My competitive juices have subsided quite a bit since I’ve slightly aged(hint of sarcasm). That is until I had children and even more so the first day of kindergarten. A few weeks ago I found myself walking my son to his first day of class and I couldn’t help but get in daddy mode. I scoped out the scene of 5 year olds and gave the evil eye to any kid who looked like he may even think about trying to bully my child (slightly joking here). I sized up the competition and I came to the conclusion that my son was going to be the most intelligent, most likely to succeed, and most likely be the star shortstop someday. I’m just being real here. I guess I still am competitive.
My wife and I have always been protective of our children. This can lead to all sorts of different behaviors and attitudes in us and lets just say Kindergarten did something no other event has for us so far in our short parenting career. It’s so difficult to put into words but I’m sure many of you reading this know what I mean. We were so hyper sensitive to any rule, email, newsletter, oh and lack of eating(apparently my son thought playing was more important) that we were looking to find fault in something or someone all in the name of love and protection of our little boy.
My Future Right Before My Eyes
On Monday of the second week of school, I was in my office with a family and I stopped briefly, in shock, as I found myself staring at my future; an overprotective parent and helpless 14-year-old adolescent. I’ve seen this scenario so many times before, and yet I found myself as a parent doing the same behaviors the week before. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with wanting to protect our children and wanting them to succeed. In fact, I think it is incredibly important that parents get involved in their children’s academic and social lives, guiding them to succeed. It is our way to show our children we love them and support them and find interest in their development. I’m talking about the parents who will go to any lengths to ensure their child is successful and nothing bad happens to them. This was the parent who was sitting right in front of me in my office. Her intentions were pure, but apparently she had already been to the principal’s office 2-3 times since the start of school demanding that her son be protected and taken care of. When she enters into a meeting for her son she does all the talking. When her son plays in the neighborhood she makes sure he gets included and not made fun of. This parent even went to the great length of doing some of his homework for him so that he stays competitive with his peers. Some parents may wonder what is wrong with this type of parenting. What’s wrong with this involvement is if you fast forward 10 years. The boy never grew up and at age 24 still lives at home, has few independent living skills, and has great difficulty standing up and asserting himself.
So What’s the alternative to “Helicopter” parenting?
I had to check myself and what I wanted for my son. I love him but I don’t want him to be living in my house at age 24. Of course there are certain circumstances in which a 24-year-old could be living in their parent’s house, but for our children’s’ well being they need to learn how to live on their own. So what am I proposing as an alternative? The gift you can give your kids this school year is self-confidence. Show them how to be assertive and independent and then allow them to practice. Don’t go fighting for your children every time their ego gets hurt. Help them understand that they won’t always be at the top of the food chain and that is okay. ‘They won’t always get picked to be student of the week, won’t be chosen to lead every time. If a conflict needs to be resolved, then by all means go with your child to make sure they stand up for themselves, but make them do the talking. They may refuse at first, might freak out, but in the end when they complete the task they will feel so much more confident knowing that they can stand up for themselves. Our children need to develop the skills necessary to become healthy adults so they don’t end up living in our basements and needing mommy and daddy to help them succeed in life.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think my son is going to be the star shortstop and I will push him and encourage him to be his best. But my goal this year and the school years to come, is to give my son the tools to make wise choices, to build his self-confidence, and to have the courage to stand up for himself and others who need help. Lets build a generation of young people who aren’t helpless, but rather strong, resilient, and confident.