As a person of the “millennial” generation, I have seen a marked change in parenting style throughout my lifetime. When I was a child (admittedly not that long ago), my friends were raised with a variety of parenting styles. Some parents were rather laid back and let their children decide what they wanted to do with their time, while other parents were of the now omnipresent “helicopter” type. These “helicopter” parents hovered over their child’s every move and worked hard to ensure that every spare minute of their child’s day was booked up with extracurricular activities.
The urge to “helicopter parent” normally does not come from a negative place, but from a desire to give their child as much of a head start to be successful in their future as possible. However, ever since the phrase was coined by Charles Fay and Foster Cline (authors of the Love and Logic parenting series) in 1991, there has been a rising tide of backlash against the ubiquitous “helicopter” style of parenting. With reports that nosy parents are now even getting involved with their children’s graduate school admission processes, people are recognizing that it may not be the healthiest way to raise a child.
Perhaps the most harmful aspect of the “helicopter” parent—or helopat for short—is the relentless over-scheduling of kids, starting from infancy. Do you find yourself rushing to fill your child’s afternoons and weekends with taekwondo competitions, piano lessons, and soccer practice? You are not alone. Here are some tips on how to make sure your child’s free time is valuable for them as an individual.
1. Schedule Free Time
If you are the type of person that tends to thrive with a schedule and finds it hard not to map out your and your child’s days in detail, try allocating an hour here or there to “free time.” During this time, let go. Allow your child do whatever they want do (as long as it’s safe) and leave them alone for a while.
2. Nurture Your Child’s Free Time Activities
What does your child do when they have free time to do whatever they wish? Are they building huge skylines with Legos? Maybe take that a step further and see what they can do with a model airplane. Are they running around the backyard until they can’t any longer? Maybe get them involved with a soccer team. Instead of scheduling them for a multitude of varying activities, see what they do when they have every option available to them, and nurture that.
3. Teach Your Child the Value of Boredom
Take advantage of your child’s boredom and teach them child the value of relaxation. Having nothing to do can be a great thing! Encourage them to curl up with a book, or draw a picture, or even just sit quietly with their thoughts. An over-scheduled, constantly busy child can make for an overly-stressed adult.
4. Learn How to Say “No”
As a parent, there are constant opportunities popping up to get your child involved in activities. “We’re starting a softball league– do you want me to sign you up?” “I’ve joined an after-school tutoring program that I think you’d love!” “Today’s the last day to sign up for chorus!” Just say no!
While there is no doubt that parental engagement is very important in guiding your child along a path of success and overall satisfaction, it is also beneficial to loosen the reigns a little bit. Follow these tips to let your child figure out what kind of happy, healthy person they want to be.