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Helicopter Parenting

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On Memorial Day, we decided to go to the swimming pool. I knew it would be mobbed, but it was going to be 90 degrees, and we had nothing better to do.  So we went.

I informed my family that we should get there at 11am, the exact time the pool opens, because I expected a major crowd and I wanted to get a seat.  Not that I spend much of the time we are the pool sitting, but it’s nice, at least, to have a place to set my stylish black straw beach bag and my cooler filled with fresh fruit and water (because I am a killjoy and do not allow my kids to buy snacks at the pool.)

We got there at 11:15, and there was hardly a parking space to be found in the lot, but we managed to find a spot in the far corner.  We walked briskly to the entrance and signed in only to find that there was not a single chair available in the entire swim club.  Of course there were plenty of unoccupied chairs, but they were all sporting a colorful beach towel or a pair of flip flops as people had marked their territory upon arrival.

Later we found out that there had been a line out the door that was 200 yards long when the pool opened at 11.  I guess a lot of people had the same idea I did, but actually managed to carry out their well laid plans.

So we finally laid out a couple of towels on an empty plot of grass and set our bags and flip flops beside them and made do.  It’s not like we planned on spending much time laying around anyway; we had three kids to watch.

As I said, the pool was mobbed.  But as I stood in the shallow end, within arm’s reach of my 4-year-old, and looked out over the sea of people, I noticed that at least half of the people occupying the pool were adults.  And these adults were not swimming.  In fact, most were not playing with their kids.  They were standing around while their kids swam and played around them, and the lifeguards desperately peered through the din trying to keep an watchful eye on everyone.

My husband and I stood at our post in the shallow end of the pool, trying to keep all three of our kids within view, and chatted.  We began reminiscing about days gone by, when we spent the days of our youth at our respective swim clubs.  We recalled that our parents did not stand around in the pool, within arms reach of their offspring, waiting for them to flounder helplessly and get sucked under water at any given moment.

Rather, our parents spent their time lounging around the perimeter of the pool, reading a book or chatting with friends while we frolicked and played in the water.  They would look up occasionally to make sure we weren’t lying at the bottom of the pool, but they pretty much just stayed out of the way and let the lifeguards do their job.

And it occurred to me, as I looked around and witnessed the sea of parents standing guard in knee-deep water, that this is just another extension of this helicopter parenting culture in which we live.  And yes, I was standing there as well, even though my kids are pretty reliable in the water and even my youngest is getting old enough for me to not be hovering over her.  But last year I was actually reprimanded by the life guards at our pool for NOT being in the water with my then 3-and-a-half-year-old.  (I was sitting on the side of the pool, in a chair about 3 yards away, with her in plain view.  It was not crowded, and she is not a dare devil or prone to wander.  And I WAS watching her.)

It seems to me, if the parents would just GET OUT OF THE WAY and go sit down and have a Snickers bar and chill, there would be a lot more room for the kids to play in the water, and it would be a lot easier for the lifeguards to actually see the kids that they are trying to protect.

I was watching the lifeguards, and I want to give them credit.  They were not filing their nails or staring off into space.  They were being vigilant, and there were plenty of them.  There was one even walking through the water.  And with good reason, last year a 10-year-old almost drown at a nearby YMCA pool, and he wasn’t even in the deep end.  I realize that awful things can happen in the water, and I’m not trying to be cavalier about it, but at what point do we hover so closely around our kids that they don’t even have a chance to be kids?

The other comical/pathetic thing I witnessed, also filed neatly in the helicopter parenting category, was the scene by the slide.  I’m not talking about the big slide on the deep end of the pool; I’m talking about the little portable slide they have set up in the shallow end of the pool where the toddlers and preschoolers hang out.

Once again, the parents huddle around the slide as their kids line up, climb up, slide down, wash, rinse, repeat.  It’s not enough to stand close enough to jump in if a child is in danger.  No, the parents feel the need to coach the kids every step of the way.  Make sure they get in the proper place in line.  Make sure they climb up without butting in front of someone else.  Make sure they sit down and slide without taking too much time.  Make sure they don’t let their head go under water for a fraction of a second.  OH NO!  That would be horrifying.

