Raising Balanced Kids

Passing by the bulletin board at my four-year-old's preschool, I recently saw the cover page of Emily Bazelon's October 1 New York Times Magazine article about overparenting, which highlights Wendy Mogel's 2001 book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, a slim Jewish parenting guide that has mysteriously gained momentum in recent months. The director had circled the title and written in black Sharpie: "Please read this!" It seemed like a plea to all of us overindulgent parents, much like the Discipline Workshop the teachers beg us to take each year (with good reason).

Parenting has changed dramatically from our parents' generation to ours -- the "helicopter" parents now populating every school and soccer game were treated as a kooky rarity 30 years ago. Often moms who've pursued higher education and careers in the past 40 years bear the brunt of the blame. The arguments I've heard (note: I disagree with them) go like this: Working moms feel gulity about being away from their kids for eight-plus hours a day, so they overindulge them. And educated former career women turned stay-at-home moms take their work skills to the playground, turning motherhood into a competive sport.

These explanations, in addition to unfairly pointing the finger at moms, strike me as oversimplified. What seems more plausible is that, as the average family size in this country has declined to 2 kids, parents have more time, attention, and insecurities to power-blast on our kids, with unfortunate results. My hope is that we parents, as a group, will start to figure out that our overparenting damages the kids we love so dearly, and the pendulum will swing back to more normal parenting with a dash of benign neglect thrown in for the kids' sake.

Wendy Mogel, a child psychologist since 1985, is doing her bit to bring about that change through her book. Her chapters reflect refreshing common sense: Honoring Mother and Father; Why God Doesn't Want You to Overprotect Your Child: Finding the Holy Sparks in Ordinary Chores. Whether you are Jewish or religious is irrelevant to the advice in her book. Perhaps it's even irrelevant whether or not you are a parent.

So what do you think? Are we all "overparenting" these days? Why or why not? What's the best advice you've gotten on how to model respect, compassion, and self-reliance to the children in your life?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  October 16, 2006; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Raising Great Kids
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Comments

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My parents had 2 kids. My wife's parents had 2 kids. We have 2 kids. We are more involved in our children's lives at school / weekends then our parent's were.

Are we overparenting? I don't think so but food for thought.

Posted by: Father of 2 | October 16, 2006 7:23 AM

No more posting until I have my coffee.

"school / weekends than our parents were."

Posted by: Father of 2 | October 16, 2006 7:24 AM

For me, balance is about prioritization. My priorities go in this order:
-- God
-- Husband
-- Child(ren)
-- Everything else

So, while I love my daughter, she's not the center of my life. She gets more time than anything else, certainly, since she's got so many pressing needs at 18 months. But I'm more concerned about her learning faith and values and having parents in a loving and devoted marriage than I am about her constant happiness. I try to focus on short-term needs (food, sleep, etc.) and long-term priorities (manners, balance, learning that you don't always get your way). She's still young, but so far, so good.

Posted by: VAMom | October 16, 2006 7:54 AM

VAMom, are you saying your husband would "win" in a "contest" between him and your daughter - and you would take his side?

Let's say for sake of argument, he came home one day and said "I've come to a decision. We're putting her up for adoption." Would your priority to your husband overshadow your priority to your daughter?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 8:03 AM

I know people that do little parenting and over-parenting - so I can't make any generalization. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. There is a balance between parenting kids and trying to instill independence and there are a 100 degrees in between.

I've heard about the "Skinned Knee" book but have not read it. I never made a big deal about my kids skinning their knees, etc., but know parents that still use those irritating "boo-boo bunnies" on their 4 and 5 year olds. I tell my kids to "shake it off" when they fall and aren't hurt.

Posted by: cmac | October 16, 2006 8:09 AM

I doubt she would have married a man that would arbitrarily come home one day and "decide" to put their daughter up for adoption. The idea is that by honoring her husband first she is creating a stable family dynamic for her child. I imagine her husband has the same priorities. Whatever works for you.

Posted by: to 8:03 | October 16, 2006 8:09 AM

What's a boo boo bunny?

Posted by: huh? | October 16, 2006 8:21 AM

To 8:09am, it just really ticks me off when women say thinks like "My husband takes priority". It's like Michelle Singletary (at the Post) saying that in a difference of opinion, her husband always "wins" since that's what the Bible says should happen.

Why should a man take priority over a woman??

Posted by: 8:03am | October 16, 2006 8:22 AM

A boo boo bunny is a little cloth bunny made to hold a small re-freezable block - for use on bumps/bruises.

Google it and you'll see some.

Posted by: Father of 2 | October 16, 2006 8:24 AM

Are we all "overparenting" these days? Why or why not? What's the best advice you've gotten on how to model respect, compassion, and self-reliance to the children in your life? >>>

I think some parents are guilty of overparenting. Not sure that it correlates to working moms, though. When I was a child in the 70s-80s, I knew friends who had overprotective parents. So I would never say it is a new phenomenon. It is just discussed more by the media today. I think there are just some people who have a personality that feels more comfortable with overparenting.

The best advice I got from a group of child psychologists (I worked for them before going to graduate school) was:

1.) be a consistant parent (disciple/love etc)
2.) children love boundaries and routine
3.) if married, a happy, stable marriage makes for happy children (not a slam on single parents, rather a slam on unhappy marriages/selfish adults).

Posted by: alex. mom | October 16, 2006 8:29 AM

Let's say for sake of argument, he came home one day and said "I've come to a decision. We're putting her up for adoption." Would your priority to your husband overshadow your priority to your daughter?

This is absurd!

Posted by: to 8:03 | October 16, 2006 8:31 AM

I don't think she's saying that husbands take priority over women. She's saying that her alliance with her husband is the family's foundation. Taking care of her children and protecting them is her obligation with God. And I'm sure her husband has a similar perspective with regards to her importance to him.

Her statement made perfect sence to me.

Posted by: Tracy | October 16, 2006 8:34 AM

I am currently an at-home mom (formerly worked full-time). I have seen a few women--friends of mine--who have left work to stay home with kids, and then have "professionalized" many aspects of their kids lives. I'm not generalizing, I'm talking specifically about my experience. For one example, a nice, easy-going playgroup for 2-3 year olds suddenly becomes run like a little business, where the focus is more on signing up for events, committees, and fund-raising than it is about the kids getting together to play.

I think we need to be aware when or if we do this, and see if it is really serving a good purpose.

Posted by: Mom of two | October 16, 2006 8:34 AM

Thank you Leslie! I followed the links and read the article and it was like a little gift! What a great way to start off a Monday morning. I agree with so much of what the author says, and feel like she put into words so much of the discomfort I have felt sometimes in observing other parents and even being a parent myself.

I really liked her point that parents need to work out what role parenting is serving for THEM -- and what role parenting is serving for THEIR CHILDREN. I actually found myself taking notes on her article and two things which I wrote down were: "Your child is not your masterpiece" and "connection between children and idolatry." I also loved her twenty-minute rule, in which she says you can only spend twenty minutes a day obsessing/worrying about your child, your child's education, your child's friends, etc.

When I try to describe my own childhood, I frequently find myself talking about race horses, about how we were groomed for success, and treated as 'investments', and how we were never really sure where we ended and our parents began. I've tried to avoid that pitfall with my own kids.

For myself, I've always loved that poem by Omar Khayyam about how our kids are on loan to us by a higher power, and we are not the ultimate arbiters of what they will become. It just seems that that philosophy is so at odds with Brainy Baby, and Baby einstein, and the Kumon Learning Center, and Gymboree and the rest of the consumer-parenting complex today. It takes a lot of guts to refuse to buy into it.

Posted by: Armchair Mom | October 16, 2006 8:36 AM

Thank you Leslie! I followed the links and read the article and it was like a little gift! What a great way to start off a Monday morning. I agree with so much of what the author says, and feel like she put into words so much of the discomfort I have felt sometimes in observing other parents and even being a parent myself.

I really liked her point that parents need to work out what role parenting is serving for THEM -- and what role parenting is serving for THEIR CHILDREN. I actually found myself taking notes on her article and two things which I wrote down were: "Your child is not your masterpiece" and "connection between children and idolatry." I also loved her twenty-minute rule, in which she says you can only spend twenty minutes a day obsessing/worrying about your child, your child's education, your child's friends, etc.

When I try to describe my own childhood, I frequently find myself talking about race horses, about how we were groomed for success, and treated as 'investments', and how we were never really sure where we ended and our parents began. I've tried to avoid that pitfall with my own kids.

For myself, I've always loved that poem by Omar Khayyam about how our kids are on loan to us by a higher power, and we are not the ultimate arbiters of what they will become. It just seems that that philosophy is so at odds with Brainy Baby, and Baby einstein, and the Kumon Learning Center, and Gymboree and the rest of the consumer-parenting complex today. It takes a lot of guts to refuse to buy into it.

Posted by: Armchair Mom | October 16, 2006 8:36 AM

around here, overparenting seems to be the province of a subset of SAHMs who weren't in careers before marriage. There are ladies around here whose sole career is parenting and they go after it with a vengence. Their kids are the only ones in the neighborhood who are driven to school. 'They' accuse 'us' of neglect or possible child endangerment for allowing our kids to walk (we live in a designed for walkability neighborhood...). This parent subgroup never has a babysitter because it wouldn't be safe. I see those parents in the middle becoming scared simply by the strength of these nut's beliefs. Luckily, I'm one of the oldest parents in the neighborhood so I can easily withstand their 'pressure.'

Posted by: dotted | October 16, 2006 8:40 AM

I think there is a lot of "overparenting" going on (for what it's worth, though, my mother-in-law was, and is, a "helicopter" parent :0)

I don't know how else to explain what feels like the parenting "rat race", where everyone is trying to do the "right" things and read the "right" books so that they can discipline their children the "right" way and give them exposure to the "right" things. I know 2 year olds who have a busier social life than I do, between music class, gymnastics, playgroups, and so on. These are the same parents who are trying to teach their toddlers second languages, and want to make sure they get into the "right" preschool......

I was a working mom for the first year of my daughter's life, now I'm a SAHM. I still don't feel like I'm "on par" with a lot of the other SAHMs that I know because they all seem to thrive and it's as if their life's work is to develop their children into perfect little people. That's great for them, I guess I'm just more low-key. I love spending time with my daughter and like to think that she's learning a lot from being with me, and we go to playgroups and have playdates and so on, but I also sort of like the days when we don't have anything "scheduled" and our day is just hanging out at home playing and reading books, and then going to the grocery store, and then maybe in the afternoon playing at the neighborhood playground with whatever kids show up. I think it's important to show my daughter that you make your own happiness - you do what's important to you. When I was working, it was because I loved my job. We moved overseas and now I stay home because it's more important to me to spend time with her than have some no-brain job since my choices are limited. Now we do just as much as I feel we have stamina for, and I take her cues as to which friends to play with, which groups are the most fun, etc.

