It was a beautiful summer night and I was outside spending time with my family. My two-year-old with less than perfect gross motor skills walked toward the playset in our backyard, looking at the rope ladder with a light in her eyes like she was about to accomplish something monumental. We spent time practicing this rope ladder with her often, however, this would be the first solo trip she would take on it.
The second her foot hit the rope, I ran to her.
I immediately stood directly behind her, putting my hands close to her without touching because obviously I would never be a helicopter mom. “Be careful! Be careful!” I kept telling her. All while her feet never left the ground.
“Your blades are turning,” my husband said from across the lawn. That’s our code for me to take a step back and stop letting my “helicopter blades” do the parenting for me. I always promised myself I wouldn’t become a helicopter parent, but after becoming a mom I quickly realized it was much harder than I initially believed. I’ve come to realize this is a common story for many parents. Why is this?
It is so hard to watch someone, especially a loved one, fail or hurt themselves. If we can help our kids avoid pain or failure, why wouldn’t we stop it from happening for them? I know that if we all stepped back and analyzed it, the answer is clear. We shouldn’t intervene because mistakes are how we learn and grow. This video shows this concept perfectly.
So how do we put ourselves out of a job as a parent? Here are a few ways.
-Watch and wait. When your son is struggling to dismantle his new, bigger bike and you’re ready to run over and help, watch and wait. You may end up needing to help, or he may surprise you.
-Remember that failing is learning. When you’re in full-on “lifesaver” mode, running your child’s forgotten history report to school minutes before she needs to turn it, take a split second to remember that maybe just maybe if you don’t bring it to her and she receives a poor grade this one time, maybe she will remember her English paper tomorrow.
-Realize that we cannot protect our kids from the world. Bad things will happen, but good things will happen too.
-Trust your child. Really trust them.
-Scaffolding doesn’t make you a helicopter parent. Do it for them, do it with them, watch, let them do it alone. This process will look different with every task and every kid.
-They will not solve problems or handle situations the same way you do, and that’s okay. Let them.
-Most importantly, remember that YOU are the mom these kids need. There is no better mom than you, and you are doing an incredible job.
I took a step back after I was reminded that my helicopter blades were turning, I watched and waited to be absolutely amazed by my daughter. I was convinced she couldn’t do it and that she would end up falling, I didn’t have trust in her. Once I presented her with the opportunity to prove me wrong, she did. She climbed that rope ladder with confidence and grace, one step after the next, showing me just how capable she was, putting me out of my “rope ladder spotter” job.
How do you promote independence in your children or students? Do you find yourself being a helicopter mom too? How do you handle it?
Photo credit: https://deathtothestockphoto.com/