Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The helicopter parent

We all know them: They not only help their child with her homework, they actually do it for her. They have no qualms about telling the teacher how to teach and the coach how to coach. If things go wrong for junior, they swoop in and save the day.

Helicopter parents. Always hovering, ready to intervene in any situation, whether it’s warranted or not.

They drive everybody nuts — teachers, coaches, cops, other parents, their own children.
Recently, the Sisters Sports Mentoring Aliance brought in nationally-recognized motivational speaker and coach Bruce Brown to talk to coaches, student athletes and parents about “proactive coaching” — ways to make sure that the experience of athletics is positive and meaningful for kids.

I covered the parents’ session for The Nugget and I was impressed with the simple, straightforward message Brown offered: Parents need to "release their child to the game." Parents need to be there for their child to support and encourage, but when the game is more important to the parent than to the athlete, there’s a problem.

The idea of releasing your child to the game should apply to the rest of life, too. If a kid has a problem with a teacher, the kid should learn to cope with it. Someday, they may have a difficult boss or co-worker. They need to learn to deal with it.

Calling in the cops because somebody pushes your kid on the playground isn’t preparing them for the world. At some point, adult intervention is necessary and appropriate, but not the first time your kid gets into a minor scrape. And sometimes it’s best to let other adults do the intervening.

It’s painful to watch the ones you love more than anything in the world make mistakes. But we all blow it — and learn from the experience. Sometimes it’s good to let your kid fail. They learn that actions (or failure to act) have consequences. They learn that failure isn’t fun.

Youth is all about scrapped knees, hurt feelings, broken hearts. It’s also about triumphs and achievements. They both belong to the kid who’s living them, not to their parents.

Release your child to the game. It’s a profound gift.

Jim Cornelius, Editor

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