Sunday, September 7, 2014

Helicopter Parenting

I am not a parent.  I know it's a big surprise, but it's awfully hard to father children without even kissing a girl (actually reminds me of a "Boy Meets World" episode, but that's another story).  But, I have parents, and most of my peers have parents.  And our parents have parents.  So it's kind of easy to observe the phenomenon that is the practice of raising children.

There are a lot of different parenting styles, but probably the most common one today is known as "helicopter parenting".  Basically hovering over your child like a helicopter and watching our for their every move and every step.  You know, your parents will call up to complain about the grades your teacher gave you, or call the principal up to complain about something or other.  It's much maligned because it looks (and to the children feels) like parents are suffocating their children and stifling their growing up process.

There's an old Arab proverb that says: the first 7 years you play with your children, the second 7 years you let them get in trouble and the third 7 years you explain to them why they got in trouble.  It's a roundabout way of saying that you only learn by screwing up and sometimes learning why you screwed up.  Yes, you can learn by watching others screw up, but experience is almost always the best teacher.  If you always have someone there to watch you and make sure you don't make any mistakes, how are you ever going to learn for yourself?  Especially when there will come a time when your parents won't be there to watch out for you.  What will you do then?

Now, I know a lot of you will be asking yourselves where this is going and why I'm bringing this up.  I recently read a story in which a father (along with his wife) did a sweep of their daughter's room (I guess the equivalent of a cell check) and found a package of thongs under the mattress.  His daughter was 13 and he was wondering if this was just too early for a girl to be wearing that kind of undergarment.  And if so, should he put his foot down and forbid his daughter from wearing them.

I'm no expert on women's underwear.  But I guess the worry here is that his daughter might be trying to dress "sexy" at a young age, an age where really nobody should be sexually active.  I understand that, but I think at some point if you're worried that your daughters underwear choices might lead her to start having gratuitous sex at a young age it might already be too late.  If you've done a good job this isn't something you typically worry about.

Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, I don't think it's a good idea to want to control every aspect of your child's life.  You have to draw reasonable lines and pick your battles.  I understand protecting your kids from drugs and alcohol, or encouraging them to do well in school, and making sure they behave in your home.  But when you try to control everything, including what kind of underwear they wear the lesson children usually learn from that is not to stop doing the behavior, but rather to hide it better.  The mattress was used this time as a hiding place, so next time they'll find a better one.  Maybe a cutout in a book, or inside the box frame.

I'm sure some of you reading this had times when your parents tried to get you to stop doing a certain thing and you didn't want to.  So you just learned how to sneak around and do it without your parents knowing.

Again though, I'm not a parent.  So maybe some of you parents out there reading this think I'm full of shit.  I just hope that if you feel that way you're not one of those people complaining that today's young adults lack maturity and responsibility and independence, or mock us for being the "boomerang generation".  If we haven't grown into full adults yet, it's because we weren't allowed to.

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