My daughter is 4, and she is perfectly capable of climbing up and sliding down unassisted.  (Yes, I realize that there is an age at which it is appropriate and necessary to parent them down the slide, but 75% of the kids on the slide were well past that age.)  I stood back and just let her enjoy it for a time, but I started to feel that pressure from all the helicopter parents around us.  Every time she happened to jump in front of a few kids in line (innocently enough, and the others were hardly aware of it) I was tempted to stand back and let things run their course, but I felt the need to step in and make sure I pulled her around to the back because with all of those parents standing around, you better believe everyone was expecting it.  And heaven forbid a child should try to go down the slide on his belly or give the kid in front of him a friendly nudge when he sat there a few seconds too long before sliding down.

Finally I pulled my daughter away from the slide and moved her over to another part of the pool where it wasn’t QUITE so crowded and I didn’t have to deal with the stress of the slide.  There were no altercations of any kind, don’t get me wrong, but the self-imposed pressure just wasn’t worth it.

You know, when you think about it, it’s truly a wonder we all grew up to be considerate, responsible adults, what with our parents sitting in their lounge chairs, reading their tabloids while we ran willy-nilly around the swim club.

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69 thoughts on “Helicopter Parenting

  1. A-men. I’m the parent that gets looks at the park for not hovering over the kids. If they throw sand or what have you, they are dealt with, but otherwise I stay the heck out of their way. I’m their mom, not their playmate. Many of my best memories were playing with other kids, not being coddled by an adult. How can our kids create those memories if we don’t back off a bit?

  2. Well put! It is truly amazing – and I find myself falling victim time and time again and then getting annoyed. . .it goes with that stigma of being a “good mom”. . .

    Hillary

  3. I’m “that mom,” the one who does NOT worry about every silly thing and follow my kids around. My kids are the ones tromping thru the woods, and carrying big sticks. And they have never poked anyone’s eye out. 🙂

  4. I like what you have to say, but will admit to being a tad overprotective when it comes to the water. I’m just terrified that something will happen–probably my greatest parenting fear. Still, I let my older kids (8, 7, 6) swim without me being in the water. We have a neighborhood pool, but no lifeguards, so we have be on the watch. Maybe at least some of the parents feel like they need to be in the water because some kids aren’t supervised? My friend had to literally pull another kid off of his kid in the pool because the other kid was being too rough and no one was stopping her. Scary!

    But, yes, we are all probably conditioned now to hover and over-parent our children. I know I was riding my bike around the neighborhood with no adults in sight by the time I was 7 or 8, but there is no way I would let my daughters do that now! Which is sad, because I don’t think things are more dangerous, I just think we are more aware of potential danger than we used to be.

    Between our own anxieties and the judgment of others it is hard to find that balance of freedom and caution.

    1. I know the water is VERY dangerous. If there weren’t umpteen life guards on duty, I would understand the need to stand in the water with the kids.

  5. I will agree with Nicole on erring on the side of caution around water, but you have to let kids learn to make their own mistakes in most other things or they will never learn anything. It’s nice you have lifeguards at your pool! I remember riding my bike to the public pool when I was in jr. high and my mom never went with me. I don’t remember even seeing parents there now that I think about it. But I was a bit older, yes.

  6. I’m as guilty as the next mom of helicopter parenting. I do think, however, that we’re doing our children a disservice by all this hovering. We’re not allowing them to just have fun and learn about life on their own terms. How will they learn to navigate through the pitfalls of life if we constantly rescue them or tell them how they should think and act in every moment of their existence?

    I find that this hovering type of parenting is expected so others see us as good moms (or dads). It’s put way too much pressure on parents to be perfect all the time and in turn we’re expecting perfection from our children as well. My mom and aunts don’t understand all this constant vigilant parenting our generation does. I’ve often heard my parents and other grandparents say, “The kids are fine, sit back and relax,” or “you worry too much, let the kid be.” I think maybe we need to start taking their advice a little more. We might find that our children become more independent thinkers and we’re less stressed without the constant hovering. Most of us turned out just fine in spite of the fact that we often walked unsupervised to school and played in packs of friends without the constant presence of our parents.