As for how to "model respect, compassion, and self-reliance to the children in your life?" I like to think that my husband, myself, and our babysitter are the role models in my daughter's life and she will learn these things from us. Sort of a golden rule situation where you "do unto others...." you know?

Posted by: Vienna mom | October 16, 2006 8:43 AM

Ah, if only "over-parenting" were a real problem in America...truth is it's a "problem" of the privileged (which granted most of us with internet access and time to kill on this board are). Just a little perspective...

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 8:53 AM

'Let's say for sake of argument, he came home one day and said "I've come to a decision. We're putting her up for adoption." Would your priority to your husband overshadow your priority to your daughter?'

Don't be so stupid. VAMom's priorities are correct, and recommended by many authors.

Posted by: experienced mom | October 16, 2006 8:55 AM

I see nothing wrong with the husband comment either. You can't raise strong children in a bad marriage. That's not to say that if the ship was sinking and you only had one life vest left you wouldn't put it on your kid, I know I would! It's just saying that if they don't work together for the betterment of the family, there is really no sense in having a family and that goes for any committed relationship not just man/women.

On the helicopter issue, I see the opposite where I am living now. The neighbor's two houses down have two kids. They run the neighborhood, I've almost backed over them before in my own drive way because they were sitting on the pavement behind my garage door. They also bother other people's animals and annoy the pregnant lady on bed rest. They are brats without supervision. I only wished their parents would hover just a little.
I suppose the hover parents would be just as annoying, I hope for myself that I can find some balance somewhere in between. Also what's wrong with driving your kids to school?

Posted by: scarry | October 16, 2006 9:05 AM

Also what's wrong with driving your kids to school?

Probably nothing, so long as you don't proceed to then tell everyone who doesn't that they're terrible parents because they don't.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 9:12 AM

Nope, I wouldn't do that! I don't really care what other people do as long as they aren't hurting someone.

Posted by: scarry | October 16, 2006 9:15 AM

I think it has a lot to do with the punitive, invasive attitude of the government. Everything is regulated and legislated, with or without backup data, to the point that the government recently put out an ad likening "not breastfeeding" to riding in the rodeo while pregnant. Government is micromanipulating parents, and I think overparenting is a predictable result. All of us parents live in an atmosphere where we have to practically follow our kids around within arm's length until they are school age and you can have a blessed few hours where you can't be blamed for the outcome of their every footstep. All this leads to an atmosphere where some parents feel that in order to be above reproach they must micromanage every millisecond of their kids' lives.

Posted by: m | October 16, 2006 9:16 AM

I thnik we can be a little over protective of our kids. I have a 4 year old with mild Cerebral Palsy. Last week on the church playground another parent was telling all the big kids to watch out for my daughter. I asked her to stop. I said if a kid runs into Lesley and she falls she is going to be fine. Then next time she will pay more attention to her surroundings and protect herself.
I think that this attitude has helped my child a lot. When she is running and falls down she gets up, kisses her palms and starts running again like nothing happened. Sometimes she looks to me and I tell her it's okay but in most cases she doesn't need me to help her.
There is another special needs child in our family who's mother overparents him and at the age of 13 he doesn't know how to ask for help when he needs it. Every time he says "I'm thirsty" a drink magically appears in his hand. Every time he said "I can't do this" someone helps him. It drives me nuts. In our household you don't get something unless you ask for it ... in a full sentence. And in most cases it isn't actually handed to you until you say "thank you". Last night we were out at dinner and Lesley said thank you for the menu. The hostess said "Wow a kid who says thank you..." I was so proud.

Posted by: Momma Daria | October 16, 2006 9:19 AM

I think parents are putting their kids in more activities after school and on weekends to help raise their activity level. The obesity epidemic has scared alot of us. Kids are forced to sit still most of the day with shorter PE times and study for all the testing that goes on.

Posted by: Kristen | October 16, 2006 9:20 AM

I read something last week that I think plays into this issue. A medical report recently came out urging parents to give their kids more free play time instead of organized activities. Seems it is better when parents don't overschedule their kids and just let them be themselves...

http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/10/09/more.playtime.ap/index.html

Posted by: gradstudent | October 16, 2006 9:22 AM

From Leslie's Post:

>>>>What seems more plausible is that, as the average family size in this country has declined to 2 kids, parents have more time, attention, and insecurities to power-blast on our kids, with unfortunate results.<<<<

Um - I'm 36 and the last of 3 siblings (not a huge stretch over 2), and I had a SAHM. My parents (who are not Baby Boomers - they're older by a few years) were hardly neglectful, but they weren't overprotective either. They are definitively not helicopter - my sibs and I all made our own mistakes - some huge, some miniscule.

As I sit back and watch many of my friends pull out of the workplace to have their children (for whatever reason - personal, financial, logistical, etc.), only two have not turned into helicoptering "sanctimommies".

The only commonality I've seen between my two friends is in how they (and myself) were parented. The two who have balance in their lives come from parents who are slightly older than the Boomer generation, like mine. We didn't get allowances - once we were old enough, we did odd jobs to make money. We were allowed to be kids at home, but had to behave when the situation demanded it. We all laughed when we first heard the now popular term "time-out", because we knew it as "go sit on your bed."

So maybe the whole thing is generational, or at least culturally generational. By that I mean the kids of the Boomers are reacting against the way they were raised (cultural generalization here, please bear with me - not all Boomers were hippies-turned-yuppies and I know it).

I'm not saying "Boomers Bad" here. I just remember being 10 years old and my parents taking my siblings and myself to a nice restaurant - something we'd been doing as a treat for years. My parents had us dressed nicely and we weren't allowed to leave our chairs, because we knew that in a restaurant - especially a "dress-up" restaurant - we had to behave.

At the next table, there were some parents, that even to my young eyes, were significantly younger than my own. Their child - about 5 or so - was dressed in messy play clothes, running around yelling, kicking chairs, throwing toys, and generally being a nuisance. When the maitre d' came over and asked them nicely - and quietly - if they could make their child sit down as he was disturbing the other patrons, the mother indignantly - and loudly - said she wasn't going to stifle her child's creative growth - he was merely expressing himself.

And I know I saw situations like that over and over again the older I got. I know I wouldn't baby sit any of the kids on my block - they were all too wild (but the parents - all younger than mine - glowed about how the children "expressed" themselves whenever screaming fits occurred).

So maybe those kids grew up into parents that are rebelling against their "expressively creative" childhood by putting more structure into their kids lives. Perhaps they're going overboard about it, though....

That's my 2 cents...

Posted by: Chasmosaur | October 16, 2006 9:30 AM

I think there is likely an element of competition, etc. here. But for me, the pull is the desire to give my kids opportunities that I didn't have. I want my daughter to find her passion, that thing she was meant to do in her life, who she was meant to be. So I want to expose her to the broadest universe of things possible, so she has the best chance of finding that.

I don't want her grow up thinking her universe is limited like I did. My mom had no money, so a lot of things were just completely beyond my comprehension (golf, horseback riding, etc. -- those were for rich people). Imagine my surprise when I discovered 20+ years later that I've got a really nice golf swing. Not that my life sucks because I'm not a professional golfer, but it made me wonder what opportunities I might have missed because it just never occurred to me (or my mother) that someone like me could do something like that. Now I am in a different place financially than my mother. And it seems to be that the best use of the money that we have worked for and saved is to open the universe to my daughter, so she never feels like some area is beyond her grasp. And there are a TON of businesses in our area that are more than happy to cater to that desire!

But I also realize that I cannot give her everything, because she will either become irredeemably spoiled, or our life will become carpool hell (or both). So our rule is that she can try anything she wants (within reason -- no skydiving!), but only one thing at a time (except for swimming lessons in summer). We broke that rule this summer, when her preschool offered dance and soccer, and she wanted to do both, plus swimming -- learned a big lesson, as she was just exhausted every night, which of course made us ALL miserable. Never again.

So now when she asks to try karate, or soccer, or whatever, I ask her if she wants to do that instead of gymnastics, and she can think about it and choose (ok, not quite that strict, as her kindergarten does do some dance and Spanish during the day). And when she gets older, I might let her add one more class or lesson, if she really wants it. But as much as I think it's important that she be exposed to exciting possibilities, I think it's more important that our family spend time together, having dinner every night, relaxing and playing together.

Posted by: Laura | October 16, 2006 9:35 AM

Well, for starters, my husband would never say that. And he also puts me first before our lovely daughter (but after God), because we have the same priorities.

Sometimes people have children and pour all their energy into the children, and the marriage suffers. And sometimes, people put their kids at the center of their lives and that's part of what leads to over-parenting.

We've agreed we can't do either of those things. I know the mere mention of God bothers some people, but that is my value system. God is the center of my life. Not me, not my husband, not our daughter. And, that has implications on how I parent.

That doesn't mean our daughter is in any way neglected. Far from it. But, I do think it helps me to set limits. Sometimes she wants to spend time with me, and I need to talk to her dad, so she has to wait her turn. Sometimes she wants something and I tell her no and that's too bad. I know all parents do these things, but some agonize over them, and I don't.

And, getting all the way back to the original topic, I think because of this, I am also teaching her balance. I love her and she's important to me. I do everything I can to help her, but she has to know there are limits. I can't and won't solve all her problems. I can't and won't give her everything she wants. I can take care of myself and my marriage, to give her the gift of a healthy mom who works and plays, and of a family with parents who are devoted to one another (and to her), and teach her a value system to guide her when I'm not around.

I'm sure there will still be lots of people out there who don't like that answer, but all I can be is honest, and this is what works for me and our family. If it doesn't work for you, that's fine with me, I'm not trying to change your mind, I'm just sharing our approach.

No more time to post today, so take care everyone!

Posted by: VAMom | October 16, 2006 9:39 AM

gradstudent - I read and shared that article here as well. I couldn't agree with it more.

However - for the working parent, there's just no time for free play time. Extra-curricular activites *are* good for children. But when you have school until 3:00 p.m. and aftercare (with crafts or music or whatever the enrichment-activity-of-the-day is) until 6:00 p.m. and soccer practice until 7:00 p.m. and dinner until 7:30 p.m. and homework until 8:00 p.m. and a bath until 8:15 p.m. and go to bed at 8:30.......what happened to the playtime?

I might be considered a helicopter parent by some people. My school aged kids (6-12-14) have a practice or lesson 4-5 days a week after school or in the evening, and the girls play soccer or have swim meets on the weekends. My 4 year old has an activity 3-4 mornings a week for an hour a two. But they have lots of downtime as well. Because I walk or drive them to and from school ::gasp::, they have probably 3 hours a day more time to play, hang out, or relax than a child who had a working parent who needed them to be in aftercare (or in the case of my older kids, an alternative.)

