Okay. Deep breath.

Confession time.

I am a helicopter parent.

Always have been.

You know. The mom who hovers around her kids, trying to insure that everything goes well. Running interference to guarantee my kids’ safety and happiness.

I’m getting better, I think. (Or am I? Is that a thing helicopter parents say?)

And in my journey toward healthy momming (I know. No pressure. My kids are almost grown.), I’ve found some great tools to help me along.

Julie Lythcott-Haims’ new book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success is a boon. Fabulous tool for all parents- not just us helicopters. Her unique perspective as a long-time dean of students at Stanford University has helped her to track how ill-equipped high school graduates have become in tackling life, let alone college.

I love that she isn’t judgy or preachy. She actually gives historical context for how my generation of parents got this way.

And, of course, the crux of the matter- how do we change?

She breaks down our over parenting into four main categories:

  • Safety
  • Providing opportunities
  • Smoothing all the rough spots, and
  • Getting them into the best college

One of the mindsets that rings true throughout the book is encouraging a growth mindset. The idea that failure is a stepping stone. That struggle is normal. That life is hard. BUT, we can do hard.

I haven’t overhauled my parenting techniques as a result of this book. But, my perspective has been shifted a bit. It has helped me change my tone. I have changed some little decisions.

I am remembering to slow down my knee-jerk, protective mom reactions. I’m learning to be thankful for the hard things my kids experience.

I do my best to listen and support and pray through those inevitable hard things.  But, I know shielding them doesn’t necessarily help them.

Ms. Lythcott-Haims highlights the following list that was composed by the authors of GIST: The Essence of Raising Life-Ready Kids, Michael Anderson and Tim Johansen. It’s a tough list for kids and adults, but I’m shifting my attitude to welcome these types of situations as rites of passage and tools of growth for my kids.

  • Not being invited to a birthday party
  • Experiencing the death of a pet
  • Breaking a valuable vase
  • Working hard on a paper and still getting a poor grade
  • Having a car break down away from home
  • Seeing the tree he planted die
  • Being told that a class or camp is full
  • Getting detention
  • Missing a show because she was helping Grandma
  • Having a fender bender
  • Being blamed for something he didn’t do
  • Having an event canceled because someone else misbehaved
  • Being fired from a job
  • Not making the varsity team
  • Coming in last at something
  • Being hit by another kid
  • Rejecting something he has been taught
  • Deeply regretting saying something she can’t take back
  • Not being invited when friends are going out
  • Being picked last for neighborhood kickball

Yeah, that stuff is hard to stomach. But, it honestly helps me to remember that hard stuff is good for them. May they thrive on hard stuff! May it give them something to push against and build their emotional and spiritual muscle.

This week my daughter was frustrated about something, but I remembered the author’s exhortation to allow my kids to figure out their own way of coping with disappointment so when they get to college and experience hard things they won’t need mom to help them through it. So, I intentionally let her struggle. It was hard, but I kept thinking, “This is for college!”

Parenting is hard. But we can do hard! And I’m thankful for tools like How to Raise an Adult to navigate it with purpose and hope.

Photo credit: http://cornucopia3d.e-oncontent.com/storeItems/Plants/Trees/Very_Young_Oak_Tree_3_0_img.jpg


2 thoughts on “Confessions of a Helicopter Mom

  1. I love this book and hosted a book club for my high school parents last summer on it. The struggle is real, but we can do it!!! My job as an academic advisor has forever changed the way I parent. I want to equip my kiddos to handle life, not shield them from it. Good job, K!


  2. I remember once (years ago) when Don turned to me and asked what had just happened. My answer: “Well, you raise your kids to be independent and they go and BE independent!”
    My kids were doing their own laundry by 6th grade.
    They were fixing their own breakfasts by 2nd grade.
    They made their own packed school lunches by 2nd and 1st grades.
    They fixed their own lunches at home most of the time by 3rd grade.
    We had YOYO (You’re On Your Own!) nights by the time they were in 6th grade. (The refrigerator had leftovers and they knew how to make simple meals. I wasn’t usually home until about 7.)
    They neither one got their driver’s licenses until they were 20 because they had to be able to pay for their own insurance before they could drive. Our daughter became an expert at city buses. Our son roller bladed everywhere – even to his first job. (That he got, on his own, at 15, telling us after he got it!)
    Yeah, they were pretty independent and moved out at 20 and 18. Our son moved back in about a year later. (He came to me and said he needed to move home. I looked at him and knew there was a reason he couldn’t speak. I said yes, of course. I found out years later his roommate was selling drugs out of the apartment.)


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