Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
What could possibly go wrong with ensuring our children’s lives are smooth and saving them from costly mistakes? Studies show that kids of helicopter parents often suffer at school and in the workplace. By hovering over our children and never letting them learn from their mistakes or face consequences, we can stunt our kids’ growth. Here are traits children of helicopter parents may share: acting out in the classroom, anxiety, difficulty making decisions, lack of “adulting” skills, and struggling in college and at work.
I’ve never heard of a parent who wants their kids to fail in life. That’s obviously not our objective when we help finish homework and drive forgotten lunches and papers to school. We’re just trying to help with the best intentions.
We should take advantage of the pool and swim team as a unique world within itself where our kids can practice skills for “adulting.” There are many life lessons inherent through years of swimming—we just need to let our kids experience them.
Here are four tips for parents to avoid helicoptering on the pool deck:
When our children forget their swim bags or neglect to tell us their goggles are leaking and they need new ones, let it go. They’ll learn from sitting out a practice or will borrow equipment from teammates. I was guilty of running home for towels or suits—for my own kids and their friends. My excuse was that we lived one mile from the pool. Looking back, I was taking away immediate consequences and learning moments. I wasn’t helping any of them.
Issues come up between friends—whether they’re in school or at the pool. We can be good listeners when our kids have problems with peers and we can make suggestions. But, we should step back from addressing the kids or their parents and getting into the middle of it. More often than not, issues resolve themselves and problems that seem big at the moment go away on their own. If we get involved, we could make things worse and rob our children of developing relationship skills.
Goal setting is one of the great lessons learned from swimming. We need to remember that our kids will set their own goals, not us. We may have an idea of what we’d like them to shoot for, but it’s not our goal. It’s theirs. For them to have ownership, they need to develop goals themselves and with the help of their coaches.
Let our kids talk with their coach. If they’re going to miss practice for a dental appointment or study session, allow them to initiate this conversation. It’s so easy to discuss schedules, group assignments, or events at meets with the coach on our children’s behalf. Some parents spend more time talking with coaches than their kids. Communication should be handled by our kids—certainly by high school if not younger. We need to let our kids be the primary communicators with their coach and learn to not speak for them.
What tips do you have for parents to stop helicoptering on the pool deck?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.