Helicopter Mums


Recently I joined two fellow blogging teacher-mamas, Christie from Childhood 101 and Kate from Picklebums, to discuss the topic of helicopter parenting.  According to Wikipedia, Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach, whether their children need them or not…

You can read the full transcript at Childhood 101, but here are a few snippets from the conversation.

(I’m Cath – just in case you’ve forgotten my first name isn’t Squiggle…)

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Kate:  In terms of allowing children to take risks, I think we often over step the mark there.

Cath:  Most first time mums (me included) helicopter a little more than we ever thought we would!

Kate:  As an early childhood teacher you are forced to look at risk constantly. Child care centres are regulated so that no child is ever unsupervised and so that as much risk as possible is eliminated, it probably has to be that way in a children’s service setting.

Christie:  I do too, Cath, and I cannot understand how we are so adverse to letting our children do what we did as children? I walked to school, I climbed (and fell out of) trees, I rode my bike in the street.

Cath:  I have relaxed more with my second child but I find it hard to find a balance between my teacher training (eagle eyes on playground duty) and my desire to let my kids learn by exploring, falling, and getting up again.

Kate:  I am a worrier so I am prone to over thinking the risks but I try really hard to realise that and step back from it. I often say, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’

Cath:  Yes, I have to make that conscious decision too, Kate.

Kate:  I think it’s natural that parents are fearful for their children… if your biggest fear as a parent wasn’t the loss of your child you’d wouldn’t be a good parent …but not letting that get the better of you is important.

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Cath:  You know when I find myself hovering the most?  At playgrounds. Especially busy ones with lots of kids and lots of mums around.

Kate:  I usually hover at playgrounds for social reasons rather than physical risk reasons.

Cath:  I’m not quite sure why I hover… a mix of reasons I think.

Kate:  I feel confident that my kids all know their physical limits better than I do, even the small one who tries to follow his big sisters will stop when he realises he is high enough.

Cath:  LOL Kate… mine is more likely to climb to the moon and not realise how high she is!

Kate:  My small one climbs like a monkey but he’s very good at it.. and so far only one set of stitches and that was from falling off a low chair!

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Christie:  How do you deal with other parents who don’t step in, especially if their child is being a bit rough?

Cath:  I encourage my own child to respond with, “Please don’t do x… I don’t like it.”

Kate:  I do the same, Cath, if my children need me to, I’ll give them the words to use to make sure their feelings are known.

Christie: As a teacher of 2-5 year olds I always taught the children to say “Stop” in a loud voice, to empower them and the loud voice helps to attract adult attention (so the adult can come and help the children resolve the situation).  Most two year olds can say “Stop.”

Kate:  We use the same phrase, ‘Stop – I don’t like that’

Christie:  And then obviously older children can say, “Stop, I don’t like it when you …” and give more of an explanation.

Cath:  I think right there we are preparing ourselves, and our kids, to move away from us little by little.

Christie:  It is about equipping them so that we feel we can step away.

Cath:  Exactly.

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What about you?  Do you struggle with letting go of your kids?  Are you more guilty of hovering than you expected you’d be?  Feel free to share your thoughts on helicopter parenting here or on Christie or Kate’s blogs.

7 thoughts on “Helicopter Mums

  1. Girls,

    I empathize with all you write. However, the end result of helicopter parenting is learned helplessness. A frightening and psychologically damaging thing for a child.

    I let my 8 year old go for a walk this morning with the dog. he was gone for half an hour and came back beaming. he was SO proud of himself. My heart was singing for him, but how i felt about the experience is irrelevant.

    teaching responsible risk grows smart, creative, resilient and independent children. we as parents, need to teach our children to experience life ‘outside of us’ as soon as they are developmentally able.

    we also need to remind ourselves that we CAN give our children the childhood that we so often reminisce about, if only we are willing.


  2. @Caroline

    Thanks so much for your encouraging and inspiring response! I love the phrase “responsible risk”…

    I think later on in the conversation I made the point that we are not actually raising children – we are raising them to be independent adults, eventually!

  3. I will put what I wrote on Childhood 101

    Oh. That is me at the moment and I dont care. I cross between being a Chinook (Drop in at any situation to rescue my child, provide food relief, etc) and a Black Hawk (spy from afar and then jump in when needed to fight battles). Hopefully oneday I will become a scenic flight operator but until I am confident my children can protect themselves I will be there. They are only 3 & 1.
    .-= Rizoleey´s last blog ..Rigatoni – Spinach and Cheese filled with kids. =-.

  4. Hey Cath,
    I was such a helicopter mum when my first child was born. Anything that fell on the ground was whipped into boiling water in a flash!
    You and Kate are right. I had very protective parents, yet in the 70s and 80s we were given quite a lot of personal space as children in comparison to children of the early 21st century. It’s sad to think that media and the world has degressed to such an alarmist state that we think we need to.
    Even the prospect of leaving my little brood to fly to Brisbane for a weekend makes me a little sad (and my oldest is 15 and glad to see my go, by the way.)
    I’m really looking forward to meeting you there too!

  5. I work pretty hard to find the right balance between supervising and allowing my daughter freedom. It is complicated by the fact that due to her developmental differences she can have pretty serious behavior issues, including aggression toward other children. I am always at least listening to her to keep track of where she’s at, what she’s doing and whether or not I need to step in for the OTHER child’s sake. What drives me absolutely nuts is when I see other moms with “typical” kids not making the same effort. I watched a child nearly yank another kid’s head from his shoulders with two fists full of hair. The other child was saying “stop”, “let go”, etc. Mom was standing 10 feet away chatting with another Mom. My daughter can’t even gently brush another child’s hair without setting off alarm bells in most of the adults who supervise her. It’s a double standard that’s hard to swallow. So am I a helicopter that feels like she’s the only one on duty, or just a responsible Mom who’s trying to teach her kid how to get along in the world by paying attention to how she’s doing…
    .-= KDL´s last blog ..Puppy Love =-.

  6. It’s always a difficult balance to find. Our role as parents is to teach and equip our children to become capable and adaptable (among many other things) adults. I think we need to get a good understanding of what natural abilities our children have and give them a chance to ‘stretch a little’ and work things out, be it conflict with another child or how to get down from the tree themselves before we jump in to rescue. Sometimes they need a little instruction or help, but seeing a child succeed in working out a situation mostly on their own is great – it fills them with such confidence and pride. Learning to measure risk, think through situations and deal with conflict are critical skills for life. As Mums we a designed by God to be nurturing and protective, we just need to keep a measure on our emotions so as not to suffocate our children, but we are also given instinct which I think is important to learn to trust.

  7. Here in the UK schools and other organisations are moving towards the concept of weighing up the benefits of an activity in relation to the risk posed.

    Many organisations to do with health and safety and children are making very encouraging noises. The Royal Soc for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) advocates making things “as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible”.
    .-= Juliet´s last blog ..The Hidden Park =-.

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