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A Former Stanford Dean on Parenting II  

This month we continue looking at the observations of a former Stanford dean about helicopter parenting, its dangers, and how to parent more effectively.

Let’s start by looking at a series of things she suggests parents examine in themselves to get at whether they are helicopter parents.

Watch your language. No. This isn’t about swearing or using foul language with your kids. It is about whether you include yourself when you talk about your child’s responsibilities or activities. If you use the word “we” or “our” rather than “he,” “she,” “his,” or “hers” to describe your child going to soccer practice, having a doctor’s appointment, having a play date, or their homework, it is a good sign that you are entwined with your child in an unhealthy way. I agree strongly with this sentiment. I have noted that when I work with families and one or both parents uses the first person plural to refer to their children and children’s activities, there almost always needs to be some loosening of the parental reins.

Examine your interactions with adults in your children’s lives. If you frequently find yourself arguing with, or advocating for your child with, the adults in your child’s life, it is likely you are overinvested in that relationship and not allowing them enough autonomy. Continually trying to change your child’s situation with their teachers or other school staff, coaches, and other extracurricular activity leaders suggests you are spending too much time trying to make their environment more pleasant for them and not giving them enough responsibility for creating their own life. Now, I am not advocating a total hands-off policy. I have known plenty of times when children have been in situations where they need someone to advocate for them. But taking that task on yourself should not be the first line of response. Teach them to be their own advocates.

Stop doing their homework. I shouldn’t have to say any more about this. It seems obvious, but sometimes it apparently isn’t. I have actually heard the argument in support of this that if the kids don’t do well on their homework it will have a negative impact on their future. Can’t argue with that, but it misses the obvious. If you are doing it for them they are still not doing well on their homework no matter how well their teachers think they are doing.

How did you do? Hopefully you can examine those three things in your relationship with your kids and feel good about the boundaries set up in those relationships and the independence you are fostering in your children. Next month we will look at some more suggestions about what to do.