Helicopter Parenting, part 2

helicopter momLast time, I shared some thoughts about what happened to a mom who left her 4-year-old son in her car on a cool day while she went in to purchase one item at a store. (Read that here.) This post is a continuation of those thoughts about what it means to keep our kids safe.

Have you ever willingly fed your child GMO-laced foods? Have you been so busy you just didn’t have time to make dinner, so you ran by McDonald’s instead? What? Do you know how terrible that stuff is for you? Have you never seen “Super-Size Me?”

Have you used chemical cleaners in your home? Have you fed your family meats laden with hormones? These things are supremely bad for your health, and yet people eat them every day, and feed them to their children. Considering the circumstances, the above-mentioned mom’s lapse of judgement did not put her child in immediate danger. It wasn’t boiling hot; she locked the car and set the alarm; she was gone a few minutes. Dumb idea? Yes. Endangering her child? Sure. Nearly everything we do endangers our children to some degree. I let my kids play with our dog. Did I know that at any moment she wouldn’t bite one of them? No. How could I be totally sure of that? She was an animal. But I considered the circumstances, I had a history with this animal, and I instructed my kids not to get right in her face.

I tend toward helicopterness. I admit it. My teenage boys hate it. My 11-year-old daughter has never even crossed the moderately busy two-lane road by our house on her own. She’s never really had to. She’s always had someone to go with her. Next year, I’ll probably let her go on her own. She might be late to school as she tends to wait until there’s no car visible on the straight stretch of road, but so be it. She’ll get better as she does it. I let my kids climb the big magnolia tree in our backyard. Could they fall out? Oh yeah. Does that mean I don’t let them climb?

Our media-saturated, internet-addicted, child-centric society sometimes goes too far. We hear more stories than were ever heard of before because we have immediate access to those stories from all across the nation. It used to only be on the nightly news. And yet, from what I understand, crime rates are actually down compared to the 70s and 80s. So why do we fear the worst could happen? Because it could. That’s just the way it is. And no matter how much we try to protect our kids, something could still happen.

Are there people out there who really are bad parents and should have their kids taken away? Absolutely. I just watched a news story about a 15-month old girl who wandered more than 300 feet away from her home and ended up on the side of a highway. What? Where were her parents then? I also just read a story about a dad who forgot his baby in the backseat of his truck for a couple of hours in the Florida heat. The baby died.

That story and Kim’s, I believe, are very different situations. Kim weighed the circumstances and deemed it OK to leave her 4-year-old for a few minutes. Again, was it a bad decision? Maybe. But under the circumstances, it wasn’t over-the-top dangerous. Am I advocating leaving young kids in the car? No. In this case, avoiding possible tragedy is easy (even if you have to take a kicking and screaming child) and sensible.

The dad in Florida, well, he’ll have to live with his error for the rest of his life. Apparently, he forgot he had the child with him that day.

Kids die falling out of trees. Kids die waiting for their school bus on the side of the road. Kids die from dog bites. Kids die from automobile accidents. Every day. It’s tragic, I get that. But vilifying everyone who does something that you think poses too much of a threat, or keeping your child locked up in a bubble because you’re afraid the worst could happen really isn’t helping matters. It’s a broken world; bad things happen.

Ultimately, we make hundreds of little and big decisions every day about our kids. We can only do our best and the rest is in God’s hands.

My 17-year-old will drive himself to school and work. All three of my kids will climb that tree in our yard. My daughter will walk across the street by herself. It’s called living. I can’t protect them forever.

I’m willing to engage in polite debate on the subject. Comment below.


illustration by Jan von Holleben via realsimple.com


6 thoughts on “Helicopter Parenting, part 2

  1. I think that being too much of a helicopter parent does a disservice to your children. They need to learn the consequences of their actions. I have a good friend who is a total helicopter mom. She knows she is and she will readily admit it. When her son falls, she is there to catch him. I don’t know if it is as a result of this or not, but her son will recklessly jump off of things with no regard to the consequences. Is this because he thinks someone will always be there to catch him? I can’t say for sure, but I can tell you that Levi is much more cautious about jumping into the abyss because he knows I won’t necessarily catch him. And he’s had stitches already and he knows how bad it hurts to get them 🙂 It’s my job as a parent to protect him and teach him about what’s safe and what’s not, and to figure out what is age appropriate for him, but it is also my job to let him figure some things out for himself.

    • Studies are showing that the upcoming generation of college students have no idea how to think for themselves. Kids have to face consequences or they will not know what to do when they’re on their own. Is the fact that more and more “kids” are living at home after college a result of not knowing what the heck they’re doing? Maybe. I make my 17-year-old make the calls he needs to. I talk him through stuff, but I resist the temptation to make the calls for him. If he gets what he thinks is an unfair grade, do I go running to the teacher? No. I tell him, well, sometimes that happens. Life isn’t going to pat you on the head and say, “There, there.” It’s going to smack you upside the head, and you better be ready for it.

      Thanks, as always, for your comment 🙂 And give that cute little guy a hug for me!

  2. I totally agree with you. We can’t do everything for our children or they’ll never learn to do things for themselves. I have written a couple posts on this subject myself as well. The world sounds scarier now because we have more information at our fingertips but I don’t think we should raise our children to be frightened of everyone and everything.

    • Thanks for your comment. Not only will they be scared of everyone and everything, they absolutely won’t know how to handle adversity. I’ll look forward to reading your posts.

  3. I’ve had a couple people tell Kyle and I that we act like we have more kids than we do because of how we respond to different situations (letting Aliyah cry for a bit, not immediately rushing to catch either of them when they fall, etc.) We aren’t trying to be careless or disinterested parents, but we want them to learn to gauge different situations and learn from their mistakes if necessary (even at 2 and 4). If Aliyah trips and falls because she was dragging along a giant blanket, the reality is that she isn’t hurt and she won’t cry unless she sees one of us (generally me) react. She gets up and continues to drag that blanket along like nothing ever happened. If Samara bonks her head on the table because she is crawling underneath it during dinner after we’ve warned her to watch her head and to stay in her seat, we make sure she is ok and put her back in the chair where we told her to stay in the first place. That’s not to say that I don’t have waking nightmares anytime I imagine a worst case scenario (water terrifies me with the kids), but I’m trying to let them be kids, get scrapped knees because they were actually outside playing rather than sitting in front of the tv. I’m trying to allow them to be fearless because I’ve realized that it’s fleeting and they will have plenty to be scared of as they grow up. I don’t need to feed into unnecessary fears if I’m able. It’s hard, but we’re (kinda) figuring it out as we go along and trusting that God already knows what is or is not going to happen to them. (sorry for the long comment) 😉

  4. Pingback: Wait, What? | Compelled

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