We’ve all seen them: the helicopter parents. The individuals who barely have time to take care of their basic needs because doing so may mean their precious offspring will have to fend for themselves, and that just wouldn’t do.
These are the same parents who swoop in when anything is about to happen in their child’s life that may be less than pleasant. When a child is small, a helicopter parent is all about protecting them against skinned knees, dirt and germs. They follow them around tirelessly as if tethered to their toddler. As their child gets older, the protective bubble grows to guarding against other kids, teachers, coaches, and potentially any other adult who doesn’t understand how special their little Johnny really is.
Most expecting or new parents swear they will do anything to avoid becoming helicopter parents. Some manage to keep their vow for the most part and others do not. However, most parents have slid into the mode of helicopter parenting at one point or another. There is an alternative to the overbearing, obnoxiously present approach of helicopter parenting. Another style of parenting should be considered by all parents for their parenting arsenal. This parenting style has to do with advocating for your child, not just blocking bad things from happening to your child. After all, if a parent promises to never let anything happen to their child, then nothing will happen for their child.
Parents who advocate for their child can look very similar to a helicopter parent at first. It’s easy to get the two confused when sitting on the outside of a situation looking in. However, when a situation is dug into a little more, it is easy to see the difference between the helicopter and advocacy parenting styles.
When helicopter parents are present, nothing is the fault of their child. Even if the situation is the direct result of the actions their child took, their child is still not responsible because, in the mind of the helicopter parent, someone should have prevented little Johnny from making those choices. The helicopter parent in this situation is quick to point out the situation never would have happened if the person in charge had been more diligent.
Helicopter parents tend to operate with blinders on. They see all of the good qualities of their child but are slow to see any of the less desirable behaviors. As they hover around their child, they make sure the path is smooth for them and attack anyone who gets in the way of their child’s problem-free existence. A helicopter parent is willing to go toe to toe with a teacher who catches their child cheating because in their mind the teacher must have failed in their job and their child had no other option but to cheat.
Unfortunately, there are severe consequences to this type of parenting. The first being the lack of preparation for the child to go out into the world on their own someday. Without the opportunity to build independence and self-confidence a child will be lost and confused as a young adult. The parent who spent so much time hovering around to make sure their child’s younger years were pain-free and perfect is left wondering why their young adult is now failing to launch into their own life.
In contrast to helicopter parenting, a parent who advocates for their child will have a young adult who understands how to advocate for themselves, rather than expecting everyone else to take care of them.
A parent who advocates for their child will insist their child owns up for the consequences of their actions. They will expect their child to apologize if necessary and help to make the situation right. However, an advocating parent will step in if the consequences go above and beyond what is necessary to make a lasting point with their child.
Advocating for a child doesn’t mean steamrolling over everyone in their child’s world until they all agree with the parent. It means, effectively communicating with those involved in a child’s life about the needs of a child. It means understanding a child’s rights, and ensuring the child understands them too.
When advocating effectively for a child, a parent allows the child to learn from the experience whenever possible. This allows a child to learn by example. It also means being the back up for the child as needed and necessary. Allowing a child to handle a situation on their own allows the child to build independence and self-confidence, especially when the issue has already been discussed with their parent and they understand their parent is supporting them.
Respect is built by parents who advocate for their child, rather than the annoyance built by helicopter parents. Children who see their parents advocate for them can learn to respect others while ensuring goals are met.