  7. This is an excellent post. Last Saturday, my husband and I took off to Santa Fe for the day. We enjoyed ourselves. The next day, I was admonished for not having a cell phone so people could get a hold of me in case of an emergency. I asked the person what happened 20 years ago and there was an emergency and the land line was busy or people weren’t home? She stuttered and said, “Well it’s different today! If there had been an actual emergency, we wouldn’t have been able to get a hold of you!”

    My point is that helicopter parenting has spilled over into all aspects of life. I see it in my job as a college professor and I see it in my family and friends as well. We live in a fearful world. Shame on us for letting it get that way.

  8. I’ve been pondering this concept of helicpopter parenting for a while now. I’ve seen it–and even done it (a lot of times because all the other parents were hovering too, not because my daughter really needed me)–and wonder if it’s possible to change this trend without being labeled a negligent parent (within reason of course).

    I can see how water situtations might be different than a park, but I think it’s still possible to give children a little more freedom/space to be children. But, I think you (I) have to be prepared for the evil-eye from other helicopters. At our YMCA pool you HAVE to be within so many feet of your child when they are in the water, at least until they are older.

    I’ve been meaning to read Free-Range Parenting…

  9. This post just made me laugh. I knew the Y pool would be mobbed, so instead we got to the inside pool at 7:30am. And of course only a few adults were there. It was GREAT. The kids had a blast and then we came home and all showered and headed out again by 10am. A\

    And at our YMCA(Spring Valley), you MUST be within arms reach of your kids unless they have a wrist band.

  10. This post and all the great comments really made me think. I never thought of myself as a “helicopter parent” but I am one! I do a lot of what you described in this post- for all the reasons the other commenters mentioned. Ack! My parents didn’t raise me like that either and I think they were fantastic parents.

    Thanks for a great post. I’ve got some thinking (and praying) to do!

  11. I tend to err on the side of caution for water activities as well, but I’ve found that it depends on the situation. At a busy pool with tons of people around, I find I do stay in the water closer to my kids (although I’d be fine watching them on the slide from a distance). At home, though, where we have our own pool, I am happy to sit on the side or on the porch with a magazine & let them have at it. Of course, I didn’t do that until they could swim on their own!

  12. Have you read freerangekids.blogspot.com? I admit to having gotten into the habit of hovering a bit while working as a nanny because at that time I was being PAID to hover. However, I don’t want that for my little guy, so I am working on breaking that habit. Even so, I will agree with what was said about the fear of being seen as a “bad” parent if you don’t hover. I’ve even had some people disapprove of me, because evidently I’m not hovering enough!!

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’m sending Lenore a link to this post.

    1. Funny, I was searching for an image of a helicopter this morning, and the first hit was a post on her page. 🙂

  13. Great post! I will admit that I tend to be a “helicopter parent”. I try not to be, but the fear in me that something will happen to my son just takes over sometimes. I don’t even mean something catastrophic, just little things like falling down, or getting into a conflict with another child. I’m letting my own issues affect how I parent. Definitely something I want (and need) to work on.

  14. I love this, dcrmom. I am on the outside looking in, because I don’t have kids. Which I know means maybe I shouldn’t have an opinion. But geez Louise, how are these kids going to be as adults when they’re so mollycoddled right now? Will they ever be self-sufficient?

  15. Y’all need to come to my neighborhood pool. My 7-year-old and her friends disappear into a scrum of kids while the parents hang out (I do go in the water with my 3-year-old, who has finally abandoned the toddler pool–yes!!!–and is just getting comfortable in the “big pool,” but I’m looking forward to next summer, when he’ll be able to hold his own). Various dads jump in and toss kids all over the place, and the moms all chat and take turns glancing around to see whether anyone’s drowned. A group of us has started bringing containers of fruit and setting up a fruit buffet for the kids, and they actually wolf it down (which makes me feel better about caving into my kids’ pleas for ice cream from the snack bar–what can I say, it’s the pool, it’s summertime, a fudgesicle isn’t going to kill them). It’s nice, because I live in an area renowned for its helicopter parents; for some reason, though, they let go a little bit at the pool.