This is not a criticsm of working parents - I have btdt. My older kids were in aftercare when they were first in elementary school, and I know what it's like to try to cram everything in. It's difficult.

My kids don't participate in activities because I think it will get them into Harvard. They do it because they *enjoy* it. That's what you have to consider first and foremost - does your daughter want to play soccer? Does she love soccer? Can you afford it and can you get her to practices and support her by going to her games? Then do it by all means.

Posted by: momof4 | October 16, 2006 9:41 AM

I think a lot of parents put their kids in activities because:
1. They are great opportunities the child is exposed to that are affordable
2. Keeps the child engaged in a meaningful and interesting way
3. Child learns something new, new skill eg. ice skating, or piano etc
4. Keeps the kid off of TV and internet.
There is a fine line that makes an enthusiastic parent go totally overboard. We know friends that have signed up their 7 year old for kumon, tennis, music, piano, dance, saturday science... Some children can do it, but we need to know if our children are as driven. I have seen more driven parents than kids, though.
These same friends who when invited for small get togethers routinely ask their child to "perform". A simple question of what is new in music or piano will get a full blown recital. It becomes embarrassing for the host and other guests who don't want to spend the evening in this fashion, this brings additional stress on other attending kids who are all asked to do their thing so that they don't feel left out. SO instead of hanging out and relaxing it becomes really annoying way of spending the evening.

Agree fully with the comment that we have lost spontaneity in our lives. Too much regulation in the way we spend time, and at the end of the day still feel discontented.

Posted by: mom of 2 | October 16, 2006 9:50 AM

to huh? : the "boo-boo bunny" is a little stuffed bunny that may or may not have a centerpeice (like the belly of the bear) that can be frozen - and you put it on your kid's knee or elbow or whatever if they fall down. I know parents that whip out the boo-boo bunny for every scratch, bump and bruise and proceed to make a big deal out of the "boo-boo" - it is truly nauseating.

Posted by: cmac | October 16, 2006 9:58 AM

the comment about the idea that putting the husband above the child....

the single biggest gift parents can give a child is a strong marriage. the only way they can have a strong marriage is if the parents put the needs of the marriage above the needs of the child.

Posted by: quark | October 16, 2006 9:59 AM

"the single biggest gift parents can give a child is a strong marriage. the only way they can have a strong marriage is if the parents put the needs of the marriage above the needs of the child."

I don't think anybody should put the needs of the marriage above the needs of a child - or the needs of a child above the needs of the marriage. Doing either reeks of non-balance.

When the spouse and I need time away from the kids, we "normally" take it. I say normally because there are times when we NEED to be with the kids - and they take priority. Other times, sure, the kids whine about us leaving for the evening but we do it as we NEED it.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 10:06 AM

As the third child of two working parents, I was defintely "benignly neglected." I went to and from school by myself in NYC beginning at age 7 and from about 10 on, was a latchkey kid. I loved this and believe it made me into the independent and responsible person I am today. Now that I am a mom, I look back at some of the sacrifices, in terms of time and involvement that my parents did NOT make and am resentful. Go figure. It has made me want to be a little more involved in my child's life than my parents were.

I think the thing that will prevent me from helicoptoring is my coworker - I think she is the ultimate helicopter mom. Her two kids are in now in college and she still controls every aspect of their lives and does everything for them. They seem like nice kids but I cannot imagine they have the coping skills to do anything on their own! It drives me crazy to hear her spend all day making appointments for them, buying their clothes and generally running their lives, and they are in their 20s! It's been a real eye opener.

Posted by: DC | October 16, 2006 10:16 AM

I agree with 10:06. If balance exists, the needs of the family will be the needs of the individuals.

That being said, VAMom's views are simply those of a Christian who interprets the Bible literally. It's hard for those of us who don't to understand - I gave up trying a long time ago! I don't criticize a view just because I cannot relate to it.

Posted by: momof4 | October 16, 2006 10:19 AM

Overparenting is not strictly a SAHP or a working parent problem. It is a problem of the individual neurotic parent.

I also agree with the commentors that a happy marriage makes for happy child(ren). There really isn't any situation in which my husband (baby daddy) would want something that isn't good for our son. Saying that you put your spouse before your child simply means that you value your spouse and work together on raising your child, like once baby came you made a huge effort to try to remain the couple you were before (having dates, sex, trips etc). It means not taking your spouse for granted.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 16, 2006 10:20 AM

"Every time he says "I'm thirsty" a drink magically appears in his hand. Every time he said "I can't do this" someone helps him. It drives me nuts. In our household you don't get something unless you ask for it ... in a full sentence."

I understand your point, and it's a good one. But "I'm thirsty" and "I can't do this" ARE full sentences.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 10:36 AM

Thanks for the boo-boo bunny clarification. We have a "blue bear" that I saw in the freezer the other day, and I can't recall when it was last used. (My kids are 4 and 6.) And they fall down plenty, trust me. The rule in our house is, "No blood, no bandaid."

Posted by: huh says thanks | October 16, 2006 10:37 AM

"VAMom's views are simply those of a Christian who interprets the Bible literally"

Is that true? Did you get that from some past post of hers? Because as far as I'm concerned you don't have to interpret the Bible literally to put God first.

Seems like talking about God sends people screaming and branding you a fundamentalist.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 10:39 AM

"I think parents are putting their kids in more activities after school and on weekends to help raise their activity level. The obesity epidemic has scared alot of us. Kids are forced to sit still most of the day with shorter PE times and study for all the testing that goes on."

Yeah, the childhood obesity epidemic is pretty scary. But putting kids in scheduled activities doesn't have to be the answer. Try unplugging the computer and TV, and then shoo them outside after school to PLAY.

Believe me, they'll figure out how to do it.

Posted by: pittypat | October 16, 2006 10:39 AM

I saw a lot more overprotectiveness and helicopter parenting when I lived in Northern Virginia than I do now, in a small rural town. Has anyone else noticed this? Does it have to do with affluence? Or being older parents, who some say are generally more overprotective?

One of my daughter's friends was fully 2 before her mother even let her touch a stair. No climbing, not even with spotting. She was a natural "climber" and not being given a relatively safe outlet for this urge drove both of them crazy (my stairs were thickly carpeted, with only 5 steps total-- my daughter was climbing them before she could walk).

Posted by: Ms L | October 16, 2006 10:39 AM

I have read The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and would definitely recommend it. As a Christian, I could very much relate to the spiritual values that were discussed in thebook, including not idolizing your kids because only God should be adored.
Re: the first post. A young father once called a program called tbe Bible Answer Man and asked the host for advice on being a good father. The answer was: be a good husband to your wife. The answer should be the same for the opposite gender. The best thing we can do for our kids is to model a loving, giving and stable relationship because that is what they will look for in their own lives. My daughter has seen her dad bring me flowers, change diapers, do the dishes, run the laundry, bring me gifts when he travels, treat me with love and respect and I would certainly hope that she will expect and accept no less from any future partner.
Our children have two activities a week by design so that they have plenty of unscripted play time on the week ends. They have the most fun with playdates but we find few kids around here that are available for playdates because of all the activities.
We should all remember that if we do our parenting right, our kids will leave our house one day and make their own way in the world. If we have not maintained the flame in our marriages, what will we do then? Have nothing to say to each other?

Posted by: FC mom | October 16, 2006 10:40 AM

"Does it have to do with affluence?"

Yes.

No kid in the projects is complaining about their mom and dad "over-parenting".

Posted by: to Ms. L | October 16, 2006 10:43 AM

Oh, and I know sweet little Lesley personally... she has an incredible can-do spirit, which I think has a lot to do with her Momma Daria's supportive parenting. She really encourages her daughter's independence.

Posted by: Ms L | October 16, 2006 10:47 AM

**"VAMom's views are simply those of a Christian who interprets the Bible literally"

Is that true? Did you get that from some past post of hers? Because as far as I'm concerned you don't have to interpret the Bible literally to put God first.**

Nor do you even need to be a Christian to believe that putting your marriage first makes you a better parent and helps you build a stronger family.

But the Christians might be on to something...

Posted by: Arlinigton Dad | October 16, 2006 10:49 AM

""VAMom's views are simply those of a Christian who interprets the Bible literally"

Is that true? Did you get that from some past post of hers? Because as far as I'm concerned you don't have to interpret the Bible literally to put God first.

Seems like talking about God sends people screaming and branding you a fundamentalist."

I'm not sure I understand your post - I didn't call anyone a fundamentalist (not that I think there's anything wrong with being a fundamentalist in the first place.)

If I had just said "she's a Christian", there would have been a bunch of people who said "I'm a Christian too, and I would NEVER put my husband above my children." It's been my experience that people who say "God, spouse, children" in that order
believe so because they don't pick and choose what the Bible says to suit themselves. That's all. It wasn't a criticism of *anyone*.

Posted by: momof4 | October 16, 2006 10:50 AM

My son is 3 and he's a pretty independent kid who knows how to get certain things for himself. As he learns how to do more things for himself, he becomes more resistant to us helping him do these tasks. Knowing what I was like as a child, and seeing him at 3 I guess that he wouldn't respond well to "helicopter" parenting as he got older.
For now, we've let him slam a finger in a drawer, leap off the sofa until he fell and hurt himself, and wipe out running down a wet sidewalk when he told him to walk. Are we bad parents? So far, we haven't had repeat instances of injury causing activities and I think he's beginning to learn the downside of cause and effect.
In the future, when he is schoolaged I will try to encourage and develop outside interests -- music, sports, other social/group/extra-curricular academic activities. Things I won't do: clean his room, DO his homework, assume disciplinary issues at school are SOMEONE else's fault by default, berate teachers for low grades or for "hard courses". Call him when he's in college to remind him to go to class, expect him home every night/weekend for dinner and do his laundry.
I do expect, however, to quiz him on who he's with and where he's going. I expect his friends to come over and hang out so I know who they are and what kinds of kids he chooses to keep company with.
I want to keep him safe from harm, drugs, gangs, violence, and teenage pregnancy. My personal experience growing up seemed to be most kids who engaged in what he call "risky behavior" seemed to either have horrible home lives with bad parents, or overindulgent, over-protective parents who assumed their little angel could do no wrong. I think striking a happy medium between too much parenting and too little proves to be the best way to raise happy, healthy, balanced children.

Posted by: MadisonWIMom | October 16, 2006 10:51 AM

I tend to agree with Leslie - that there are more people over-parenting because they can. I think everyone has always felt pressure to be a better parent, to sacrifice for their kids, and now that families are smaller it is more possible for more people to overdo it... kind of like how more people are overweight because it is more possible now, with cheap food and not so much physical labor. But I also think there is a peer effect - the more over-parents there are, the more people look around and think it is normal to go overboard. Like now it seems to me that people spend a lot more money on kid parties and various celebrations (like for baptisms etc) than I ever used to see. And I think people get their kids more gifts and more expensive ones than ever, which is partly a peer-pressure effect, partly a natural urge to do as much as possible for your kids. But it is good to step back and realize that it is not in a child's best interest to be made over-dependent on his or her parents, the overall goal is to foster their independence. If you keep that firmly in mind I think it helps cut back on the overinvolvement.

