By Barbara Greenspan, OT, Pediatric Occupational Therapist
As parents today, we would like to think we are doing a better job at parenting than the generation that preceded us (a polite way of saying our parents!). We like to think we are smarter, better educated and more in touch with our children’s needs than they ever were. While this knowledge is usually a good thing it sometimes leads to parents becoming overbearing with their children.
Recently the term, “Helicopter Parenting”, has been appearing in print and on TV to describe such parents. This type of parent rushes in to prevent any harm or mishap from befalling their children, no matter how insignificant. While these parents are helping their children in one way they are also not allowing their children to become more independent and to learn from their own mistakes. They are so named because, like a helicopter, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach whether their children need them or not.
While this term is often applied to parents of older children particularly with regard to school work and grades, it applies to the parenting of younger children as well. The baby who has his bottle held for him, the toddler who is fed by an adult, the preschooler who has his hair brushed for him, the school age child whose mother picks out his clothes and dresses him and the pre-teen whose babysitter makes toast for him. These are all examples of children who are capable of doing these tasks for themselves, but have become used to having the tasks done for them.
The job of parenting is a very serious one and probably the most important job in the world. Perhaps the final goal or outcome that parents have in their minds is to raise a child from a dependent baby to an independent functioning adult who is capable of taking care of themselves and others. Below are just some ideas of what you can do as a parent of a young child to encourage independence and growth.
Next time, let your child….
- Hold the bottle by himself
- Wash his hands
- Wash himself with a washcloth in the bathtub
- Shampoo her hair by herself
- Brush her teeth
- Brush his hair
- Feed himself
- Help make the bed
- Help put the toys away when finished with a game
- Carry groceries in the house
- Wash the dishes
- Make toast in the toaster
- Help with the laundry
While your child may not succeed on the first try, it is important to keep encouraging independence with self-care tasks. To see that sense of achievement on their face is priceless!
If you liked this article, you may also want to read our other developmental articles: