My husband and I have recently started watching the Netflix series Great News. In this series the mother is referred to as a helicopter parent. I had no idea what a helicopter parent is, but my husband proclaimed to be one. According to Wikipedia a helicopter parent is:
A parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they “hover overhead”, overseeing every aspect of their child’s life constantly.
It made me think about my own parenting style with James. Am I a helicopter parent? I’m certainly not as overbearing as the mother in Great News, but I do think sometimes I am quite overprotective of James, and I wonder if at times this has held him back. Would he have crawled, or walked sooner if I hadn’t have been so worried about him falling on our hard floors and hurting himself? Would he be better at climbing if I had moved away from him more and let him attempt things more without my help? Maybe he would have been, but does it really matter?
I’ve noticed that some children younger than James can climb up the steps of a slide much more confidently and more easily than he can. Is this because I have often put him at the top of the slide and not made him climb up incase he falls backwards? If I leave him to climb up a slide he often turns around and looks for me and groans until I come and help him. Maybe he lacks confidence in his own abilities (which he would definitely get from me, rather than his dad). However, as he has got older he has got a lot better at climbing up steps for slides, and to be fair some slides have pretty steep steps!
I also think I tend to follow what James wants. He is very good at asking for help when he wants it. I don’t think he always needs help, but he has no problem in asking for it (unlike his dad). If we are doing an activity together, like putting blocks in the shape sorter or doing a puzzle, if I am there and he doesn’t get it right first time, he will want me to help him. He will grab my hand and put it on the shape or the puzzle piece to show me he wants me to do it. If I am not sat next to him and he is playing independently he will do it himself. Maybe he just likes an easy life and if there is an option to make things easier he will take it (and can I really blame him for that?). This could be why he refuses to use cutlery himself. I am pretty sure he is capable of feeding himself with a spoon, but he refuses to do it until I feed him.
At toddler groups when he was younger he used to hold my hand and want me by him all the time. Now, as soon as we walk through the door he leaves me and is off playing. I know that if he wants me he will come and get me (or find another parent to adopt). I think it is important for him to play without me next to him all the time.
Thinking about it I don’t think I am a helicopter parent. I work off the cues from James and I want him to have the confidence to do things himself, but if it takes him a bit longer or if he wants me to help him with things to start with then I don’t see that as a problem. I am there for James and he definitely lets me know when he wants help, even if he doesn’t say mummy yet. Every child is different and James has certainly come a long way over the last few months.
As for James’ dad, he is probably a helicopter parent. When we are out he is often telling me to watch James or panicking about what James is doing and worrying he is going to get hurt. I think a lot of that may come from his own childhood experiences of spending a lot of time in his local A&E after various accidents and he doesn’t want James to go through the same. There are some pebbles James likes walking along at our local park and I have let James walk on these pebbles for months without holding my hand. However, when my husband comes to the park he is always nervous about James walking on them and wants one of us to hold his hand, whilst telling me he will fall and crack his head open. A bit of an extreme in my opinion. My response is usually if he falls he will put his hands out and be fine. The difference is though I am with James most of the time and I can see what he is capable of, where as my husband is at work. I see James fall over several times a day and I know how he responds and most of the time he is fine and gets straight back up. Sometimes knowing my husbands stance on things does make me more protective of James because I hear my husband’s voice in my head saying should he be doing that?
I’m not one for reading parenting advice articles or researching into what parenting style I should adopt. I have always just gone along with what feels natural to me and James. So what kind of parent am I? I think I am calm, patient, caring and loving towards James, but at the same time I like to think I am firm and fair with him. I am probably more of a soft touch with him than my husband because after a day with James I sometimes don’t have the energy to be too firm and stand my ground.