If you want to be a solidly practical, good parent, and not an overly protective helicopter parent, you might consider following these rules:
1. Do not do their homework for them.
I never did homework for my kids, but I did help my child with dyslexia & ADHD learn to spell words. Once I helped my straight A’s child with a long report on the American West, because she rarely asked for help. When the child with dyslexia was in middle school, I hired a teacher for her after school tutoring. And in high school, I hired a tutor for her math reviews before the SAT & ACT exams. I tried to check the homework of my bright first-born son, but because it was always crumpled up & deep within his backpack, I gave up. To my knowledge, he has never gotten organized. I watched a colleague “help” our two fourth-grade boys perform an advanced science project on acid rain. Mostly they did what she told them to do, & they won first place. She was a helicopter mom and I knew it.
2. Do not scream at their coaches.
Yell for your child & give them encouragement. I never screamed at coaches about their coaching, whether soccer (when they were all small), volleyball (middle & high school) and swimming (middle & high school). Be present for as many games as you can be. It seems like my daughter only remembers the swim meets that I missed. When my younger daughter failed to make the varsity volleyball team, I suggested she go talk to the coach & ask him for the reason. She did & he told her harshly, “Ball control.” I was there to console her. Let coaches do their jobs; helicopter parents try to influence the coaches. Not all kids are good at the sport they most enjoy.
3. Do not try to protect your child from each & every injury.
Injuries will happen anyway, broken bones from a fall at school, even a dog bite to the face of my three-year-old when I was standing just ten feet away. The best I did was prohibit having a trampoline in our backyard. Unbeknownst to me, they went over to the neighbors & used theirs. The fall at school happened when her teacher told her to climb over a fence to retrieve a ball. Later a broken nose happened when she was playing racquet ball with a friend (at age ten) & got hit in the face with the racquet while I was just around the corner from the girls. Injuries will happen, even with proper supervision. Helicopter parents keep their children on a short leash in trying to protect them.
4. Do not do their chores for them.
I was not good at making my children clean up their rooms & do chores. I always had a nanny &/or a maid & they took advantage of that situation. My son finally learned to do laundry when he was a senior in high school. He never cleaned his room. My older daughter never learned to iron or wash clothes, & she convinced me to pay for her laundry service in college – very embarrassing. My son only helped me clean out his fish tank a few times, & mostly I cleaned it out each month by myself. He was particularly good at cooking with his father, so I forgave their dinner messes. Children must learn to clean their own spaces and do laundry before leaving for college.
5. Do not fight their battles for them.
When my son was in sixth grade he was bullied unmercifully. Despite my calling the bully’s parents & the principal’s attempts at intervention, the bullying never stopped. My son survived the year by being friend with two boys, another nerdy, computer kid like him, & the other a teenager with Down syndrome. My older daughter broke off her two-year friendship with a girl who was the daughter of one of my (medical practice) partners. Neither one of us knew what happened & we remained out of the loop forever. It was uncomfortable at work for a while, but my daughter joined a new group of friends. Children must learn to make their own way in the world, independently. By trying to fight every battle for them, helicopter parents keep children from developing problem-solving skills.
6. Do not yell “be careful” so often.
Experts say that you can make children fearful or nervous is you are always coaching them to be careful or play it safe. Of course, they must wear a bike helmet, but it is okay to let them wade in the creek down the street, even if they fall and manage to get cut. Yelling “be careful” can make children anxious. Helicopter parents can make children nervous.
7. Do not prevent them from failing.
This is a biggie. If they do not turn in homework, or that special report, so be it. They get the bad grade. If they don’t study & fail the test, tough luck. If they do not make the team or come in second, so be it. Nobody prevented me from failing. When I did fail at something, I learned how to do it correctly the next time. We learn our hardest lessons from failing, & our children will, too. Children will learn how to manage their own lives if they have to deal with their own consequences. They will be stronger for it.