The current age of over-parenting has given rise to its own terminology of the “helicopter parent.” You know the type—the one that swoops in to right every wrong, lodge every complaint, and perform every rescue to be sure their child never fails at anything.
A lot of different reasons have been given for this development that point back to self-centeredness on the part of parents: dads who want to relive their own glory days on the field; moms who live to brag on Facebook about their children’s accomplishments; and so on.
However, I believe the primary reason is that parents have simply grown to care too much. It simply breaks our heart to see our children fail at anything. Moms particularly so which is why, in my observation, the Mother-copter has the most difficult time flying away from the child.
I’m not sure when this shift happened. It sure wasn’t the case when I was growing up. I was left to “learn the hard way,” and I often did. When I got a detention in school, my parents didn’t call the school in a huff, they told me I got what I deserved. When I threatened to run away from home, my parents didn’t seek counseling for me, they helped me pack a suitcase.
Since then, we’ve swung completely in the opposite direction. We spend our time finding ways to ensure success by insulating children against not only anything negative that life throws at them, but also the consequences of their own bad choices and actions.
We’ve also gone from giving teachers and other adults every benefit of the doubt to the complete opposite. In fact, my own son recently got himself in trouble at school, which generated a lengthy email from his teacher along with the consequence he would face. I wrote back in complete support of the school’s actions. When my son talked to the teacher the next day, she expressed relief that “I hadn’t been upset at her” about the situation. That is a sad commentary about how responsibility and accountability has been shifted over a generation.
Of course, as parents we need to keep our children safe. We need to look out for their best interests and guide them in their development. However, by completely insulating our children from the consequences of their bad decisions, poor preparation, and other shortcomings out of an abundance of care, we are doing them a great injustice. We all learn from failure and, most often, the lessons of failure are more impactful and lasting than those of success. Those lessons are also key to nurturing children who are truly confident, capable and, ultimately, independent.
In short, letting your child fail may in fact be one of the most caring things you can do.