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Archive for March, 2013

Helicopter Parents: Get Grounded for God’s Sake and Your Kid’s Sake

When the Eagles returned after a 17 year vacation, they added a Don Henley-inspired song to their standards playlist – a song called, Get Over It. I’ve been thinking more often how relevant this song becomes every day a kid starts school.

Call me old fashioned, a grump, uncool, out of touch with modern day parenting or a brutally insensitive human being. One thing I’m extremely proud of is I was never one of these, “let me always be there for my kid, catch him/her when they fall, battle with the teacher about how my kid was unfairly treated, he has to have an iPhone so I can be in touch, why can’t my kid play shortstop”- kind of Dad. Damn, are our kids that fragile? Will they really break if they fall or get a bloody nose for being a jerk? Maybe I should have given my children a trophy for going to school.

I have been in the behavioral health field for more than 35 years and I have seen fragile kids. I was a therapist who worked with teen drug abusers and inpatient psychiatric patients under the age of 18 for years. I’m not a cold person. I am a parent of three children…now 26-24-22 years of age. I have volunteered on my children’s school board when they were in elementary school and now again in 2013. The parent generation change has been stunning and rather frightening. Here’s why…

Children are being taught by their parents that no matter what they do, they will be defended. They are taught they will be caught before they fail. They become totally befuddled when told “everyone won the game because it was a tie” A baseball game with a bunch of 6 year-old players is supposed to be 22-8 because one team can dominate another team for lots of reasons, such as some kids stink at baseball. But Mommy and Daddy want them to have their opportunity to do everything. This is flat out stupid and very developmentally unhealthy. Making matters much worse is these same kids are given whatever they want and they do not have to demonstrate manners and say, Thank you! They get iPhones in third grade, TVs in their bedrooms, laptops, their own seat to Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres games, $150 jerseys, and no bedtimes.

Tragically…yes, tragically, all this leads to a few common themes:

  • Kids without strong coping skills – an ability to adjust to disappointment, conflict, losing, setbacks and failure
  • Kids who are disrespectful of all authority figures
  • Kids who struggle to make up their own minds – they avoid things that require them to take a position, so they get stuck in perpetual neutral
  • Kids who have a new car, but don’t know how to change a flat tire or put wiper fluid in the tube
  • Their heroes are Chris Brown, Kanye West, Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, Tiger Woods and the revolving cast of Pregnant and 16 on MTV (didn’t MTV used to show music videos? What does MTV stand for today..oh, yeah, swearing and bleeps)
  • These are the kids who go to college for 6 undergraduate years and still come out with a meaningless major
  • These graduates want Mom or Dad to get them their interviews…”Don’t you know someone who will give me a job?”
  • Parents who can’t cut the chord because “my kids need me”
  • Kids who spend more money than they make and need their own credit card
  • Kids who don’t go to church
  • Kids who won’t (not can’t) write a thank you note to Grandma for the $100 check at Christmas
  • Kids who don’t answer parent’s cell phone calls, but expect to stay on Mommy and Daddy’s wireless plan
  • Kids who don’t get summer jobs because they are too busy

At this point, you are guilty and/or you know my list of common outcomes could go on and on.Maybe you are not guilty, but you know what I’m talking about. The true common theme is parents are enabling, protecting, spoiling, pampering and excusing their children to the point of stalling their maturation process, community responsibility and true sense of their strengths and weaknesses. Parents are creating soft children and I don’t mean the caring type of “soft” child. They become soft by being helpless, emotionally fragile and ill-equipped for the world outside of the family room.

Where do I see this, you ask? Besides the parents who proudly boast how they they “love” their children, I’m a professor and I see it in the freshmen classs. I coached Little League baseball and can’t tell you how many kids are “going to the pros” because they are getting private lessons and had a DVD made of them pitching in the 12 Year-Old All Star Game in Cooperstown, NY. YIKES!

It’s long overdue for today’s kids to fall, get scratched, lose a game, come in last in a race, get an F on a homework paper, actually serve detention, not play shortstop, and get punished for swearing. They should go to church, eat dinner with their family, write thank you notes, say hello Mr. or Mrs. to your friends, call Grandma on her birthday, cut the lawn, buy their own used car and get their first cell phone in high school (Oh my God, have I gone mad?).

Children expect guidance, rules, consequences, truth, consistency, and a chance to stumble through to become who they are.

Hey…I know parents make mistakes and I’ve made my share, too. Yes, I know many parents do work very hard to get it right and no child comes with a guarantee. My thoughts here are based on repetitive comments, themes, scenarios and discussions with teachers, mental health professionals, coaches, law enforcement and other parents.

It is an important matter because our children are very precious to us and we have an obligation to help them be kind, independent, respectful and fail – in failing they become better equipped to be happy, productive adults and maybe parents themselves some day.

Final thought: Laugh with your kids more often! It will keep you grounded!

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