Landing helicopter parents....without shooting them down
- Submitted by:
- Michael Grose
I read a great piece in Fairfax Media’s Good Weekend (February 23, 2013) by teacher Jessica Lahey, who referred to a recent Queensland University of technology study on overparenting.
Specifically, the study is titled, “Can a parent do too much for their child? An examination by parenting professionals of the concept of overparenting.”
It seems said parenting professionals responded with a resounding YES!
The columnist cited examples of overparenting that many teachers are familiar with such as:
• “taking their child’s perception as truth, regardless of the facts”
• “quick to believe their child over the adult and deny the possibility that their child was at fault..”
• “rushing to school at the whim of a phone call from their child to deliver forgotten lunches, forgotten assignments, forgotten uniforms...”
The list goes on.
These are all behaviours associated with parents who are ‘high on the support scale, but low on the pressure scale’ for their kids. That is, parents who are guilty of one or all of the 3 big parenting overs........... over-protecting, over-indulging or over-stating relatively minor issues.
Lahey lamented that the biggest mistake that these parents made was not allowing their children to learn from their experiences.
Helicopter parents typically rob kids of valuable learning opportunities that the social nature of schooling throws their way every day: including dealing with kids who don’t like them; fixing up their own forgetfulness; handling disappointment and failing the first, second and even third time they do something, anything new.
It’s easy to throw brickbats at overprotective parents. It can make teachers and school leaders feel positively good about themselves. Better though to embark on a school-wide campaign to land the helicopters without shooting them down.
I’ve been talking and writing about this at conferences and PD sessions for sometime now. It also informs my practice with Parentingideas School Members.
Here are the bones of a plan:
1. Focus on resilience school-wide. Resilience is both about mental health prevention and about building student capabilities and strengths. Staff, students and parents need to use its principles and practices to maximise its impact.
2. Tell the story of resilience. Staff and parents need to know the story of resilience – why it’s important& how it’s practised. I use this approach by telling the story of my book Thriving! to parents at every opportunity. The 21, 000 parents who read my newsletter Happy Kids, are becoming familiar with it’s approach because I bang on about it every week in one form or other.
3. Build proprietary language. Resiliency-practice has its own language. Schools that land helicopter parents develop their own terms and phrases that have meaning and use them across the school.
4. Use multiple media and method to educate & inform parents. One parent evening and an article in the newsletter doesn’t a campaign make! Use on-line, school notice boards, forums, social media just to name a few communication modes to educate and inform about resilience.
5. Involve all staff including front desk and support staff in using & relating resilience principles. What happens when a parent comes to the front desk with a teenager in toe, and does all the talking? Hopefully, your font desk team will thank that parent for their concern but begin to tactfully address the teenager who should have done the talking in the first place. Minor example but it’s so important that everyone is in on the act.
This isn’t the whole plan but it’s a start.
Be warned: It takes time and a concerted effort across the whole school to land the helicopter parents, but it’s well worth the effort.
The alternative, shooting helicopter parents down, is ineffective, stressful and is potentially harmful to family-school partnerships.