    I believe most parents start off with good intentions, herding their kids into the “right” sports and activities, making sure their homework is perfect, making sure that they never fall off their bikes, etc., but a byproduct of this micromanagement seems to be an unhealthy attachment to their kids, whom they start to see as a reflection of themselves, and a territorial attitude–they are forever trying to figure out how someone else’s kid managed to make the team or get into the advanced classes. I think it’s just sad. We lucked out to find an enclave within our neighborhood of generally like-minded parents. We’re just as concerned about our kids’ well-being, but we figure if we’re all generally watching out for everyone’s kids, then none of us has to be the helicopter. Which leaves more time for cocktails.

    1. LOL. Sounds like my neighborhood. People here really aren’t too helicoptery. But the pool… oh my word.

  16. What a well-observed post — LOVE it. And the irony is so thick: We are watching our kids SO closely that they are so safe as to be almost unable to experience life AT ALL. (And it is, of course, through experience that all uf us humans LEARN and become wise and — wait for it — safer!) I’m off to tweet this post right now!
    Lenore “Free-Range Kids” Skenazy

    1. EXACTLY. I was reading Rosemond’s parenting book recently and he pointed out exactly that. We are often too quick to rush to their aid, and they don’t learn anything that way.

  17. I’m not the helicopter parent. I know a few, but for the most part, I think the moms I know are fighting against that trend. We’ve talked about how this type of parenting is affecting kids these days and I think we feel very similar to you. I am SO glad that I have a circle of friends who feel the same as I do, because those STARES you get from the hoverers can be intimidating!

    I just keep reminding myself that the way I parent is still MY choice, same as it is theirs, and I’ll do what I think is right and hopefully my kids will be well adjusted productive members of society when I kick them out of the house at 18 😉

  18. Great post. My husband and I always joke about feeling like we are “Slacker Parents” because we are always the ones to sit back and let things happen naturally.

    We step in if there is some element of real danger but otherwise, I think its best the kids sort things out themselves.

    Our parents let us and I think we turned out ok.

  19. I’m a casual observer who has no kids. I was raised a bit of both ways. I had ADHD as a young child and was impulsive enough to run out into the street without looking. This gave my mom pause about letting me roam the neighborhood by myself until I was about 11.

    On the other hand, I did play outside a lot, slid down the big slides, rode the merrygorounds and seesaws that kids don’t get to use anymore because of some false sense of danger. I even *gasp* drank water out of the hose!

    Nowadays, in my neighborhood, I know there are children, but I rarely see them playing outside, and if they are, an adult is usually nearby. But it’s not like the old days when you’d see gangs of boys or groups of girls riding their bikes together or carloads of teens cruising the strip. That independence has been done away with in the name of safety.

  20. You think it’s annoying to watch a mother overly involved and hovering, but I find it annoying to watch a mother who has neglected to teach her 4 y/o child to wait her turn, and then continute to be so under-involved as to allow that child to cut in front of (and probably) push other children around. If your child is old enough to handle that slide, she’s old enough to know how to stand in line and wait her turn. Those helicopter parents are hovering over your unattended child as much as their own, to make sure she doesn’t push their child down the slide, since you obviously won’t ensure that. Perhaps other parents wouldn’t have to be so involved if they didn’t have to pick up the slack for parents like you who are too incapable or unwilling to get involved at all.

    1. Ah yes. I was waiting for a comment just like this one. Clearly you do not know me. I can ASSURE you my daughter was not PUSHING anyone. And I can ASSURE you that I was plenty close by and instructed her to stand in line, which she KNOWS how to do from being in preschool for three years, but it was hard to see exactly where the line was, due in large part to the sheer amount of parents standing around it. And I can ASSURE you that I am PLENTY involved — probably too much, frankly.

      It’s one thing to teach a child to be polite, it’s quite another to hover and micromanage their every move.

  21. I am not a helicopter parent most of the time, simply because I’m outnumbered. There’s five of them, with four under the age of seven, and only one of me. I do pick and choose where we go and that list will increase as the kids get older and more mature about the rules. We haven’t been to the pool yet, but I may try visiting a neighbor’s pool during nap time with the middle three while my oldest babysits. I think of myself as keeping tabs on my kids, but I certainly don’t hover. In fact, the kids are frequently hovering around me, wanting to be in on the action.

