Sunday, July 20, 2008

Get Back In The Hangar!

Are you obsessed with your children? Do you hover about them, tending to their every (and often misperceived) need? Have you planned your child’s life from Day One almost to the point where you need a Day Planner or Blackberry dedicated to all his or her activities–soccer practice, dance lessons, violin lessons, play dates, and on and on ad nauseam?

Well, then you’ve graduated to a new class designation. That’s right, you’re no longer just a Baby Boomer, you’re a Helicopter Parent.

Mel Levine, a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School in Chapel Hill and author of Ready or Not, Here Comes Life (Simon and Schuster, 2005) says today’s children “may well shatter.” He believes children are being coddled and protected to a degree that threatens their later ability to stand on their own.

Now a recent Wall Street Journal article thinks the blame belongs on Mr. Rogers (Blame It on Mr. Rogers: Why Young Adults Feel So Entitled July 5, 2007; Page B5). Now isn’t that typical of us Baby Boomers! Let's look beyond our own actions and place the blame elsewhere, like on that gentle, sweater-wearing, soft-spoken cultural icon.

The WSJ article quotes Don Chance, a finance professor at Louisiana State University, as saying he wishes more parents would offer kids this perspective: “The world owes you nothing. You have to work and compete. If you want to be special, you’ll have to prove it.”

Beverly Low, a dean at Colgate University, in an article in the Albany Times Union (January 27, 2005) says that where before parents would drop their kids off to college and get out of the way, parents now constantly call her office intervening in a roommate dispute or questioning a professor’s grading system.

So next time the urge to hover (meddle) strikes you, stay grounded. Do what a parent should do. Help your children make good choices. Show them that self-reliance ain’t just a Ralph Waldo Emerson essay in English Lit. It’s the way to survive and thrive in the grown-up world.

(Originally written for KidsTerrain.)

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