Seven Phrases to Help You Back Off the Helicopter Parenting

helicopter parents

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I’ve written before about being a helicopter parent, and as my kids moved from private to public school, man, I was on high alert in my very mommy cells!  But my rational brain wants them to be self-sufficient and feel capable, so my mommy cells and my brain continue to fight it out.  As Thing 1 moves into tweenhood, I find it much easier to back off at home — not bring him water after *I* am in bed, ask him to get his own snacks, dinner condiments, whatever — than to figure that out about the rest of the big wide world — how far he can go from home alone and for how long, and when he can have a cel phone…

1. “Oh, good idea, you can do that yourself!  Let me help you with it.”  Then, a few months or years later, “If you need help let me know.”  From getting water for the bedside table to packing up the backpack for school, make it clear that they have the ability and you trust them to do it, and you’re still there if they need you.

running postage stamp

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2. “Ug, I know how much that sucks, I’m sorry. Do you want to talk about it?”  Don’t blame the other kid, the school, or the world for their pain.  Let them feel the pain, move through it, and bounce back.

3. “Everyone fails.  Nobody ever gets it right the very first time, that’s how we all learn.”  Our kids should expect to fail and have some coping skills for when it happens.

4. “Yeah, I think you can!  Give it a try, let’s see how it goes.”  Constant praise and you-can-do-its can be deceiving.  You can still be positive without making them think success is guaranteed.  See #3.  🙂

5.”Aw crap, I messed up.  Let me see if I can make this right or try again.”  It’s a lot of pressure to think of ourselves as models for our kids at all times.  But we are, and that does not mean we don’t make mistakes.  In fact, those mistakes are great opportunities to teach them what to do next, how to fix it.

stylized foot print

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6. “And then this one time, I embarrassed myself so badly {hearty laugh and tell the story}”  Laughing at ourselves is the very best gift we can get. Or give.  It took me until my mid-to-late 40s to figure this out.  One of my kids really resists it, and I work to remember in the moment to laugh instead of being defensive when he catches me goofing up.

7. Everyone has a family story like this one: my father raced my nephews: on foot, all the time, he always won.  ALWAYS.  I said, Pa, that’s rough, you’re being hard on those boys, they’re only 4, or whatever.  He didn’t say a word.  Fast forward 20 years. One day the older boy looked over and slowed down until Pa passed him.  Then Pa stopped.  “Don’t patronize me, kid.  I never let up on you, and now it is your turn.  You earned this.”  My own kids love this story, and they understand.  Their dad never lets them win on family game night.  It’s agonizing, even though I know it’s the right thing to do.  Tell your kids your family story, and beat the pants off them on family game night.  Eventually they WILL stop throwing the game board, they will stop crying, they will stop being angry about it.  And they will be stronger.

Come on over and join me on Facebook as we work together to ditch the helicopter.

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14 thoughts on “Seven Phrases to Help You Back Off the Helicopter Parenting

  1. Great post, Angela! My children are 10 and 12 and I have been slowly weaning myself off doing so much for my children. It makes them lazy when I don’t do that, so I am very adamant about making sure they understand that I will help them and I will also do them favors, but 9 times out of 10, I will expect them to do things for themselves. These are great reminders for all parents. Thanks for sharing!

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    • Good job, mom! 🙂 I catch myself sometimes falling back into my old “it’s easier, cleaner, quicker to do it myself” so especially for my 11 yo I need to let him burn a bagel or two, and teach him how to scrape off the burned part! 🙂 Thank you, Donna Maria, for reading and commenting! xx Angela

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  2. You are a wonderful Mother Angela! Being a Mother is quite the journey-especially when your do it with your heart and soul. I have found that “parenting” ourselves first – healing wounds from our own past – offers a solid foundation for us to help our little ones. Keeping it light is essential!

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  3. Yes, to everything! I am a staunch believer in raising kids who understand that the world is not here to make them comfortable. It is here to experience in all it’s glory and the full range of emotion that brings. I love your point and relate to it not being easy, and the many times I have wanted to jump in and rescue. And the screaming fits, crying and throwing the board game have been worth it to teach them about relationships and what they are capable of all on their own.

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    • Aw, thank you Aly. I admit throwing the board game puts me over the edge most of the time and have to just walk awy. Sheesh I also have to admit that I’m kind of glad to hear it happens in other folks’ homes, too! 🙂 Thanks for your comment, xx Angela

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  4. Such a great post, Angela! So true that we need to allow our kids to experience all the different facets of life (including pain and disappointment) and we also need to give them responsibilities and trust that they can learn to deal with things on their own. Funny how parenting doesn’t stop even when they’re young adults! Sounds silly but I just recently had to let go when I lent my car to my son for a weekend. I threw him the keys saying and put my trust in him (for keeping himself safe) and he did made me proud!

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  5. Angela, oh wise-one. You do a great job presenting your tips here. I was recently chatting with a mom of a 20-something. She said the one thing she wish she’d done differently is always answering her kids’ questions immediately. With the immediate gratification technology today, she said, kids don’t have to figure anything out for themselves because they always ask mom via text or call. The 20-something is still doing that and now mom is trying to ween her off that. Interesting times for a parent indeed.

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    • eek. My pal Bea is an older African American woman from Alabama. She tells her kids “live like I’m already dead, do not come to me with your problems, I’m done!” Ha ha. Her kids are my age, though, so I guess I have to wait a few years before I can launch that. Ha ha. Thanks for your comment, you’ve given me something to prepare for! Hey, just because I’m kicking the helicopter habit doesn’t mean I can’t find something else to worry about. xx a

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  6. Only now do I appreciate the true meaning of “Go look it up.”, which my brother and I heard from our parents each time we asked “What does this mean?”. They weren’t saying it because they were being mean, or lazy, or didn’t know the answers themselves, they were teaching us independence. Good tips, Angela!

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