Posted by: Catherine | October 16, 2006 10:52 AM

Can we ban the word "playdate?" That in itself sounds like a hover parent word. Whatever happened to "going over to so and so's to play?"

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 10:55 AM

A great book about overscheduled kids and affluence is "Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life," by Annette Lareau. It starts out ostensibly about African-American vs. white parenting styles, but the authors shows very quickly that this is all about money.

People in good school districts can "let go" because they can trust the schools to do a good job. People with money live in nice, crime-free neighborhoods where kids can play outside relatively unsupervised. People with money live where kids can walk or bike to school, usually in older neighborhoods with sidewalks and narrower streets -- like an inner suburb where houses cost a lot more.

People with money can also choose a soccer league, gymnastics, afterschool tutoring, or other scheduled activities. They can overdo it or underdo it. But they have the choice to make.

People without money are working two jobs to pay the rent, wondering which bill to pay first, and whether they'll need the food bank again this month.

"Perfect Madness," by Judith Warner is also another good look at upper middle class to upper class parenting.

Personally, I believe upper class parents do this overscheduling because everything seems a little more competitive, and you can't pass on your status like some nobility. You can only try to make your kid stand out so they'll get into Harvard, and these competitive colleges reward this behavior by accepting kids who've done it all (school, community service, sports, clubs, etc.). It's a very bad equilibrium between college expectations and desparate parents who don't want their kids to become plumbers and gas station attendants.

Posted by: More book recs | October 16, 2006 10:55 AM

Great comments, Armchair Mom!

"When I try to describe my own childhood, I frequently find myself talking about race horses, about how we were groomed for success, and treated as 'investments', and how we were never really sure where we ended and our parents began."

This is exactly why it makes me angry when people post things like, "If women don't use their college degree, then their parents have wasted their investment." A college degree is not an "investment" in your child. It is simply a college education that should allow them a better life than only a high school education.

I've seen a few moms who put all their energy into being the perfect parent and raising the perfect children. It's nauseating. My best friend is the mother of a special needs child, and she MUST put most of her energy into that child, so you can imagine how irritating it was when one of the "supermoms" we know suddenly began to say HER child had "special needs", because the child simply needed extra tutoring for reading skills. She made it into a competition because the friend with the true special needs child is getting a lot of attention!

Posted by: Mel | October 16, 2006 10:58 AM

Balanced children are the result of the collaboration between a mother and father i.e. an intact family. Unfortunately, the Nazis that run the Nat. Org. of Women and The League of Jewish Women voters have destroyed the the family structure in this country, a 3% rate in 1910 and 67% today for divorcing couples and for the first time in our history married couples are a minority. What chance do children have anymore?

Posted by: mcewen | October 16, 2006 11:09 AM

I think VAmom is exactly right in her priorities, a strong marriage will help build strong children, and when the kids are gone from home, you'll still have your strong marriage instead of a shell of a relationship that has been neglected for 18+ years. It makes me happy to hear there are rational parents out there. I have been quite scared of having kids and raising them in a similar priority structure but being berated by the wacko helicopter parents. Glad to know reasonable people still exist.

Posted by: just married | October 16, 2006 11:10 AM

"Balanced children are the result of the collaboration between a mother and father i.e. an intact family. Unfortunately, the Nazis that run the Nat. Org. of Women and The League of Jewish Women voters have destroyed the the family structure..."

Welcome to the chat Rush!

Can we please agree to ignore mcewen?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 11:14 AM

Mcewen --

How true, many a solid marriage has been destroyed when Nat. Org. of Women and The League of Jewish Women come a knockin'. My wife and I NEVER go their meetings.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | October 16, 2006 11:15 AM

The childhood obesity epidemic is not only the result of kids not being active enough. It's also due to what they are eating. I can't believe what I see in parents shopping carts sometimes -- loads of sugary foods and sweetened, carbonated drinks, and also lots and lots of frozen foods/meals.

I think when I was growing up, we ate much healthier foods, not because of some "organic" movement but because my mom and other moms/parents I knew had time to prepare healthy meals (it doesn't take that much longer than microwaving something) and the snack and sugar-filled foods were smaller in proportion and we only got them as special treats. I remember mom giving us sliced turnips as a snack during movie time in the evenings! We only ate chips and sodas and candy bars for Saturday afternoon treats. We didn't run through the McDonald's drive-thru for dinner after track practice. Parents should pay more attention to what they are feeding their kids. Kids don't need so many scheduled activities to "keep obesity at bay" if the food they are eating isn't filled with junk.

Posted by: Lola | October 16, 2006 11:15 AM

Mcewen,

what are you talking about? I'm not being sarcastic, i truly want to know what you mean?

Posted by: scarry | October 16, 2006 11:17 AM

I'm confused. Besides obvious drug/abuse issues, when would I ever need to consider putting God before my spouse/chldren?

It sounds like a hollow belief that rarely would be tested.

Posted by: June | October 16, 2006 11:19 AM

Lola, while I agree with your comments about healthy food, I have ask: sliced turnips?

I've heard that what they serve during the "you must get a divorec seminars" at Nat. Org. of Women and The League of Jewish Women meetings.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | October 16, 2006 11:20 AM

"Unfortunately, the Nazis that run the Nat. Org. of Women and The League of Jewish Women voters have destroyed the the family structure in this country"

mcewen --

A couple of points:

1. That would be the National Organization FOR [not "of"] Women -- an important distinction when considering the org's mission.

2. The climbing divorce rate is not such a bad thing. My parents were married for 52 years (up 'til my mother died). Fifty-two years of bickering, yelling, screaming, co-opting the kids, the silent treatment, sulking, belittling, etc. My brother and I would be a lot less messed up today if they had divorced when we were young.

3. How do you figure that the "League of Jewish Women Voters" has contributed to the deterioration of family life? Do bad things happen when jewish women vote? I can't make any sense out of your statement.

Posted by: namewithheld | October 16, 2006 11:26 AM

It sounds like a hollow belief that rarely would be tested.

That's why you don't understand it. It is a belief that can't be understood unless you beleive in God. I don't understand why this upsets people so much and makes them say things like hollow belief, that's rude.

Posted by: name withheld too | October 16, 2006 11:29 AM

I had no idea that NOW or the League of Jewish Women Voters was responsible for my divorce. I though it was because my husband was a jerk.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 11:31 AM

Arlington Dad, LOL!

Also, I agree that raising children in a strong, happy marriage or partnership is ideal, but the idea that it's impossible to raise strong, happy kids if the parents are divorced is a bit of a stretch. I have plenty of friends whose parents divorced and who are still stable, strong, happy people. Was the divorce hard on them? Of course. Are they ruined for life? No.

Posted by: Megan | October 16, 2006 11:33 AM

I'd like to see the cite for the 67% divorce rate. Particularly because I know it's not true.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 16, 2006 11:33 AM

This is a question I grapple with. As a new mum I do find there is a lot of pressure to do things "right" or "as perfectly as possible" instead of "well enough."

There is a kind of assumption in our culture that almost anything bad can be avoided. And also that mistakes can't be undone - like if your child doesn't get into the right school that will be It Forever.

That is a radical shift from thinking that bad things can be addressed if they happen.

So, for example, rather than asking parents to get involved if their kids need remedial help with reading, we ask parents to read to their kids nightly from - well really from before birth, so that they don't need remediation.

I think in some areas this is really good, but I think that in some ways we've gone totally overboard to think that if parents would only make the right decisions all along they would never have difficulties to address in the first place. I think so-labelled helicopter parents just absorb this message to the nth degree.

I think some of this is good. As a survivor of incest I am all about the realizing that what happens in childhood seriously impacts on quality of life. But I think it can go too far.

Also people seem pretty ready to judge others on what they *might* be doing to their kids rather than what they are doing. Even on this blog it's clear that some arguments degenerate really quickly into acerbic and very personal comments back and forth... when I suspect that if people met each other's kids first, they would think they were doing fine.

It's a lot of pressure.

I was listening to the radio the other day in an office (so not sure what station it was or anything) and there was a woman who kind of summed it up for me - she said "we used to say 'bad baby' when there was a problem and now we say 'bad mommy.'

I don't think this is totally new - remember when gay men were presumed to have been over-mommied? - but I do think people in my generation (gen X, more or less) really soaked up that idea that it's PARENTS who cause/fail to eliminate problems for kids. And - yeah I think I have absorbed that message too, despite having taken a lot of responsibility for changing the negative things from my background.

I do think that "helicopter parents" are just one facet of the pressure, because it's just one way to try to be "the BEST mom/dad EVER." The comments today kind of go along with that.

And this is where I think balance does come in - I think a reasonably happy grounded adult (whatever causes that) will be more likely to be able to make decisions in the face of any kind of pressure that really are better for their particular child or family - in terms of what is happening right then with an eye to the future, rather than based completely out of fear of the future or Imminent Failure. And that's what hopefully helps our kids to do the same.

However I will now be going off to obsess about whether there is enough calcium in my 14 mo old's diet.

Posted by: Shandra | October 16, 2006 11:47 AM

I'd just like to chime in here on the idea that higher divorce rates are keeping children from being raised in happy stable two-parent families. I believe that the higher divorce rates have more to do with women being impowered to leave unhappy marriages. Getting divorced is a terribly painful thing that most people agonize over for a long time before they do it. I was raised in a two parent home full of loud arguments, violent fights, being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night to flee with one parent. It was ugly. My son on the other hand was raised in a calm, loving, stable one parent family (after I divorced his abusive father.) Married parents doesn't necessarily make for a happy family.

Posted by: Melt | October 16, 2006 11:49 AM

To everyone on this blog: Please stop treating "MCewen" as a legitimate contributor to today's discussion. There is no such thing as the "National League of Jewish Women Voters." There is the "League of Women Voters" - an organization that evolved from the women's suffrage movement (and hosts political candidate debates and calls itself "a nonpartisan political membership organization that encourages informed, active participation of citizens in government") and there are various Jewish women's organizations which mostly focus on women's rights and other causes that concern women and the Jewish community such as childrens health care. His comments are an obvious attempt anti-feminist and anti-Semitic. Perhaps it is a reaction to the fact that Wendy Mogel's book draws on the Jewish tradition for much of her perspective that "Mcewen" saw it as an opportunity to spew a little anti-woman, anti-Semitism today. Please stop dignifying his posting with any more responses. Even if it means Mel Gibson has joined Leslie's blog.

