The whole “helicopter parent” thing is lost on me. Maybe it’s because my parents weren’t helicopter parents. We weren’t neglected, but my sister and I were definitely left to own own devices when appropriate.
We played outside in our backyard without constant supervision. We played in the basement without having to be supervised. We knew the rules—and the consequences for breaking those rules—and we were encouraged to explore without being disobedient. We lived 7 miles from the “big” town where I grew up. So I guess you could say we lived in the country. But we still had rules. I could go across the street to play with my friend most anytime, as long as I told my parents where I was going (and, of course, if it was okay with her grandparents, too). We knew certain areas were off limits and we knew that if we were leaving the premises, we had to ask first.
We went camping last weekend, and my oldest daughter managed to find two separate bees’ nests. Of course, she got stung both times. The first time, she didn’t notice the nest, but once she found it, she avoided it going forward. Natural consequences, I guess. The second time she was playing in a foolish spot, but she chose that spot because it was far away from the first nest she found. She thought she was being careful. Had my husband or I been hovering over her, would she have avoided one or both nests? Possibly the first time, but not the second (it was underground).
But why should we hover?
How do kids develop self confidence and decision-making skills if they are never given the chance? Kids learn by doing and by experiences. Obviously, if my daughter had an anaphylactic reaction to bee stings, we would be more cautious. Without a doubt. But she doesn’t. They hurt, but she’ll live. And she’ll learn to be cautious when playing in areas where you might find bees.
Then there’s my youngest daughter (aka Thing 2) who managed to get her finger shut in the bathroom door at the campground by my oldest daughter. Thing 2 was standing in the doorway holding onto the door frame and had her finger in the hinge area. The older was in the bathroom shutting the door from the inside, so she couldn’t see Thing 2′s finger. Fortunately I was standing right there and was able to save the finger before it was totally smashed. Thing 2 cried, the older child felt badly, and went to get ice for Thing 2′s finger while we ran the finger under cold water.
Honestly, I used this incident as a teachable moment. We’ve talked to our children on more than one occasion about watching fingers and paying attention to where we are putting our hands. With six people living in a house, it’s a surprise we haven’t had more door-closing injuries. This was the prefect opportunity to reiterate exactly why we have to be careful with fingers and doors. I’m certain Thing 2 will pay more attention to where she is putting her hands in the future.
One the way home, Thing 1 got carsick. She threw up in the (new) car while we were about 5 minutes from our house. The older daughter grabbed the paper towels and started to help Thing 1 wipe herself off. I do wonder at times if these natural consequences/teachable moments approaches are the best, or if there are more effective methods. I always hope that we are raising our children to be considerate, thoughtful human beings and whether or not we are hands-on enough to raise our children well. And then my 7-year-old child voluntarily helps wipe puke off her sister in the car, I know we are on the right track.
*Originally posted on VT Mommies