We all want what is best for our children and for them to succeed in life. That includes school. Ostensibly for the benefit of our children, we become very involved in their academic experiences — far more than previous generations. While in many situations this is a good thing, in some situations it crosses the line and becomes helicopter parenting, which is more a detriment than a benefit.
It’s easy to become a hovering helicopter parent. Too easy. But does it really help our kids? If we do everything for them, do they ever learn to do for themselves? With tales of parents calling job interviewers on behalf of their adult children, it’s time to take step back and look at our own hovering tendencies, especially where school is concerned.
Set the stage
The first and most important thing you can do for your child academically is set the stage. From the first school experience, establish consistent routines that communicate to your child the importance of school in both your lives.
Choose a consistent place and time for doing schoolwork from the very first sheet of homework — and send a consistent message about schools, teachers and subjects. Stay positive in what you say of all of it. If your child needs help, offer it — but make sure you aren’t doing it for them.
As a parent, you can form partnerships with teachers and other education professionals to help set that stage for your child. Your child’s teachers and you really do want the same thing: Academic success. Even if you disagree on the approach at times, remembering this can help you stay focused on the bigger goal. Have some respect for the experience the educator brings to the table just as you expect respect for your role as the parent. This is the start to building a real educational team in support of your child and his or her academic career.
Know when to step in
There are times in out children’s academic lives where it’s appropriate to step in and see what is going on. If there is a sudden difficulty or change in performance, for example, or even a gut sense that something else is going on, you do need to step in and try to figure it out. It may or may not be obvious, but asking questions of everyone involved, from your child to his or her teacher to other educational support people, is a start. Keep your eyes and ears open.
Know when to back off
Just like there are times to step in, there are times to back off. Especially as children get older, they need to take more responsibility for their own academic lives. What was appropriate interaction with teachers at first grade is less appropriate at 11th grade!
Let them fail
Sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids, both in academics and in life itself, is to let them fail. Yes, fail.
It is extremely difficult to let our kids fail, especially when we know that the outcome would be different if we had stepped in. But how will your kids learn the lessons — both in math and in life — if we’re always bailing them out or doing the long division for them? It would be so easy just to do this or that to smooth the way and it’s so hard as a parent not to step in.
If you have given your kids the tools they need to succeed, if you have set the environment and been appropriately involved, sometimes it’s all you can do. If you know your child is capable of doing that research paper, and if you provided the framework for getting it done, it’s up to your child to follow through, not you.
We love our children so much and want so much for them that it’s easy to slide into helicopter parenting, especially when it comes to academics. Before you become one of those hover moms, step back, reassess the goals — and you might have a more academically successful child for it.
More about helicopter parenting
- The problem with helicopter parenting
- Kids and college: Are you a helicopter mom?
- Quiz: Are you a helicopter parent?