Last week, a comment on Lynn's guest post about Crisis Parenting echoed something I've been thinking about for a while. How do you find the balance between being a crisis parent and a helicopter parent? Between negligence and over-protection?
I've been thinking about this because I realized a few weeks ago that my wife and I were probably hovering way too much in some domains of our childrens' lives and it's made me reflective.
I wrote a few weeks back about a friend of my dad's. He had contracted a disease, polio, I think, and that had left his left arm weak and stunted. He could use it, but it was painful and difficult. At the same time, he liked to lift weights and so he worked his right arm until it was huge. His left arm remained essentially crippled and useless.
That became in image in our family to discuss the sort of default settings that we all have. Most of us are like my dad's friend. We tend to adhere pretty closely to certain extremes. In an emotional sense, most of us tend, to play to our strengths.
It occurs to me that this habit can be useful.
Knowing that I will never be a perfect parent and that I'm going to make mistakes, perhaps my choice is to consider which mistakes I want to make? Where do I want to err? And, what is my right arm? That is, what am I going to do naturally that needs some balance?
My tendency (and I think the tendency of most people who read this blog) is going to naturally be to over-protect and hover. Without any intervention, left to the natural course of things, this is probably what I will do.
And so, I need to compensate. Knowing that this is my natural tendency, I need to consciously work on beings less over-protective, less prone to hover, coddle, and cosset.
When a singer with pitch problems is trying to overcome them, that can sometimes be done by muscle memory. Your teacher tells you you're consistently a half-step flat. You consciously adjust, shooting a bit higher every time you sing. At some point you hit the note right on and you learn how much higher you need to aim to sing the note correctly. Once you have it, it's just a matter of practice and it becomes automatic eventually. The same idea with shooting an arrow into the wind--in order to hit the target, you can't aim at it--you have to factor in the natural drift caused by the wind.
Since my tendency is to hover, I will probably never be a crisis parent. That's something I most likely don't need to worry about. However, I do need to worry about hovering. So, I'm going to try to be conscious of this. Adjust the arrow, aim higher with the pitch, work that left arm.
Since the default is a strong tug one way, I can get to center best by facing the other way. In other words, if I'm going to err (and I will), I'm going to err in deference to raising independent, resilient kids. I'll start by being analytical and attentive, using self-discipline. Hopefully, it will eventually become a habit.
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