Posted by: Suzy | October 16, 2006 11:53 AM

Why do so many people marry losers? I think that should be something that our society is looking at. Rather than focusing on the divorce rate, why don't women's groups start talking about how women and men should learn to live without a relationship until they are emotionally able of being in a healthy one. I'm sick and tired of watching people who are obviously not well-suited get married because they are afraid of being alone or so economically strapped that they'll marry anyone who will pay half the mortgage.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 11:55 AM

I love Mel Gibson. Everyone makes mistakes, welcome to the blog MEL

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 12:03 PM

"More book recs" has a good point -- I think there is a significant amount of insecurity underlying the helicopter parenting. For most of us who are fortunate enough to be comfortable, that's not a sure thing -- we don't have trust funds, so we rely on our jobs to keep us middle class, and we want our kids to do as well or better, which means they will also need good educations and good jobs. I can't pass down my J.D. to my daughter to ensure that she'll always have a good salary; she's going to have to go earn that herself, and if she doesn't, she could easily find herself poor.

I know my mom and stepdad are dealing with this. They worked their butts off and saved scrupulously all their lives, and now are very comfortable. And they've seen two of their kids take off and build solid lives. But my stepbrother has always struggled, and it just kills my parents that there's nothing they can do to help him succeed in life (by any measure). Because of both medical issues that are not his fault and bad choices that are, he will face a very, very difficult road even to live independently, much less comfortably.

I think everyone probably knows someone like my brother. And as a parent, you see that, and you think, "what can I do to keep that from happening to MY kid"? So you put all this effort into trying to engineer the perfect life for your child, so he or she won't have to suffer through the hardships you did. But what's hard to see sometimes is that it's the struggle itself that can build the kind of character and work ethic needed to succeed, and that "managing" your kid's life to that extent can keep her from developing the drive and initiative she most needs.

In terms of the coddling, etc., we follow what my husband calls the 3-foot rule: if the kid's going to fall less than 3 feet, let them fall, and then they'll learn not to do it again; but if it's more than that, intervene if you need to to keep them from getting too badly hurt. Works on the playground, but also applies in theory to most other parts of their lives.

Posted by: Laura | October 16, 2006 12:05 PM

"Married parents doesn't necessarily make for a happy family."

SO TRUE!!!

Posted by: namewithheld | October 16, 2006 12:07 PM

I married a loser because he had a cute butt. He still had a cute butt when I divorced him, but I was a lot smarter.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 12:09 PM

Married parents doesn't necessarily make for a happy family."

SO TRUE!!!

no one said this

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 12:10 PM

"So you put all this effort into trying to engineer the perfect life for your child, so he or she won't have to suffer through the hardships you did. But what's hard to see sometimes is that it's the struggle itself that can build the kind of character and work ethic needed to succeed, and that "managing" your kid's life to that extent can keep her from developing the drive and initiative she most needs."

There's a part in Gone With The Wind - the book, not the movie - where Rhett Butler is talking to Scarlett about her children, and he asks her if she'll ever let them know some of the incredible hardship that she has. She is horrified and says Absolutely not, never in hell, my children will never know a moment's want if I can help it. Rhett says, "That's exactly wrong. It's hardships that make people. Do you think you'd have ever gotten the spine to do half the stuff you have if you hadn't had it so hard for a while?"

Of course, once he marries Scarlett and they have Bonnie, he refuses to let Bonnie suffer a moment's want.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 16, 2006 12:13 PM

>


Yes, someone did. See last sentence of Melt's 11:39 post.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 12:13 PM

Madison, WI mom said: "My personal experience growing up seemed to be most kids who engaged in what he call "risky behavior" seemed to either have horrible home lives with bad parents, or overindulgent, over-protective parents who assumed their little angel could do no wrong."

Why is it always the parent's fault?! Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Maybe the kid has a learning disability that goes undiscovered, or is abused by a teacher, or makes a dumb mistake, or hangs out with the wrong crowd one night and therefore becomes a drug abuser. This attitude is why we have helicopter parenting. "Oh, little Johnny down the street is addicted to drugs, must be all his mother's fault. I'll make sure that doesn't happen to MY kid."

Give me a break. Please stop blaming parents for every "problem child" you see out there. Some have done everything "right" and still end up with a h.s. dropout. Trust me, I've seen it happen.

Posted by: anon today | October 16, 2006 12:18 PM

I meant that no one said you had to be married to be a happy parent.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 12:20 PM

That comment about "bad baby" vs "bad mommy" made me think - you know people have always treated us boomers like we have the ultimate power. When we were kids/teens, everything that went wrong was OUR fault, not our parents'. Now that we have kids, everything that goes wrong is STILL our fault, not theirs! Kind of amazing to be considered so important and powerful!

Posted by: boomers rule | October 16, 2006 12:21 PM

"Married parents doesn't necessarily make for a happy family."

"SO TRUE!!!"

"no one said this"

Yes, someone did. See last sentence of Melt's 11:39 post.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 12:23 PM

The so-called helicopter parents that I know (and I know plenty) wouldn't bother me so much except for two things.

One, the kids' activities become all about the PARENTS. They become time for PARENTS to socialize and make friends and connections, because it's the only milieu that many over-scheduled families have any more. I wish that parents could just be honest and either make the activity about the kid or find something that THEY want to do and leave the child with a babysitter (gasp). I've seen birthday parties where beer and wine are served and all the parents hang out with each other. Birthday child? Oh, yeah -- he's around somewhere.

Second, these same selfish parents also tend to be incredibly judgemental. I let my 2nd grader walk to and from school by herself, and you'd think from some of my neighbors' reactions that I had let her drive a car. (We live in a completely safe neighborhood with multiple crossing guards to boot.)

This combination of characteristics makes me insane.

Posted by: stealth fighter parent | October 16, 2006 12:28 PM

"Every time he says "I'm thirsty" a drink magically appears in his hand. Every time he said "I can't do this" someone helps him. It drives me nuts. In our household you don't get something unless you ask for it ... in a full sentence."

Clarification about that statement. We require Lesley to say "I want (what ever item), Please." before getting something. That is asking. I'm thirsty isn't asking it is simply a statment. We don't allow her to say "drink, please" because she has problems constructing sentences and we know she can use her words to construct a full sentence. This might not be a big deal to some parents (and that is fine... I do not have all the answers) but we ask for more from our child so she will not settle for less.
Has anyone seen the video from CBS news about the blind boy who echo locates? If not look for it on youtube.com and be prepared to be amazinged at what a child with a supportive parent can do.

Posted by: Momma Daria | October 16, 2006 12:30 PM

Lucky America where "overparenting" is an - may I say: upper middle-class - problem. Here in Germany, the focus is on parental neglect or even abuse, and it has been proposed to introduce obligatory parenting courses and official "parenting licences".

Posted by: Joachim | October 16, 2006 12:35 PM

To boomers rule:

It is the boomers themselves that consider themselves so important and powerful. That's why they're universally mocked.

As with any generation, many good things have come from the boomers, and so have many bad things. It's kinda funny how they bring "helicopter parenting" on themselves, and then have long blog discussions with themselves about how to stop it.

And as others have pointed out, this "helicopter parenting" is probably not real high on the list of concerns of poor kids with real problems.

Posted by: spunky | October 16, 2006 12:35 PM

My opinion is that society in general is afraid of any kind of suffering. You always hear, "Whatever makes them happy."-parents referring to their children.

I think it's ok to let them discover that sometimes the world can be not so perfect, and in the long run it will teach them to adjust and adapt in their situations. Then they will truly be happy!

Posted by: Lou | October 16, 2006 12:42 PM

i think the idea of blame mommy has been around for centuries - autism was caused by a "cold" mother. homosexuality was caused by an "over protective" mother. you get the idea.
the idea about what makes a strong marriage is different for each couple. your "strong" marriage may be my "smothering" marriage or vice versa. there will always be tension between the needs of the group verses the needs of the individual of a group. the two are not necessarily the same no matter how much balance is achived.

Posted by: quark | October 16, 2006 12:43 PM

Amen, boomers rule!

You know that joke about psychiatry, "if it's not one thing, it's your mother?" It totally bugs me that people seem to trace all of their problems to their parents. Take a little responsibility for your own actions and decisions! SO you were a latch-key kid. Does that mean you are never capable of making good decisions?

I understand that some people are truly scarred for life because of their parents, but it's the ones who are like "I can't ever have a healthy relationship with a woman because my mommy didn't love me" who smack of self-centeredness and irresponsibility.

Posted by: Meesh | October 16, 2006 12:43 PM

"It is the boomers themselves that consider themselves so important and powerful."

The only reason boomers are so powerful is that there are so many of us. Consequently, we've pretty much dominated every lifetime milestone and stamped it as our own. (We're having kids! We're middle-aged! We're getting older! We're retiring! We're having grandchildren!)

No wonder those following in our wake get annoyed and exasperated. I think I'd be sick of us, too, if I were one of them. :>)

Posted by: pittypat | October 16, 2006 12:48 PM

You know that joke about psychiatry, "if it's not one thing, it's your mother?" It totally bugs me that people seem to trace all of their problems to their parents. Take a little responsibility for your own actions and decisions! SO you were a latch-key kid. Does that mean you are never capable of making good decisions?

I understand that some people are truly scarred for life because of their parents, but it's the ones who are like "I can't ever have a healthy relationship with a woman because my mommy didn't love me" who smack of self-centeredness and irresponsibility.

My parents are divorced, so I'm sure I could find someone out there to tell me that I'm not responsible if my marriage fails, but that would simply not be true. I may not have had the best example, but that doesn't mean that I can't learn from other people. I have no one to blame except myself because I am an adult and have been exposed to many other healthy relationships and have learned from them.

So to summarize a scatter-brained post, the culture of blame shifting and not taking responsibility in our society leaves adults scrambling to avoid "ruining" their children and leaves children free to point the finger when they make mistakes.

Posted by: Meesh | October 16, 2006 12:49 PM

Oops, sorry about the double post! I must have hit submit instead of preview.

Posted by: Meesh | October 16, 2006 12:51 PM

Pittypat, you make a good point.

The combination of there being so many of you, and now communication being so easy (e.g., blogs), can make boomers really annoying to the rest of us.

Obviously, I prefer my own generation (Gen-X), and obviously, we have plenty of our own flaws (and good points, right?).

Reading blogs like these, one would really think things are awful. Whereas I'd venture that in truth, most people are good, sensible people and good, sensible parents. It's just way more fun (and certainly in the interests of the media) to focus on the exceptions.

All I can really think about today (instead of work) is how bad the Redskins are...

Posted by: spunky | October 16, 2006 1:00 PM

"I understand that some people are truly scarred for life because of their parents, but it's the ones who are like 'I can't ever have a healthy relationship with a woman because my mommy didn't love me' who smack of self-centeredness and irresponsibility."