    I read Free-Range Kids and loved it. We do have some of that culture here in the suburbs where I live, but almost all the kids carry cell phones. It’s so different from when I was growing up. I lived out in the boonies and except for day camp during the summer, we were on our own a lot of the time.

    With my kids, I am clear about my expectations up front and I frequently don’t bring certain children along if I know the outing will bring out the worst in them. We do a lot of nature walks and they know the rule is that you have to be able to see and hear mom. In stores, I keep them in the stroller or cart until they’re ready to learn to stay close. That doesn’t stop them from driving me crazy with playing with each other in the store, but we keep working at it.

  22. Another exceptional post of yours that makes me laugh and sigh at the same time! I try not to be a helicopter parent, but often seem to cave to the expectations of other mothers. Thanks for making me rethink my stance!

  23. Oh how right you are! I catch myself being a Helicopter parent from time to time, and mostly try to nip it in the butt when I can. Yes, there are times when I just can’t, but there are others that my kids need to simply learn for themselves!

  24. I agree that hovering over our children is counter-productive to their growth.
    But I’m not a big fan of labels, including this one! Do “helicopter” parents have labels for those who are opposite? I find labels to be simplistic and causes unnecessary division among parents. We live in a different day and age than our parents did and because the moral compass of society is continually being skewed, it’s difficult to just relax! For example:

    It can be hard not stand close to your little girl in the pool when some less than virtuous guy keeps staring at her or is acting boorish. (You know the ones!) Personally I would prefer that most adults not be in the pool when it’s crowded unless they have toddlers or babies.

    Unruly teens with no respect for personal boundaries have also made it difficult to just relax and let your smaller kids enjoy the pool.

    I find the whole public pool experience to be tense for both children and parents. We use to live in a state where there weren’t any lakes suitable for swimming, so it was something we had to tolerate!

    Now we prefer to go to lakes where our children have the freedom to just run along the shoreline, have room to move and go in and out of the water at their leisure. Whether we go in the water or not is optional.

    Most of the time I prefer a lawn chair and iced coffee!

    Thank you for offering this perspective. We should always be evaluating whether or not we are giving our children enough air to breathe!

    1. I think labels have their place. Sometimes it’s the most succinct way to make your point, but I know what you mean.

      Let me be clear, I am in no way advocating not watching our children. I am advocating not hovering over them and micromanaging their every move. There’s a difference.

      I have no problem speaking to a rowdy teen or whisking my daughter away from a situation in which I feel she is being looked at inappropriately.

      And yes, we as parents need to be constantly re-evaluating. The funny thing about this situation is that I found myself hovering until I stood back and looked around and thought about how comical the whole scene was. My husband was the one who made the observation about the life guards not being able to see the kids and the parents all standing around in the pool being a new phenomenon.

      I’d love to hear the perspective of a few moms from the last generation. I’m wondering if times have really changed, or if we have just become more aware of potential dangers because of the media.

  25. Great post! I can see you getting all kinds of comments on this one. What a fun discussion.

    I just discovered a great website on this topic: http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/. The website is subtitled “how to raise safe, self-reliant children without going nuts with worry.” I like a lot of what I see on the website and want to buy her book now! Have you ever heard of Free Range Kids?

    1. LOL, you are the second or third person to mention her blog. Yes, she actually commented on this post!! I did not know her blog before, but I am fast becoming a fan. 🙂

  26. Jo-Lynne — Best part of this entry: Your observation that the lifeguards’ field of vision was obscured by the many parents in the pool.

    When my youngest child was very young and learning to swim, I was in there with him in the pool while my elder two kids were in the “bigger kid” section of the pool. Now that they’re all older and have passed our pool’s swimming test (to allow them to go into the deep end), I don’t go into the water unless I feel like cooling off, or if the kids want to play a game. But a lot of the time, they don’t want me to embarrass them in front of their friends.

  27. I really like this post and all of the comments. I tend to be a hoverer (man, that is really a real word) and David is the exact opposite. When Baby Girl was little she would be doing something that I felt was incredibly dangerous (like climbing the steps of her toddler slide) and he would just stand back and let her go. My response was, “but what if she falls…” And he always said, “then she’ll learn not to.” He has really opened my eyes and helped me balance out my overprotective instincts. I think it is good to have that balance.

