helicopter dad

3 Times Your Kids Need You to Back Off

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As a teacher and coach, I am often reminding my students and players that it’s all right to make mistakes. I remind them that it’s part of the learning process, that if they aren’t making mistakes, they aren’t pushing themselves hard enough. The important thing is that they recognize their mistakes, learn from them, and improve.

Unfortunately, as a dad, I often forget the importance of mistakes. I become a helicopter dad, constantly jumping in to try to keep my own kids from making mistakes before they happen. There are many times I need to step back and allow my kids to go through the learning process. Here are 3 times I’ve learned that kids need us to back off.

1. When the Kids Are Arguing

If you are raising more than one child, you have experienced this more times than you can count. You’re in your house doing dad stuff and you hear it—the bickering that only happens between siblings. It’s loud, abrasive, and usually about something insignificant. Your instinct is to fix the problem like a ninja or Navy SEAL. You burst into the room, assess the situation, and lay down decisive action to solve the problem.

As nice as it would be to put a quick end to the situation, there are times when we need to let them work it out on their own. These are opportunities for kids to learn to communicate and negotiate during a disagreement. If you do burst in, instead of being a helicopter dad, use it as an opportunity to set some ground rules. Remind them that they need to avoid raising their voices, avoid using degrading or taunting comments, and work to come up with a solution.

2. When the Child Is Frustrated

We have to let our kids struggle and fight through frustration.

Everyone’s kids go through frustrating moments. Often, it happens when they are working on homework and there is a problem they just can’t solve. As dads, we want to be the hero. We’ve been in their shoes, and we know their struggle. But now we are on the other side, and we want to help them. It’s important to remember that it is possible to help too much. We have to let our kids struggle and fight through frustration. If we bail them out, we don’t allow them to develop perseverance. Instead of being a helicopter dad and solving their problems, we need to be there for them and encourage them to keep working to solve their problems on their own.

3. When the Kids Are Making a Mess

This one is near and dear to my heart. My youngest daughter loves to do projects. Painting may be her favorite hobby. For her birthday, we bought her a set of paints, brushes, and canvases. She used to do her painting at the kitchen table where we could watch her, but she set up her new supplies in a room in our basement.

A week or so after getting her the supplies, I walked into her “art studio.” Wow! It was a mess. My first reaction was to take her art supplies away and only allow her to use them under close observation, but after some time to reflect, I realized that this was an opportunity for me to teach her how to take care of her materials and how to clean up after painting. Many activities are inherently messy. We need to allow our kids to make some messes while also holding them accountable for cleaning up when they are done.

Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: 4 Roles Your Kids Need You to Play.

Sound off: When is a time you found yourself “hovering” even though your kids needed you to back off?

Huddle up and with your kids and ask, “What are some times when I need to give you some space?”