Cira Center for Behavioral Health

The Struggle To Not Be a Helicopter Parent

by | May 16, 2015 | Blog

Hey folks!  Been awhile.  What’s new?  Well for me, I had a baby so sh*t’s been a little crazy!  But we’re slowly adjusting and I’d like to get back to writing when my children cooperate.  And right now my 3 year old is napping and my newbie is strapped to my chest so we’re good to go!

Ever since Brooklyn was born, I’ve been incredibly dizzy.  I’ve always had low blood pressure so I’m accustomed to a certain amount of dizziness, but this has been nuts.  Now I’m obviously not a medical doctor, but I know a fair amount about what can make a person dizzy and I know one of the main culprits is STRESS and more specifically, improper breathing due to stress.  So I started to pay attention and sure enough…I’m practically holding my breath constantly (Is she awake yet?  Are her and Linc going to wake up at the same time?  Who do I feed first??  What if they’re both screaming??).   See folks, I’ve always been a mildly anxious person, having a double whammy of genetics (thank you Mom and Dad ;)) and life events that reinforced the anxiety.  It’s never been debilitating by any means,  but I’ve worked hard for many years to keep it in check and prevent it from interfering with my quality of life…and I think I’ve done a damn good job if I do say so myself.

Fast forward to this morning when my husband and I had our kids at the park.  Brooklyn is constantly attached to me so it was a rare and beautiful 30 minutes when B was asleep and could hang out with Nick on a park bench and I could play with my son.  He’s just shy of 3, but is physically more like a 4 year old and therefore tries to do things other 3 year olds can’t do.  Rock climbing walls, monkey bars, very tall ladders…all by himself.  This is where I catch myself not breathing and begin an internal struggle with myself.  The Mama Grizzy, anxious part of me wants to hover over him, helicopter parent style, and answer all of his questions about which way he should go, be there to catch him when he falls, make sure the actual 4 and 5 years olds aren’t pushing him over, etc, etc.

But then there’s the psychologist part of me.  The part of me that knows that the only way to develop real self-esteem is to do something over and over again until you are good at it.  You don’t feel good about yourself simply because your Mom told you “good job” endlessly as a kid.  That part of me knows that the only way you develop self-confidence is by falling down, physically and metaphorically, and picking yourself back up.  You don’t grow up feeling confident in your abilities if your Mom was always there to catch you and you were never allowed the opportunity to realize that you can recover on your own.  That part of me knows that it’s important to push yourself and to take (appropriate) risks in order to keep growing, learning and enjoying life.  You wind up missing out on a whole lot of life if you feel confined to your comfort zone and too scared to push yourself to test your own limits.

So I let him climb the ladder that is meant for 5 year olds, while I watch patiently (and anxiously) watch from nearby.  When he asks me which way is the “right way” to  go through a maze to get to the slide that he wants, I tell him that he should give whatever way he wants a try and if he’s wrong, he can simply try again.  And when he inevitably falls or bumps his heads, I’ll be right there to kiss it and make it all better.

What about you guys?  Is it hard to watch your children take risks, learn the hard way or fail in some way?  How do you decide when to help and when to let them learn on their own?  Would love to hear about your adventures in parenting 🙂