Columnist discusses the effects of helicopter parenting.
By Josie Stewart, ’21
I realize that parents reading this will most likely discredit what I have to say considering that I’m in high school. But, I am a rule-following, trustworthy 16-year-old if there’s ever been one; I’m the type of kid who parents will agree to do anything with just because it’s me. So, if there is anyone below the age of 30 that you would believe this claim from, it is probably me.
This was originally meant to be a letter to parents who have their kids on Life 360, an app that tracks the location and even speed of someone if allowed, or who do not allow their kids to leave the house without significant prior notice. My parents have never done this, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but I did watch my peers and my two older siblings grow up in different environments. These observations led to a respect for my parents’ one simple tenet: You can trust your kid until you have a reason not to.
For anything, you should give trust rather than have it earned. Most kids disobey their parents without this since they know their parents don’t believe them anyway. You may say that’s false, but if you knew someone wasn’t going to give you a prize even if you win, then why would you even make the effort to win?
My parents always gave me trust. And now I haven’t done anything to make them lose that, because I don’t want to ruin that relationship. In fact, losing that trust is scarier to me than actually doing anything out of line. So, it remains in tact. I have established my first rule and hopefully somewhat more credibility for myself.
The second tenet from my parents as I have learned is not to track your kids. Not that you can’t add your son or daughter on Find My Friends in case of an emergency or a dead phone, but apps and services such as Life 360 ruin any established trust. Notifications on movement envelope a sense of worry for anything good or bad, and even then, what can you do? If your kids already lost that trusting relationship, then why would orders from you matter anyway?
They don’t. I think parents know that, but they think they don’t have another option. Odds are, when you were in high school and said that you were going to the library rather than a date at the hamburger stand, you and the Beach Boys ended up just fine in the long run. Your parents couldn’t constantly track you and I’m sure if you were a teenager now, that would upset you even more than it does to teens today who have grown up with this standard.
You have to have room to breathe, explore and make relationships in order to have important and developmental experiences. I can’t imagine what independence I would have lost if I had grown up differently. I guarantee you can’t imagine all the memories and experiences you would have lost if you lived the way you treat your kids.
So, this leads to my third point.
It’s not all out of love.
I understand wanting your kids to be safe and that everything you do is to keep them that way. I feel this same responsibility with my friends and siblings. But consider that there is a difference between safe and overprotected.
It all comes back to trust. It all comes back to them feeling some responsibility to keep themselves safe.
It all comes back to the same feeling you had when your parents wouldn’t let you go out with your friends that one night.
So, let your kids have the same life as me. Someone too scared to do anything harmful or bad because of how my parents raised me. It’s how I plan to raise my kids and how you should try to raise yours.
Discipline, obviously, is necessary sometimes, but don’t make it your go-to strategy.
Don’t be a helicopter parent. Don’t be your own teenage-self’s worst nightmare.