions on their own. They, too, have a low tolerance for frustration.”

Clinician Madeline Levine, in a New York Times piece, contrasts helicopter parenting with the more effective “authoritative” parenting, which mixes having a certain level of expectations with allowing a child to be his or her own person. “The central task of growing up is to develop a sense of self that is autonomous, confident and generally in accord with reality. If you treat your walking toddler as if she can’t walk, you diminish her confidence and distort reality. Ditto nightly ‘reviews’ of homework, repetitive phone calls to ‘just check if you’re O.K.’ and ‘editing’ (read: writing) your child’s college application essay.”

Gever Tulley‘s TED talk “5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do” is an argument for less overparenting, which actually leads to increased safety. (His book is 50 Dangerous Things.)

Incidentally, check out another resource I found online, psychologist Wendy Mogel‘s “26-step program for good parents gone bad,” aka Overparenting Anonymous.

Sep 06

Five Life Lessons That Might Surprise You (“Psychology Today”)

Below are some highlights of the five life lessons listed in a recent Psychology Today article, Lessons For Living: Five Surprising Principles for Living, Loving, and Playing Well With Others,” by Elizabeth Svoboda and Colin Weatherby.

  1. Lesson #1: The Role of Radical Acceptance—You can’t fix the ones you love, so focus on fixing yourself.  “…(W)hen you don’t see eye to eye in a relationship you want to keep: ‘Look inward to fix the problem rather than trying to change the other person,’ says Northwestern University psychologist Eli Finkel—even if that just means practicing acceptance,” write the authors. Info from Paul Coleman‘s book “We Need to Talk”: Tough Conversations with Your Spouse is also cited.
  2. Lesson #2: The Beauty of Benign Neglect—It’s more harmful to overparent than to underparent. Resources used for this principle include Hara Estroff Marano‘s A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting and David Elkind‘s The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children. Michelle Givertz, assistant professor of Communication Studies, California State University at Chico, “…found that age-inappropriate overparenting leads to depression-prone, aimless kids (and ultimately, adults) with ‘diminished self-efficacy,’ lacking the ability to put a plan in place to achieve goals…” Another outcome of parental overinvolvement is that kids develop an increased sense of entitlement.
  3. Lesson #3: Opposites Don’t Forever Attract—Seek a mate whose values and background echo your own. This is supported by a compatibility questionnaire developed by psychologist Glenn Wilson, Gresham College, London. The writers of the article add: “Still, regardless of how well the two of you score on compatibility tests, you need to feel a spark of attraction—something that can actually come from the differences between your partner’s interests and passions and your own…”
  4. Lesson #4: Social Networks Matter—The strength of your friendships is as critical for your health as the lifestyle choices you make. Multiple studies have supported this idea, including research by Bert Uchino, psychologist, University of Utah; by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Brigham Young University; and by Sheldon Cohen, Carnegie Mellon University. “Researchers speculate that the stress associated with low social support sets off a cascade of damaging reactions within the body, including cardiovascular dysfunction and weakened immune resistance. ‘Stress has potentially negative effects on health and well-being,’ Cohen says, but knowing your friends have your back can help prevent such fallout.”
  5. Lesson #5: Lust Diminishes, But Love Remains—Being inured to your partner isn’t the same as being out of love. Several books are cited: David Schnarch, Intimacy & Desire: Awaken the Passion in Your RelationshipHoward Markman, Fighting For Your Marriage; and Harriet Lerner, Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up. One significant conclusion:  “…Focus on the lasting bonds that remain in the relationship. Rather than asking yourself, ‘Am I still in love with my partner?’ try asking, ‘What can I do to restore our connection?'”

If anything above has sparked your interest about life lessons, you can go to this link.