  28. I’m with you on this one! I’ve been reading the Free Range blog for a while now and am so glad that she (Lenore) commented on your post. I let my children buy a hotdog at Sam’s today all by themselves while I stood in a very long line to pay. I could see them the whole time and was so excited to see how pleased they were with themselves when they were given this new ‘responsibility.’ I have found that, when given the chance, children will rise to the occasion. But, if we never leave them alone, they’re never given the chance.

  29. I thought I was a smother mother before I read this… thanks for clearing it up that I am in fact a little bit more relaxed than your average parent!

  30. OH my — I don’t have time to read all these comments, although I did catch Vanessa’s above — man, what planet did she come from? Whateveh.

    I’ve used this same “helicopter” metaphor for parents (even of late-teens) who will come hover and swoop in to rescue their kids from all types of situations. It can never be their baby’s fault. No one can make their baby feel bad. Wah, wah, wah.

    We call this the “no-risk” culture that we’re living in. There was a time when everyone understood what an acceptable risk was, and there was must a tiny bit of trust of other adults, regarding one’s child. No more. No risk is an acceptable risk. This gives kids the feeling that the world is a very dangerous place, all the time. Later, when they realize it isn’t really so, they resent the parents that are still treating them like 4 year olds.

    I feel sorry for these parents. They’re not raising adults; they’re raising perpetual children. And as for Vanessa’s pushing and shoving, a little bit of that among 4th grade boys is perfectly normal. Bite my head off if you like, but in public places like pools, college scholarship competition, and the average workplace, if you haven’t learned how to handle a little shoving, you haven’t grown up.

  31. I must add that commenters who are insanely rude on someone’s blog like this, can hardly complain about children who are merely doing the same. Pot and kettle.

  32. And by the way? There are helicopter dog parents at the dog park. And they give “the eye” to those of use who do not monitor our dogs’ every move. It’s everywhere.

  33. I, so, am the parent that hovers. Sure, I could blame it on LL only being 2 1/2, well almost 3. But to be honest, I think I will be that way when he is 6. I just can not help it. I, even, hover over Claire (the dog). In the same respect, I understand the importance of independence and admire my husband who does not hover. But I think it will take much work to change my behavior.

    Jo-Lynne, this was a great post and thought provoking perspective!

  34. Great post! I am thinking about those little kids on the slide. I can picture all the hovering adults. When parents are micro-managing every step of their child’s day, and troubleshooting every interaction, the child isn’t getting a chance to practice his/her own problem-solving skills. I am doing my best to raise independent, confident and resourceful kids who can figure things out. Give ’em the tools – then let ’em go for it. If they make mistakes (and they will) they will learn and grow.

    Here’s to taking a few steps back!

    1. Geralyn, I think you sum it up PERFECTLY — taking a few steps back is EXACTLY what I’m talking about. And yes, troubleshooting their interactions and not allowing them to learn how to solve their own problems — that is a huge issue in our culture. That’s where I really loved Rosemond’s book (http://astore.amazon.com/musofahou-20/detail/B0022NH4P2) — he is a huge advocate of letting the kids learn from their own mistakes. NOT that you allow your kid to push other kids around or anything.

  35. Hmmm … I don’t know, I guess like anything else I think balance is key. I do get annoyed at the Chick-fil-a playground when 12 kids will be out there and I’m the only adult. I guess I let them play and do their thing but I’m going to be close – not to rub boo-boos if they fall or play w/them as much as take their hiney off the playground if they misbehave;)

    But my oldest is also only four, so while he’s a sweet boy he’s also still learning his manors:)

    1. Yeah, as Geralyn said above — it’s about taking a few steps back, not ignoring your parental duties entirely. 🙂 And the other thing is, every kid is different and needs different levels of involvement. So we as parents need to know our kids and parent accordingly, but also, give grace to others who may choose to parent differently. 🙂

  36. great post. great comments. if so many of you believe what you write, please put in action. i was so guilty of it in all facets of my kid’s lives, a “scary” pool was the least of my worries. telling them what to wear, how to do this, when to do that, and all of sudden they were 8 and 10 and i hadn’t changed…and they didn’t understand what 70 degrees meant and what to wear when it’s that temperature. and we are all guilty of it, trophies for last place, “snacks” after games where the kids care more about those than playing the sport. everyone driving their kids to school because of the fear of some person just waiting to snatch them up. i was so sad to read about the neighborhood above where the kids don’t come out and play. it is so common. let’s all help them become more aware and encourage them to be kids, and by middle school, high school and college they will have the skills to be free range kids/functioning adults.