Meech --

Well, call it what you like, but both men and women can be profoundly affected in adult relationships by how their parents related with them. And those people who never get the help they need to put things in perspective often go through life repeating patterns they learned as children.

Granted, it's irritating to hear a guy whining that his mommy didn't love him (or loved him too much). But, in fact, that may be precisely why he isn't a good mate or husband. He didn't experience a good, healthy relationship in his family, so how is he going to know, as an adult, how to work on being a good partner?

Posted by: pittypat | October 16, 2006 1:02 PM

As a lesbian in a same-sex relationship with a kid, I have to say I totally get where VAMom is coming from and it didn't even occur to me that this has anything to do with the Bible. My partner and I both believe that one of the best gifts you can bestow upon a child, as a parent, is to model a healthy, loving relationship. So, our kid is going to learn (and has already) that what Mom and Ema (that's my name) want to do alone together is going to sometimes take priority over what she wants to do.

In general, I think the best thing parents can do to avoid "helicopter parenting" is just to freakin' CHILL OUT, people. Nothing's going to make a kid neurotic faster than neurotic parents. And bear in mind that a lot of the fears and anxieties you may have about parenting is the direct result of MARKETING. Everyone has a book to sell you about what you're doing wrong as a parent. Everyone has a Baby Einstein video or a Chinese immersion language course that they insist you have to buy or else your child will "fall behind."

I say, serve your kid balanced meals, read books to them, find them some form of exercise, model healthy habits in front of them, and just chill the @#$#! OUT. We are making this too complicated.

Posted by: captainlarab | October 16, 2006 1:05 PM

"He didn't experience a good, healthy relationship in his family, so how is he going to know, as an adult, how to work on being a good partner?"

Find out. Ask his friends. Go to counseling. Read books (and not just tedious, self-absorbed self-help books). Yeah, it sucks that he has to make an effort on stuff that looks like it comes easily to others, but oh well.

My dad had a horrible childhood and used "my mom never loved me" as an excuse to be pretty awful to my sister and I. I love him a lot, but that was pretty crappy, and I've made a conscious effort not to let my own crap childhood affect my adult relationships. It can be done.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 16, 2006 1:10 PM

"As a lesbian in a same-sex relationship with a kid"

Jeez Cap', scared me there. Maybe a well placed comma or something would have made that better.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 1:15 PM

