Friday, May 30, 2008

NOT a Helicopter Parent

You've heard of those "helicopter" parents, right? The ones that "hover" protectively around their kids? On the playground, at after-school playdates, in the college corridors?

That's not me. I'm not an Encourager, or an Enabler. I'm an Ignorer and a Mocker. Mother of the Year, here I come!

For instance. Ben likes to pull and whine at me incessantly. The other day he was in rare form. He was hungry, this I knew. He hadn't eaten his whole breakfast, so even after a snack, by 11am he was going nuts-o. He kept pulling at me and whining, but didn't want to go outside or sit on my lap. Aaron finally told me (exasperatingly) to deal with him, and I realized that I had been blocking him out for about 10 minutes! Without saying "no" or otherwise giving any directions. Oops.

There is a parenting book called The Happiest Toddler on the Block, and the author Dr. Karp says that toddlers are basically little cavemen. They don't have the language to communicate their emotions, so they do it through shrieks and temper tantrums. And one of the recommendations on how to deal with this is to imitate their language back to them so they know you understand them.

Later yesterday, Ben was saying something like, "Eaeah! Eaeah! Maaa! Ayyy!" ...It's hard to translate. I repeated it back to him, except in a much snottier tone.
Aaron: "Is that really helping?"
Me: "Yes, it makes me feel better."
I also like to mock Leah when she says things like, "I'm huungry!" "What can I do that's fuuun?" "I don't waaant to do that!" How can you not? Complaints like that just BEG to be mocked.
And, I was practicing the newest parenting strategies, right? Maybe I WILL get that Mom of the Year statue, after all!


Victor said...

Hi Liz,
I was also looking for some tips on nurturing children and clicked your blog. Your suggestions sound great.
To stretch this discussion a little further, I think a constant spying is definitely a no no. However keeping a distant watchful eye is going to do good. We parents have had a lot of experiences of the world and we need to make sure that the kids are cautioned or stopped if they are following a wrong path.
Me and my wife Nancy feel that keeping them busy every second till they sleep is a healthy way out. During the vacations we are going to send them to a summer camp organized by Mad Science. The theme is palaeontology. The kids would be "digging" out the T-Rex's bones and under the guidance of the Mad Science experts, would be putting together the skeleton.
My kids, two boys Calvin (yes, we are fans of Calvin and Hobbes) and Peter, who are crazy about animals and dinosaurs, whose kids aren't?
We have also ordered DIY model aeroplane kits.
I can't say we are the experts. We are just trying out different things...Hope all this will help them develop into successful human beings!!

Lyz said...

Thanks, Victor! Let me clarify - I'm not recommending to ignore them 24/7. Or even 1/7. Just when you can't take it anymore and can't fix it anyway.

I'm all for supervising from a distance. Like, from the park bench where I'm visiting with the moms.

I totally agree that we should step in if they are in danger. But if that danger is getting slugged by a sibling? Hey, it may teach them something!:)

Thanks for your comment!

Anonymous said...

You must have learned that parenting style from somebody. I don't know who could have taught that. What kind of style did your folks have?

Lyz said...

They had the "Oh, go run around the house 5 times!" kind of style. And the, "go to your room until the timer goes off!" style, which is basically a time out, you know. We didn't, though!

My folks weren't helicopters by a long shot - they were the original "Love & Logic" parents. If we screwed up, they let us deal with it, pretty much.

Mostly they let us work out our own issues amongst themselves.

Is it really so rare that parents occaisionally ignore/mock their children? Are other moms realy that much better than me? Or maybe we just don't talk about things like that?

Ruth said...

it may be that our parents treated us like adults with a little less common sense more than others because we were out in the middle of the country with not a ton of dangers, other than tractors and large animals.

my favorite parenting moment of dad:

dave told on me after i called him a "sh*thead." he was all "Dad! ruth called me a sh*thead!"

dad takes a breath, lets it out, and says "well, you probably deserved it."


Noel said...

The words "Ignore" and "Mock" are probably connotational charged even if the denotations are more benign.

"Ignore" might be better rendered "not responding in order to prevent an expectation on the part of the child that repeated whining, badgering, etc will result in undo attention to said child."

"Mock" might be better rendered "employ a form of active listening in which the tone of voice and word choice communicates that the child's words were heard, but the request or intent of those words is inappropriate or suboptimal for the current context."

...And my kids and wife have to deal with an uberGeek engineer in the house.

As for life on the farm, I think of cats. One thing they learn is to bite playfully without hurting. A cat removed from its family too soon doesn't learn this and will draw blood from its human owners. A well socialized cat will not draw blood from humans or cats (or even mice with ours..he plays with them to death). A well trained cat would not playfully bite my bare feet in the morning while both my hands are holding the Fargo Forum newspaper so I can't easily grab the spray bottle and provide negative feedback for the annoying behavior.

Dawn said...

My dad was a "mocker" as you call it. If I whined I was bored, he told me to go out and move the wood pile. He's also the biggest softie I know, so "mocker" does not equate "hard-hearted". It was always done in fun, not sarcasm. "Ignoring" happens when one's mind is simply elsewhere, or you're doing it for their own good.

Kids should have balance in their lives by knowing the value of hard work, idle play, dreaming, and exploring and solving things for themselves. All the while their parents provide a strong and safe home base for them, and watch, respond, and guide as appropriate. Teaching (and showing by example) them to get back up after falling is more important than the falling itself.

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