Helicopters, Helplessness, and Hard Work
A number of years ago, when I accompanied my son to his college registration, college counselors took all the parents into a separate room away from our kids and provided us with advice on how to best assist our young adults as they began this new chapter in their life. It was my first exposure to the term “helicopter parent” which is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary (Yes, it is a term found in dictionaries!) as “a parent who is overly involved in the life of his or her child”. I remember the distinction made by one of the counselors suggesting that it would be to our benefit as parents to be a traffic helicopter and not a Black Hawk helicopter. She described Black Hawk helicopter parents as those who come in and scorch the earth, taking out everyone in sight and leaving a scene of wreckage behind. Traffic helicopters watch from above, keeping their distance, but offer advice to their listeners on any potential driving hazardous and the best route to take. Black Hawk helicopter parents don’t help their children because the message they ultimately send is that the child can’t handle a problem on their own. Traffic helicopter parents send the message that their child can resolve their own issues, but they are willing to provide assistance if necessary.
The concept of a helicopter parent doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. My husband and son would probably both agree that the term describes me. We all love our children unconditionally, as we should. Our desire to provide assistance to our children is not wrong. As a matter of fact, we tend to view parents who are unwilling to help their children as neglectful. Yet, it is critical that as parents, we are not instilling in our children a feeling of helplessness or an excuse mindset. We don’t help our children if we solve their problems for them or provide them with excuses for why they didn’t succeed. Rather, helping our children understand that hard work pays off, that adversity helps to make us stronger, that they can resolve issues on their own, and that acknowledging one’s mistakes and learning from them is far superior to making excuses, is our job as parents.
Parent-teacher conferences are scheduled this month in the Tomah Area School District*. As you prepare to meet with your child’s teachers on his/her progress, please give some thought to your actions as a parent. Do you talk negatively in front of your child about a teacher? Do you hold your child accountable for the behaviors which will result in academic success- attending school every day, participating in class, completing homework, and seeking help if there is a lack of understanding? Do you make excuses for why your child doesn’t behave in class? What type of helicopter parent does your behavior reflect?
Educators need your help and support. They care about your child and want to see him/her succeed. They will go above and beyond to provide the best education for your child. They are not an adversary. We are on the same side. We want the same thing. Working together, parents and teachers can ensure that their children grow up to be independent, hard-working, happy, and successful!
If you have any questions or comments about the information and opinions expressed in this edition of The School Bell, please contact Cindy Zahrte, District Administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 374-7002.
*The schedule for conferences in February can be found on the TASD website. Click on Calendars in the top header bar of the webpage and then open the link, Parent Teacher Conference Schedule 2016-17.