  37. Interesting post –

    Something new I have noticed with kids’ parties (I don’t have children at home, but have a young niece and nephew).

    When I was young, when you went to a party, your parents dropped you off and then left. It was up to the parents of the kid who was having the party to supervise all the kids at the party.

    Now, parents bring their kids to the party – and the parents don’t leave.

    And if a kid at the party needs something – his shoe tied, a drink of water, etc. – he automatically goes to his own parent for it.

    I’m not talking about very small children, I’m talking about kids 4 and older. When I was that age I was in nursery school.

    I suppose it’s nice for the parent of the kid who has the party, having to only supervise their own kid instead of a bunch of kids, but kids need to be able to learn to respond to authority figures other than their own parents.

    1. Yeah, I’ve noticed that too! I dropped my daughter off at a party on Saturday. She’s 7. I noticed that the parents had their older daughters at the gate to the park, bringing the younger kids back, so that the parents kind of got the message that it was okay to leave. I loved that b/c sometimes I feel like I SHOULD stay and I’d rather not.

    2. When I was 3, my mom held a party for me. I wanted to invite my entire preschool class (18 kids). My mom said yes. She expected the parents to drop off and leave (and of course, they did), so she asked two friends to help her. It was a great party! So even very young children used to get dropped off at parties, at least, back in the 1970s, they did!

  38. JL — here’s a link to an article from World Magazine by Janie Cheaney, called “Over-privileged Kids.” http://www.worldmag.com/articles/12198

    It’s from 2006. She describes the kind of child being raised by over-protective parents: “the ‘overprivileged’ child: shielded and flattered, anxiety-ridden or passive-aggressive, walking into a future of inflated fears.”

    The entire article isn’t there unless you’re a subscriber. It is well worth reading. I cut it out of the original issue and had it taped on my classroom wall for 3 years.

    Parents do irreparable damage to their offspring when they don’t allow them to do what they’re designed to do: become adults, experience the world, adapt to difficulties, take responsibility & learn to love and live with strangers. We’re producing adults who cannot cope well in the world. From reading the comments now, it seems that some parents do this b/c they’re truly afraid for their kids’ safety, but some parents do this (perhaps unknowingly) for themselves.

  39. I am that parent who gets the looks from others because when my daughter falls I call out, “brush it off honey, you’re ok!” I mean, if she really got hurt of course I would take care of it but a skinned knee is not the end of the world- a quick kiss and she’s off and running 🙂

  40. Oh my parents didn’t sit around on the lounge chairs while I was at the pool. We had a pool at our house when I was in 1st grade, and they’d be inside cooking dinner or relaxing sometimes, while I swam outside. I would swim for hours, pretending to be a mermaid, so it was unusual for them to be with me the entire time.

    When we moved right before 3rd grade, we joined a swim club about a mile from our house. My older sister and I would ride our bikes to the club by ourselves and swim. So, yeah…my parents weren’t poolside, they weren’t even on the grounds. That would never happen today. It’s a little sad, actually.

    My neighbor has a pool, and I have to say that we tend to sit poolside and chat and enjoy a cold drink, only venturing in occasionally or if the littlest ones want to take a dip. It’s so much more relaxing than going to the community pool, where the expected behavior is to be a helicopter parent!

  41. See I am so going to be that parent the others are giving dirty looks because I am not ‘watching’ my kids. I can’t wait for the day that I can relax more by the pool than what I can now…maybe then I can get rid of these sickly white things I call legs.

    I firmly believe in letting children have their space to play, have conflict and learn from it. They need to push and be pushed, to take and have things taken, to fall and scrape their knees and elbows. It builds character.

