Recently, I read an article that introduced me to the phrase “helicopter parenting.” The story focused on a college student who was so upset with an exam grade she received that she had an emotional meltdown in the classroom and immediately texted her mother who demanded to speak to the professor. Another parent mentioned in the article accompanied her child on a job interview and could not understand why her child did not get the job.
Now, I think it’s fair to say that, at some level, most parents are guilty of hovering over their kids from time to time. Like most, my wife and I work hard to give our kids a better life than we had growing up. It’s important to us that they do not endure the struggles that we did.
When I became a dad, I was determined that my kids would see what it meant to have a mother and father who were committed to their health and happiness. And I never wanted them to experience the stress I felt watching my mom work several jobs to provide for all eight of her children and when having to fend for myself.
Without any father to speak of, I had very few male role models during my childhood. My kids, however, have a dad who makes sure they have a great life–a good home, nice clothes, plenty of food and dependable parents who have come to their rescue from time to time when presented with life’s challenges.
I am very proud of how my boys have grown up and the privileges their mother and I have afforded them. But a small part of me wonders if I inadvertently deprived them of learning how to deal with adversity. Let’s face it: real life is a struggle. Most of us face trials and tribulations on a daily basis. Are we being fair to our kids by robbing them of the opportunity to learn how to respond to these challenges on their own? Are we so committed to their happiness that we’re raising a generation of young adults who will be “out toughed” by life? Are we teaching them persistence and resilience?
Answer the call: be protective of your children; ensure their safety and wellbeing. But do not rob them of the intangibles. The world will not react the way that many parents have led them to believe it will. We need to love our children and teach them to love others. But we need them to understand that not everyone will love them the way their parents do…and that’s okay.
Kirk Ray Smith is the president and CEO of Hope Villages of America, formerly RCS Pinellas.