I grew up in an era when kids left the house early in the morning, roamed the neighborhood on bikes and Big Wheels, and played sports for hours on end. We didn’t have cell phones and mom only cared that we were home for dinner. Fast forward to 2019 where parents know exactly where our kids are at all times. Kids carry phones with them and parents watch them like hawks. We don’t let them wander (for good reasons) and we hit the panic button when we can’t get a hold of them.
Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former Dean of Freshman at Stanford University, says that while the new generation of college students comes in with higher scores and grades, they also come in with fewer skills to make it on their own in college. In other words, they lack the social skills and street smarts to survive on their own. She blames the helicopter parent for the problems most college students face in life. Below are five ways to not be helicopter parents. Apply these to your life and your children will be better adjusted when they leave home.
1. Teach them basic life skills.
A friend of mine created a list of 72 items he wants to cover before his children leave for college. When each of his children starts 7th grade, he knows he has 72 months before they leave. Each month he covers a basic life skill such as changing a tire, tying a tie, cooking or doing laundry. He includes his wife by spending time teaching his kids how to honor and respect women.
2. Teach them how to interact face-to-face.
Our children (as well as us parents) are so social media/text-dependent that we can miss out on the basics of human interaction. We need to help our kids learn how to interact with others face-to-face. They need to learn how to look others in the eye, ask questions, initiate and debate with others.
3. Give them responsibility.
In her book How to Raise an Adult, Lythcott-Haims talks about the significance of giving our children chores and the earlier the better. They also need to learn how to get up in the morning on their own. We can’t always be their alarm clocks. This is an easy way for us to start giving our kids responsibility at a young age.
4. Teach them how to problem-solve.
When our children leave the house for college or their careers, mom and dad will not be around the corner to correct or rescue them. Yes, we should be available to help, but we will not lurk over their shoulders. They need to know how to problem-solve on their own. For instance, they need to know how they can fight against the desire to look at porn. What will they do when they’re offered drugs? What if all their friends are drinking, getting drunk and pressuring them to join in?
5. Coach them how to interact with their teachers.
Coach your child to ask questions and fight their own battles.They should speak to the authorities in their lives with politeness and respect. I’m so thankful my step-dad taught me to address men as “sir” and women as “ma’am.” This small gesture has served me well in life. When your children make a bad grade on a test, don’t be that parent who calls/emails/texts their teacher. Coach your child to ask questions and fight their own battles.
Training them to leave
I once heard parenting defined as “training your children so that they can leave.” Of course, there’s more to it than this, but I believe this is a great starting place as parents. Instead of doing it all for them and rescuing them at the first sign of trouble, let’s be parents who train our kids to leave. When they’re no longer under our roofs, we want them to make smart choices.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your wife and ask, “In what ways do you think we are being helicopter parents?”