When a court in Italy recently decided a mother and grandfather were criminally liable for abuse in a case of extreme helicopter parenting, I was one of the many people worldwide captivated by the case. Helicopter parenting, also known as overparenting, or, as I like to call it "smotherhood," has hovered on the periphery of both my professional and personal lives for years,
As an early childhood special educator, I've seen many well-intentioned parents hinder their childrens' developmental progress by trying to clear all obstacles--social and educational--out of the way. As a parent, I've seen many successful and capable adults turn their talents to becoming professional parents. I've also watched the children of those same adults struggle to learn problem-solving skills in an environment in which all of their problems are pre-solved.
But it wasn't necessarily all of that that kept me following the details of the case in Italy. No, it was relief that kept me captivated. Because I am not a helicopter parent. Actually, if I were forced to describe my parenting style in terms of transportation, I'm probably more of a life-raft parent--at the ready to jump in and save my children when they get in over their heads.
I'd like to tell you that it's my ideological principles that keep me from indulging in smotherhoood but, while that is where I stand ideologically, the truth is I just don't have the energy to be a helicopter parent. Who among us does?
To be successful both in business and in parenting, sometimes something has to go. In my case, it's been the expectation of being a perfect parent, a decision that hasn't always been guilt-free, but one that has kept our household sane. Sure, I could make sure that my children are signed up for every club that comes along and agree to be the leader of all those clubs. Of course I could volunteer to work at every book fair, participate in all school fundraisers, make sure my teenager is the one having parties, ensure that my 7-year-old has playdates that I monitor closely, but it wouldn't be pretty.
Statistically speaking, I know that helicopters are fifty times more likely to crash than larger, more stable airplanes. Until now, I didn't have any data backing up my instinct that the victims in helicopter parenting crashes are more likely to be the children than the parents. This case in Italy, has opened up the discussion as to who is harmed by overprotective parenting.
That doesn't mean, however, that I don't still secretly wonder whether or not my children would better off if hovered just a little bit more. Would we have a closer relationship? Is there something to this concept of helicopter parenting?
The answers don't really matter. I'll be sticking with my life raft approach. It works. Our family is happy and I don't have the energy to be a helicopter parent anyway.