Valid email addresses are required to post comments. If your comment is not posted, I will send you an email with an explanation.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Helicopters Have No Training Wheels

I have posted three different articles this morning that focus on the issue of raising children. Together, they reinforce the message expressed in one of my favorite quotes - "Prepare the child for the path, don't prepare the path for the child."

As I reflect on an educational career that spans over three decades, one of the biggest changes I have witnessed during that time is the manner in which children are generally raised in our culture.

"Helicopter" parents (those parents who hover over their child to "protect" them from any and all potential threats - emotional, psychological - to preserve their self-esteem) were absent from the childhood of people in my generation. Somehow, we developed without bike helmets, car seats/seat belts, childproof caps, warning labels and signs on nearly everything that doesn't move,...

Please don't misunderstand me. The safety measures I referred to above are all essential and I certainly followed them while raising my son and daughter. However, it seems like we have taken things too far in terms of how much "support" we provide for our children. Perhaps the best analogy I can use to explain the role of a parent is to recall how I taught my own children to ride a bike. A tricycle is a great starting point to enable the child to gain some sense of independence and confidence in riding something. Next, they graduated to a two wheeler with training wheels, offering them a little less support and more of an opportunity to experience enough risk to understand the importance of being focused and aware of their surroundings. Then, after a while I took off the training wheels and walked alongside them as they worked to gain balance and direction. I was there at any point they wavered or wobbled so I could reach out and prevent them from falling. Again, the degree of fear they had was raised by the absence of training wheels and the potential for them to fall. Eventually, as they acquired more skill and confidence I retreated a bit more from them and jogged along with them as they navigated the bike. Yes, they may have fallen but I was there to react promptly, reach out and offer support. A small scrape or little bump was the price of becoming more skilled and more independent. When the child acquired more skill, it was enough to simply stand in the area of an empty parking lot and watch them as they rode around and mastered safe riding techniques. Before you know it, they’re asking for the car keys!

No, my kids weren’t perfect, and I made mistakes as a parent. They stumbled and fumbled their way through adolescence and entered adulthood with a bruised ego here and there as they experienced difficulties and failures and the consequences of their choices and the risks inherent in any quest for success and excellence. But, they were prepared for whatever path they chose for the years ahead. As Bill Gates said at the top of his list for advice – “Life is not fair.” Nor can parents be with their children at every turn in the path or fork in the path. All we can do is prepare them for the path by raising them with a healthy balance of reality and support.

Please read all three articles.

No comments:

Post a Comment