We are all aware of the dreaded term “helicopter parent”. We have seen multiple instances of the over-protective, over-involved and often over-bearing parent constantly hovering (like the proverbial helicopter) over their child in the park, school recess, playdates, and now even at college. While most of us tend to be justifiably protective over our toddler (and vulnerable teen) these are the parents who take it to the next level. They are well-intentioned; terrified of letting their loved one make mistakes, get hurt physically and emotionally or make bad decisions. In the process they ensure that the kid in question never learns from mistakes, is not able to take decisions and in general lives in an artificial coccoon till its time to finally (if ever) meet the big, bad world out there. They are unable to entertain themselves since their every minute has been structured by their parents into “meaningful / learning actvities”, they fail to be creative when bored, cannot approach problems with solutions and overall lack essential lifeskills.
It has been said that previous generations wherein parents were not as involved with every aspect of their kids life have actually turned out to be risk takers, innovaters, creative problem solvers and in general more resilient than the current GenY. Today’s youngsters come into the workforce from a lifetime of cossetting (sometimes being homeschooled so as to not have to face the reality that is school) with an inbuilt sense of entitlement. They expect pats on the back for every day-to-day milestone from the boss and colleagues as they are used to praise and encouragement from parents for their minutest achievement.
Having said the above, let us now look at the flip side of this phenomenon – the parent who is not involved enough, not nurturing enough or not caring enough. Yes, the excuses are many – they are over-extended, they wish to make the kid more “independent”, they have some principles on parenting which is more 19th century style could-not-care-more, they need their personal space, etc. But the bottom line is that kids do need a certain amount of commitment, finger-holding, good old fashioned loving and cuddling which could extend well into even the teen years never mind how many signals to the contrary your teen sends out. Many a times these kids feel unloved or uncared for and while they do become independent as desired by their parents there is a very real danger of distance, detachment and denoue building the bridge between these kids and parents.
Another danger ofthe jokes regarding helicopter parents in society is that often times genuine parental concerns have been disparaged and swept under the carpet by teachers / principals / counsellors as the overactive imagination of a helicopter parents. This may lead to dismissing some valid complaints in the guise of “practical parenting”. The best bet is to follow your heart and instinct in these cases.
So its apparent that a parent needs to walk the tightrope while doing the balancing act between these two extremeties. And hence I ask “How much is too much?” When does a parent know he or she is crossing that line between parenting, over-parenting and under-parenting? My personal mantra has been to love unconditionally with no strings attached but give the kid an understanding of consequences and responsibility when they wish to try things their way. Afterall as the saying goes, “Doing what you want is Freedom; loving what you do is Happiness”
I request our readers to share their opinions to help set some pointers and guidelines in an often grey area in parenting.
Contributed by : Aditi Karandikar