"Find out. Ask his friends. Go to counseling. Read books (and not just tedious, self-absorbed self-help books). Yeah, it sucks that he has to make an effort on stuff that looks like it comes easily to others, but oh well."
~~~~~~~~

Well, yeah, that's what I was suggesting. Therapy. That's what "never get the help they need to put things in perspective" means.

I'm not saying people should use these issues as lifelong crutches. But it's useful to those involved with them (or trying to be involved with them) to understand the real nature of the problem, and, if said person doesn't think s/he can handle it, s/he at least has the option of getting out of the relationship before putting any more time into it.

Of course these people ultimately have to take responsibility for their own actions and behavior, but the "I had a difficult mommy/daddy" explanation may be one big aspect of who the person is today.

I'm probably wrong about this, but both Meesh and Lizzie sound as if they've struggled to have relationships with these kinds of guys and have been disappointed with the results. Good therapy can be helpful in figuring out how to handle yourself and your emotions in these relationship and also help you to figure out why you may be pursuing relationships with these kinds of guys.

Posted by: pittypat | October 16, 2006 1:27 PM

Hooray for this topic - I have no kids and one of the things that scares me to death is how to raise a balanced kid in today's seemingly unbalanced world. On the topic of balancing activities my parents actively involved me in the choices -- one of the most valuable choices I made as a 7 year was to be part of a father/daughter group at our YMCA instead of being a girl scout. I have fond memories of my friends from that group and of it nurturing my relationship with my dad.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | October 16, 2006 1:30 PM

Do you remember how boring summers were as a child? Do you remember whining to your mom, "I'm bored."? Do you remember your mom telling you to think up something creative to do?

Basically if you over-schedule your children, you rob them of the chance to creative problem solve. My husband and I were both forced as children to "self remedy" the boredom issue and I think it contributed to our creative problem solving skills, which has paid off for us in the working world and in our relationships. Our method for balance: once our son gets older, we will only schedule things for him when he wants them. This world of competition is so strange to us... so we decided not to participate. If people want to think we are bad parents/poor/stupid etc. that's fine with us. We are completely willing to foster a sense of superiority in others if it means they will leave us out of the competition so we can "roll our way".

Posted by: alex. mom | October 16, 2006 1:36 PM

Ugh, I've seen the results of the "Whatever makes them happy," style of parenting. Kids who have no motivation, no initiative, and no independence. Kids who spend most of their time playing videogames and use every excuse in the book to not get a job and continue living at home after high school, with no thought of going to college. Kids medicated for all sorts of disorders. Sad.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 1:37 PM

I think one of the hallmarks of a mature person is one who has stopped blaming his/her parents for all his/her mistakes.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 1:39 PM

"both Meesh and Lizzie sound as if they've struggled to have relationships with these kinds of guys and have been disappointed with the results."

I haven't, because I always knew that crap was wrong and nothing about those kinds of relationships was attractive to me. As it happens, I married a guy whose parents had a nuclear divorce and who was also able to see very clearly that the way he was treated as a result was wrong.

My sister took a much longer time, and a failed marriage, to come around to that conclusion. I don't discount the idea that susceptibility to that sort of thing is partly tempramental.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 16, 2006 1:40 PM

The divorce discussion is timely. I struggled (and truly, that is the right word) to come to terms with both my parents and myself after their very nasty divorce. Thankfully, I have met and married a wonderful man.
My brother continues to struggle and thus far, refuses to go to therapy. I see him heading down the same lonely, angry path as my father. Of my whole family, I am the only happy one, and I am the only one who really stuck with therapy and took a hard look at myself. So I really push "go to therapy" when I talk to my brother. Now I just hope he finds the strength to go before it is too late and he is old, angry and alone.

Posted by: Rebecca | October 16, 2006 1:48 PM

agree with alex. mom. Who cares what other people think of you. If your kid is happy, that's all that matters. I also remember telling my mom I was bored, her answer was go find something to do. Guess what, I did. My nephews would build forts and play in the creek. My parents also only allowed one activity a semester. If I played volleyball I couldn't cheer, etc. That made me decided what I really wanted to do and I was much happier for it. Now like all parents mine weren't perfect. My mother had what I call the "flaw of pop." Meaning she drank it and let us drink it. I will never let my kid drink pop regularly, if at all. I sometimes think it is as hard to quit as smoking.

Posted by: scarry | October 16, 2006 1:49 PM

I think the overscheduling of kids is combination of parental insecurity and the enormous number of choices parents have. When I was 5, living in Reston, I could take soccer, tee-ball or ballet. Now I live in a less affluent area than the DC burbs, but I could have my 5 year old taking any of a dozen languages, she could be in tutoring for reading or math, she could take science classes at a local museum and be learning suzuki violin or piano, and this past summer she could have been in soccer, basket ball, gymnastics or dance camps.

We do a couple organizied activities outside the house, but I don't think they are nearly as valuable as the time she spends playing with her imaginary pet unicorn.

Another great article on the value of free play for little kids:
http://www.besthomeschooling.org/articles/vivian_gussin_paley.html
(the website is aimed at homeschoolers, but the article is by a kindergarten teacher).

The folks I know who overschedule their elementary school-aged kids seem terrified that cutting back on anything will leave their kids "behind". I do feel for families where a kid is passionate about a very time consuming sport like swimming.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 16, 2006 1:49 PM

Like many other here, I'm sure, I used to just go outside on my own when I was a kid. Even when I was little, I wandered the neighborhood or the woods by myself, or sometimes with my little friends, with instructions only to be home at mealtimes. I really ran wild and free.
But that was another era. No sensible parent these days would turn a kid as young as 5, 4 or 3 out onto the neighborhood or the woods. (Maybe it wasn't safe when we were doing it -- no doubt there were pedophiles and other dangers then as well as now -- but I don't think my parents or other parents fully realized the dangers.)
I agree that something is lost when parents have to hover over children all the time. For myself, I know that those self-directed wanderings in the woods helped develop a love of the outdoors and exercise, as well as some independence. I am sorry that kids today can't have that. But safety has to come first. And I can name several cases in recent years of kids playing outside in my town who were killed by predators, drunk drivers, reckless drivers or in accidents like falling into lakes. Not too long ago in my town, some lunatic with a knife came onto a school playground and started stabbing children (they all survived, thanks to intervention of nearby adults).
Some people earlier made the argument that the concept of "helicopter" parenting is linked to income, and that you don't see too many parents in the projects being overprotective. I'm not so sure about that. Some parents I know of who live in low-income, high-crime areas are quite protective of their children -- instructing them on how to crouch down below windows when the bullets start flying, etc. And just think of the parents living in war zones like Iraq.
All in all, I think it's easy to make fun of parents who seem over-protective. But sometimes, such protectiveness is warranted.

Posted by: anon mom | October 16, 2006 1:51 PM

I had to smile at the comments about what parents used to do with "bored" kids. My husband and I have had this discussion--neither of us would EVER tell our mother we were bored. 'Cuz they would find something for us to do, and it usually involved chores. Nipped that right in the bud! But at least for me, it resulted in my being able to amuse myself in any situation. It has served me well in airports, all-hands meeting, etc.

Posted by: notbored | October 16, 2006 1:58 PM

anonmom,
Comparing teaching Tyrone "hit the deck" techniques to worrying if Muffy has enough time to take extra French horn lessons after ballet class is a bit of a stretch, no?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 2:03 PM

When we were bored, we were out to work.

Posted by: June | October 16, 2006 2:05 PM

>>> The folks I know who overschedule their elementary school-aged kids seem terrified that cutting back on anything will leave their kids "behind". >>>

Behind? Behind in what? Children are suppose to have fun running and playing, not spead every waking hour being tutored. When is the last time you saw children building a fort or playing outside these days?

Posted by: alex. mom | October 16, 2006 2:13 PM

to 02:03 PM

Nice way to sterotype. I geuss all black people name their kids Tyrone and in this day and age. Violence can happen anywhere.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 2:14 PM

to 2:14 PM

Nice way to project.

Where did I mention black? Would the comment have been any more/less valid with "Jim" and "Jane" or "Abdul" and "Pishtel"?

Let go of your anger...

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 2:18 PM

Pitty: I agree with you once again - I am very annoyed by the boomers.

As for therapy. I have 2 friends, one that has been in therapy for about 20 years, the other for 7 or 8 years. I always thought the point of therapy was to become better and move on. I think there are a lot of people "addicted to therapy."

Posted by: CMAC | October 16, 2006 2:19 PM

I have to laugh at the "bored" comments, because my parents also put me to work when I said that, and that is what I do w/ my son as well! In terms of kids' activities, I agree with what YetAnotherSAHM said about the fact that there are so MANY choices that it's hard to limit kids' options. Also, for me personally, I see out-of-school activities as a way for a child who maybe doesn't thrive in an academic setting to build his/her self-worth, and also to develop marketable skills that other kids might not need. In that context, it's hard (for me) to argue that these activities aren't just as important as school.

Posted by: TakomaMom | October 16, 2006 2:19 PM

On the issue of of priorities with religion, marriage and children, I think it is important that everyone find the right BALANCE to achieve. I am personally a God believing man, but I don't follow any particular religious institution because I don't agree with the priorities for most of them. In my world, God created us and put us on this world not to worship him, but to achieve the most and best that we can. Therefore, my marriage and (ultimately) family will be a higher priority. In my belief, this is what my God wants of me and not some devotion to Faith above the priorities of my family. That doesn't match others priorities and I have no problems with others prioritizing differently. The key is that I have no need to promote my form of faith over theirs nor the need to make others conform to my beliefs. My only issue is with those who believe (and I understand some denominations believe that they have to proselytize) that they must convince me that their Faith is the one true way and cannot leave me to my beliefs.

I think the issue debated above is that people are confusing true NEEDS of Faith, marriage and children. If your church required you to tithe, would you tithe the requisite amount when you cannot provide food on your table for your spouse or children to eat? Very few of us face true full priority of one over another. Most of us use those values for balancing giving relatively more weight to one value over another, not giving more absolute weight of one over the other. In most of the priorities that we make, we deem which of our choices are more important to our balance. The decision for time with spouse vs time with children is not time with spouse is more important that time with children but usually balancing such that we spend time with both, not to the exclusion of the other, but to avoid overprioritizing one over the other.

I think it is all about finding balance. We all place different emphasis on those portions, but if you balance 50-25-25 or 40-30-30 or some other way, that is a personal balance that makes your quality of life better and is a personal choice. I doubt any of us are truly advocating the imbalance of placing a true 100% priority of value A over value B with no compromise.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 16, 2006 2:19 PM

Everyone knows what you were talking about.
Oh, and just becuase someone doesn't agree with you doesn't make them angry.

Posted by: whatever | October 16, 2006 2:21 PM

So does that make me, or "everyone" the stereotyper if "Tyrone" automatically equals "black"?...

(I have a very white cousin named Tyrone by the way and NOBODY ever believes me)...

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 2:26 PM

dadwannabe,

Most churches I know would not require you to tithe if it meant you couldn't feed your children. I think that is an extreme example.

Posted by: scarry | October 16, 2006 2:28 PM

It probably makes everyone the sterotyper, including me. :)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 2:30 PM

Why, exactly, in this "day & age" don't parents let their kids run through the neighborhood unchaperoned? There are fewer kidnappings now than there were 30 years ago, and all measurable rates of crimes against children are stable, if not decreasing. Now, if you want to say parents were foolish then to let kids out alone, that's one thing, but things aren't much worse now (at least empirically). Unless you're watching too much Nancy Grace at night, anyway......

Posted by: I'm a little confused | October 16, 2006 2:32 PM

feel free to let your kid run wild, when we see her on the news we will keep her in our thoughts.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 2:33 PM

Sorry, my last posting was a bit rambling and obviously wasn't very clear.

My point was that most people balance their "priorities" in a more even way that an absolute priority of one over the other. No one is truly faced with having to place the NEEDS of Faith over the NEEDS of marriage or children. VAmom had her priorities that placed Faith first, then marriage then children. I was defending her stance against those people who felt that she was advocating an absolute prioritization instead of a relative one. And I purposely used an very extreme point as an illustration that we are truly rarely faced with having to make an absolute choice of one over the other.

We are all seeking balance and if VAmom puts a relatively higher priority on her Faith than her marriage, that is fine. It hardly means that she'll do so to the detriment of either her marriage or kids.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 16, 2006 2:34 PM

To I'm a little confused:

I agree. I used to ride my bike all around the neighborhood. I assume most parents wouldn't allow their children to bike in the streets of Old Town because of the traffic. But I am surprised I don't see more children on the bike trails. Or even playing outside in the green spaces...

Who's Nancy Grace?

Posted by: alex. mom | October 16, 2006 2:37 PM

On the topic of "helicopter" parents, I think that it is not only an upper-middle class and rich issue as a middle and higher class issue. I grew up in a middle class area of largely blue collar workers (in suburban Pittsburgh). Many of my friends and peers had parents that worked in the steel and coal industries, factories, or as part of the river and rail transportation industries. And helicoptering was evident back then except that it wasn't called that.

Many kids "had" to participate in sports or other competitive activities and had to be competitive. Pittsburgh is a very sports-dominated town and participation can become very rabid.

I think that helicopter parenting derives from too many parents that are trying to live or drive their children's lives to be what theirs were not. I've seen many parents who want their children to excel at sports because they either didn't or didn't have the opportunity. Or they want their children to do all sorts of things that they either wanted to do or didn't get to do, even if their children don't want to do those things. Most helicopter parents would do better to pay more attention to their kids and be directed by their kids to participate in things that interest them. Sample things on a very limited basis and then see if the child really wants to continue or not. Most of what I've observed are well-intentioned attempts to get children active and involved, but are usually attempts that have gone completely overboard.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 16, 2006 2:42 PM

Today's topic reminds me of the time several years ago when I took my annoying son to the park and he dragged me right next to an overprotecting couple. Their daughter was climbing on one of those jungle jym forts and I kept hearing the mom and dad say things like, "That's too high", "You're not allowed to go there", and "that's too far." Come to find out by talking with the parents that their daughter was blind.

My son was a natural with their little girl. He tapped on the ladder rungs to show the girl where to grab next to pull her self up to the next level. He used his voice to call her in the direction of the rope bridge, and for the first time in her life, she went down the slide all by herself.

Then, when the mom moved a step to the right and noticed that I was still looking at the place that she used to be as I talked, she figured out that, I too, was blind.

I'm raising my kids and pretty much treat them like they are my friends. I call it the teamwork aproach. Unlike most parenting roles, I'm very dependent on my kids. There are a lot of places we go that I would never be able to get to unless I had their help. My 4year old helps me cross rt. 50. I can't even read a recipe, much less be able to find the can opener if it wasn't for their help. My daughters even dress me to go out. Now, how bad is that?

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 16, 2006 2:46 PM

My primary objective in raising my children was to prepare them to leave me. So I focused on their education, strong sense of self, concern for others, and life-eating skills. Mostly, they did it themselves and they did it well.