    In fact as I type this both of my girls are out back playing in their sandbox and on the swing set, right next to *gasp* the woods where all sorts of ‘dangerous’ animals may be lurking….never mind the ‘woods’ are no more than an extremely thinned out lot.

    It is so nice to know that I am not alone in my loathing of the helicopter parenting style

  42. LOL at your post. My mom works at a private university in CT and she is constantly telling me stories about helicopter parents who call the university to get their kids’ roommates or professors changed. She is a huge Rosemond fan as well, and has been sending me his articles since my daughter was born in 1999.

    We went to the pool today for the first time this year. It wasn’t that crowded but I cracked up at the parents who were there. One women even took her six-year-old to the bathroom. Which is within sight of every single inch of the private pool in our development and has two stalls. Really…you can’t let your first grader pee on her own? With maybe 10 people at the entire pool, all of whom were moms with kids.

  43. I also agree on the parties…I always hated when I was expected to stay, especially if there weren’t any of my friends there as well.

    I recently did stay at a party with my second grader for the first time in years…but in my defense he had been in the ER with a concussion 2 days before and it was a party at the batting cages :o)

  44. We spend a LOT of time at the pool in the summer. We have the rule that as long as they can touch, they can basically do what they want. The 8 year old can go in the deeper water alone, because I trust his ability to swim. The 5 year old, much to her dismay, isn’t allowed in the deep water without an adult because she simply isn’t a strong enough swimmer, yet. The other rule that we have, because of the stupid layout of the pool area is that they have to stay in the same half of the pool that I’m in. So we either go to the activity pool, which takes up half the area or the slides/lazy river. They can pretty much go where they want then, but they can’t cross the bridge between.

    Generally, I’m a sitter. I grab a chair in each area and camp out with my book while the kids do what they do. However, when it is 90 degrees, it has nothing to do with hovering and everything to do with not dying of heat stroke while they swim. So while I and the other parents might be standing in the water but not really playing, it just might be that it is too hot to bake on the deck anymore.

    1. Yeah, and it was HOT. But it’s always like that there, in part b/c it’s actually a pool rule that you are in the water with your kids. As I said, I got reprimanded last year for sitting by the side and watching. @@

  45. LOVE this post! I’m pretty much a Free Range parent. I’ve worked in law enforcement for thirteen years and I know and see the reality of society today. Maybe that’s why I’m so “Angry”.

    Ironically, I’m witnessing this daily at my son’s swim lessons. YES, swim lessons. The moms stand at the edge of the pool, the 2.5 ft. deep pool where there are group swim lessons. They are there to fix goggles, and bark orders at the college aged instructors.

    Meanwhile I sit back, at the back of the bunch and catch up on my e-mails, read a magazine, or perhaps even Tweet a little on Twitter.

    I almost want to smack some of these people sometimes, because I watch the kids and the parents are making these kids whiney cry babies. There I said it.

  46. I totally agree with you about trying to avoid helicopter parenting, and when my two toddlers are at swimming lessons, like Julie, you will find me over to the side, reading a book or a magazine. However, when it is free play in the pool, I hover. The pools are usually packed, and for two large pools, there is one lifeguard. I agree, they are dedicated and very good at their jobs, but one guard cannot possibly watch all of those people. When I was younger, I remember a lot more lifeguards than I see now.

    In the last three years, 4 young children have died at public pools here in my home town, and since the last one, all the public pools require parents to be within arms reach of under 4’s.

    1. It really depends on the situation. We have SO MANY lifeguards. But yeah, the water is nothing to be careless about.

  47. Great post Jo Lynne!

    I am not as free-range as I’d like, but mainly that is because my oldest has Asperger’s, so he needs more supervision since he doesn’t understand social cues, and physical boundaries. It’s gotten better, but it’s still not always the best idea to let him play unsupervised.

    Now that we have 4 kids I’m more laid back, but as someone said above I know my kids, and their limits so depending on the situation I may be a helicopter parent, or I may be sitting poolside.

    I know in my own childhood I was riding my bike, crossing a busy road (cars would go 35-40 mph) and spending all day at the pool in our neighborhood with only minor supervision by age 8. I wish I could do the same for my kids, but there are some limits I have to have in place based on their ages, and personalities.

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