When my kids were small I convinced them that apples and raisins were a treat. But, I always knew that they would discover Twinkies as soon as they hit a school lunchroom. I was a realist from the start.

I think that most overparenting that I've seen is by people who are afraid to leave anything to chance. They honestly believe that they can direct their kids lives from conception and, in some cases, feel confident that they can do the same for your kids. In my experience, they come down firmly on the side of nurture rather than nature and tend to be somewhat insensitive folks.

I always wonder how the children of hovering parents learn decision-making skills. I wonder how they cope with adversity. And, I wonder how they relate to their parents when they become adults.

Posted by: older mom | October 16, 2006 2:48 PM

"No one is truly faced with having to place the NEEDS of Faith over the NEEDS of marriage or children"

There are people who do not believe in blood transfusions, cesareans, etc.

The Amish would not fight to defend their children and/or spouses.

Posted by: Elaine | October 16, 2006 2:49 PM

To 'anon mom': IMHO, the dangers are grossly exaggerated. For the most part, it's just a way for the mass media to get your $$$, for politicians to convince you to sway their way (so they have the power and the $$$), for preachers to put the fear of God in you (so they can get your $$$ -- notice a common theme here?), etc.

The sky is falling, the end of the world is upon us, blah blah blah. It has ever been thus.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself -- ain't that the truth.

Now that's not to say that there aren't plenty of dangerous things/people out there, and yes, of course we all need to do what we can to protect our kids. But there's some point at which it's just neurotic, paranoia, control issues -- just sucking all the fun out of life, for us and our kids.

(Please note, 'anon mom', I am certainly not attributing any/all of this to you, it's just your comment that got my rant started.)

(And now I feel like College Parkian, with all the paragraphs.)

Imaginary pet unicorn? Now THAT sounds dangerous.

Posted by: spunky | October 16, 2006 2:54 PM

Nancy Grace does a cable news show - she's quite shrill. Then again, most cable newscasters are, on both sides of the aisle.

To the anonymous poster who thinks my daughter will end up on the news - you don't think that's a little like hearing that a kid ate an Oreo and screaming at their parent, "she's one ding-dong away from diabetes!!" without knowing if the child is overweight, underexercised, etc.?

Posted by: I'm a little confused | October 16, 2006 2:56 PM

Pittypat,

Nah, I don't actually know any men like that. Rather, that is one of a few examples of what I consider self-gratifying thinking. Another example is a person who blames their $34,000 credit debt on the fact that their parents never taught them about money management. At some point, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Like I said, I'm sure there are tons of people who need therapy to deal with what their parents did to them, but I'm not talking about those serious cases. I think we can agree that there are ridiculous cases, and those are the ones to which I am referring.

Posted by: Meesh | October 16, 2006 2:56 PM

to the previous poster (don't know your name) -- I'm not really addressing the concept of ballet class or oversheduling, just the idea of letting kids run loose. And I really regret that kids don't get to run loose. I gained a lot from running loose, myself.
The question of overscheduling and over-structuring is, I think, separate from that of the over-protectiveness/appropriate-protectiveness debate. I haven't gotten around to addressing the former!
To I'm a little confused -- I do get your point, and really appreciate it. I'm sure there were dangers in the old days as well as the today, probably even more dangers. It's just that we know more about them. But often I wonder if we're too scared, or appropriately scared or what. Or, are we fearing the wrong things? Or does being a parent alway involve fears? But that's a topic for another day, too.
Also, I don't watch Nancy Grace regularly because I don't get cable, but yeah, I've seen a couple seconds of her show on the TVs at the health club and even that much is too much! :) The show, and its host, are indeed toxic. Those who don't know who Nancy Grace is should consider themselves fortunate. Enough ranting.
As for the events I mentioned in my own town, I'm talking about a fairly small western city that gets very little national coverage and probably can't even be located by Nancy Grace (thank God). These are events that I know of personally, not just from local media. For example, I know a woman whose only child was biking and struck and killed by a drunk driver.

Posted by: anon mom | October 16, 2006 2:59 PM

I always wonder how the children of hovering parents learn decision-making skills. I wonder how they cope with adversity. And, I wonder how they relate to their parents when they become adults.

Posted by: older mom | October 16, 2006 02:48 PM

=====

older mom--very astute. I agree with you about one of the primary reasons that overparenting happens.

As for your comment above, many of these kids have very few coping skills. I have a coworker whose wife (second marriage for both) helicopters her two adult children. At the ages of 21 and 27, these two children cannot live by themselves and have returned to the roost to be taken care of by mamma. The girl (27 yo) only works part time and has been taught that she is never to answer the front door unless mother or stepfather are in the house. She also won't answer the phone unless one of them is there. The boy (21 yo) went to college in NC but during the first year, he got one bad grade, called mamma and she spent the next week calling the university's records office, the professor and teaching assistants and lambasting them. Whenever he had problems, mamma was on the phone finding out where, when, what he would do. She would then direct him exactly where to go, what to do, etc. He never learned any coping skills. He moved home this year to go to a local school where he could live at home. He doesn't drive (she wouldn't possible let him do something as dangerous as that) and she drives him to college on her way to work and picks him up. The only part time jobs he is allowed to work are ones that fit her schedule so that the can take him to and from work.

A few years ago, I was mentoring another young woman who was a helicopter child and it was a VERY long summer trying to get her to do something productive. I had to handhold her the entire summer and it was very difficult. She was a straight A student and had absolutely no coping skills (she couldn't even follow a simple map of campus to find the cafeteria and had to be walked there the first time because she wasn't used to finding things on her own for the first time).

Oversheltering your children is very bad for them and keeps them from maturing well.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 16, 2006 3:01 PM

Oops! I'm supposed to be "raising my child"...I better get busy.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 3:05 PM

The boy (21 yo) went to college in NC but during the first year, he got one bad grade, called mamma and she spent the next week calling the university's records office, the professor and teaching assistants and lambasting them >>>

Oh my god, was this my student!?!?! Just kidding. I did have a parent call me while a GTA about her son's grades. Crazy woman! If your child is in college/university, it is time for your child (who is an adult) to fight his/her own battles.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 16, 2006 3:07 PM

"Why, exactly, in this "day & age" don't parents let their kids run through the neighborhood unchaperoned? There are fewer kidnappings now than there were 30 years ago, and all measurable rates of crimes against children are stable, if not decreasing. Now, if you want to say parents were foolish then to let kids out alone, that's one thing, but things aren't much worse now (at least empirically). Unless you're watching too much Nancy Grace at night, anyway......"

One thing that makes it much more dangerous is that cars are bigger, there are more of them, and they're being piloted by people on telephones.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 3:10 PM

Alex. mom - there was an article this spring in the Wall Street Journal about parents going to job interviews!

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | October 16, 2006 3:13 PM

I agree with the above poster that we are talking about 2 different issues today.
Overscheduling your child is one issue.
"Helicoptoring" or being overprotective/over-involved is another.
I think it is possible to be one and not the other.

Posted by: DC | October 16, 2006 3:14 PM

The Amish would not fight to defend their children and/or spouses.


I'd like to know what you would have done to protect those children from the man with the gun?

Posted by: to elaine | October 16, 2006 3:18 PM

Alex. mom - there was an article this spring in the Wall Street Journal about parents going to job interviews!

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | October 16, 2006 03:13 PM >>>

Say it ain't so! That is absolutely insane! Don't these parents have better things to do than micromanage their adult children's lives? Also, I would think the children would want to "cut the apron strings" by that point. WOW!

I wonder how many of the job interviews where parent(s) tagged along resulted in a job? I would never hire someone who brought a parent along.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 16, 2006 3:19 PM

You know, captainlarab, I agree (nad not just ebcause I'm in the same sort of relationship - we just got home from our 'honeymoon', which entailed schlepping our 13 year old to Disney and Medieval Times and getting NO privacy). When DD is bored, I give her chores. She called me five times a day the first week of summer break - by the next week, it was down to once a day, when I'd asked her to check in and to ask me what she should have for lunch.

We all act like we're going to break our kids if they don't get their 10 hours of enrichment activities a week on top of school and (if you go) church. DD gets four - one hour of judo twice a week and a two hour workout session at the dojo on Saturdays. Everything else she does is at school, and if she wants to do something after school, she has to schedule it herself. This isn't a new policy, either - she's been doing this since she was in 5th grade. Our middle school youth group regularly schedules lockins at church - and signs up parents and other trustworthy adults as chaperones on their own. Kids can take care of the 'enrichment' themselves - give them a litle support when they ask for it, and keep them trying to find their own interests by keeping the 'easy outs' to a minimum (no TV in excess, no computer in excess, etc).

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | October 16, 2006 3:20 PM

Does anyone else think that a lot of the overparenting angst occurred as a result of someone making "parent" into a verb?

All of a sudden, "parenting" became something you "do"; no longer is "parent" simply something you "are."

And, yes, I understand that people who become parents need to learn good skills for raising a child. But "parenting" makes it sound like a science, when, in fact, good instincts and basic common sense are the main ingredients of effective parents.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 3:21 PM

"When DD is bored, I give her chores."

For the first eight years of my life, I thought that people only had kids so they'd have someone to fetch them Cokes while they were upstairs, outside, or in the garage.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 16, 2006 3:24 PM

dadwannabe

I see what you are saying, but I wasn't sure if you really thought that some churches would still want people's money if they didn't have it. Some probably do, but not the mainstream religions.

That is also messed up about those two kids. You should stage an intervention and save them! :)

Posted by: scarry | October 16, 2006 3:27 PM

I'd like to hear from the Helicopter parents who have directed every moment of their offsprings' lives through adulthood.
Do they feel like successful parents when their nearly 30 year old children live at home? Do they think it's a good thing that their obviously intelligent child can't engage in critical thinking to solve a simple, everyday task like following a map? Don't they become exhausted by living their life and that of their child(ren)?
I am thoroughly enjoying my 3 year old son and miss the cute baby stage where he was happy just to sit on mama for hours, but I also enjoy his fledgling indepedence and problem solving skills. And when he purposely and gleefully drove his trike through the carefully raked and piled leaves scattering them all over the yard, he got sent to his room because he was told no. Still, it was funny and at least I'm raising a kid with a mind and sense of humor of his own and not some helpless automaton that I'll be monitoring until I die.

Posted by: MadisonWIMom | October 16, 2006 3:39 PM

Seems like the question of what is being done by moms versus what is being done by dads is a straightforward social research one. It doesn't seem implausible that, on average, men & women would have significantly different parenting styles. Of course, it may not be true, but it's a factual question that can be, at least in principle, definitively answered.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 3:44 PM

To the hilarious poster who thinks cars are bigger now than they used to be - that is so funny.

Posted by: I'm confused | October 16, 2006 3:45 PM

Alex.Mom: what is "GTA"?
----
The Buckley Act protects adult privacy on campus. Adult = 18. Having said that, I field one or two calls/emails a semester from a helicopter parent.

One parent informed me that he was a lawyer and he knew all about the Buckley act, saying still, "Tell me why you gave my child that grade on his paper. I read it. The paper was good. I think it is worth an A."

Parents: Let your child learn national and logical consequences in 7th grade, or earlier. If they don't take the garbage out, then no movie on Friday. Consequences later are very expensive, financially and socially.

Perhaps the critical period for learning responsibility ends at about 15-17. At any rate, I find it hard to teach teens much. The parenting battles may be won or lost much earlier than we think.

Closing note: UMCP now gives tours to parents and prospective students separately. Who asks the questions, in both tours? Parents!!!!

Posted by: College Parkian | October 16, 2006 3:48 PM

"All of a sudden, "parenting" became something you "do"; no longer is "parent" simply something you "are.""

It's both. Parenting is a relationship, and I would still be a father to my children even if I were to be injured and bedridden. But to be done well, it also requires effort. Children must be actively cared for - especially when they are small. Teenagers also need active parental involvement. The point is well taken that this is not an academic skill - if anything, apprenticeship is probably the best way of creating really good parents (ideally, learning from good parents of your own, or other available role models). But parenting can and must be learned.

Posted by: Older Dad | October 16, 2006 3:51 PM

I think a lot of over protective behavior comes from increased media coverage. The truth is there has always been car accidents, child abductions, and other accidents. Just using common sense will help prevent some of the problems with children. I am always shocked when I hear some of the over reactions of parents. I have a friend that doesn't let her 6 year old play in her fenced in back yard with a lock by herself. Seems a little paranoid. I have another friend that doesn't let her middle school age child sleep over some one else's house. Even if she knows the other parents. I don't know. There is a lot to be said of spending your child hood climbing trees, building forts, and learning to navigate their own block. The other big road block is the elimination of sidewalks. I swear that gave kids a lot of freedom to have the run of the neighborhood. I really hate that communities are not being built to be walkable. As far as helicopter parenting, does this really go on or is this something that the media obesses about?

Posted by: foamgnome | October 16, 2006 4:01 PM

"As far as helicopter parenting, does this really go on or is this something that the media obesses about?"

The bigger problem I've seen has been disconnected parents. Many of my children's friends have parents who are divorced. They end up bouncing between two houses. Once they reach mid-to-late elementary school they become latchkey kids, because both the parents are working. Their parents care, but simply aren't around.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 4:08 PM

Can anyone tell me why all the activities (like soccer practice) are scheduled during dinner hour? Parents talk about this, and we hear overscheduling is the reason kids and parents end up eating on the run so much, but who is the coach that decides practice should be smack in the middle of dinner time? Why not afterschool? or weekends? Do parents prefer this time because it is after work?

A few years ago, my husband's family won the green card lottery and moved to the US (he had come years before for his work). His sister was 14 at the time, and her English was already excellent when they moved but she was still pretty shy about speaking up in public. One evening she was over at our place and said she wanted to order in Chinese food-- we decided what we wanted and I suggested she do the ordering. "But, me? They won't understand me because of my accent. Or what if I say something wrong?" she replied in perfect English. I assured her they would understand her, that this was a task she could definitely accomplish-- worst case, she could hang up and I would call back. She called up and placed the order without having to repeat herself once. I had to give her a shove in the rear to do it, but once she did it, she felt much more confident in her ability to communicate with people and accomplish real world tasks in her new environment. I said then (and I've repeated to her so often since then) "if you really don't want to do something, fine; but if you're simply afraid to do it, that's no excuse for not trying".

My Mom always said to me when I was growing up, "Honey, if you have a problem, solve it. Otherwise, quit whining about it." (As I've mentioned before on this blog, she was/is a bootstrap kind of gal.) I think kicking kids in the rear to try new things and reminding them that failure is not the worst thing that can happen help them become responsible and pro-active adults. And while it's better to prepare them in advance college is a great time for trial by fire: if your kid ruins a load of laundry, gets their first 'D' or bounces a check, they'll learn much more quickly how to avoid doing it in the future if you don't bail them out.

Posted by: JKR | October 16, 2006 4:08 PM

"To the hilarious poster who thinks cars are bigger now than they used to be - that is so funny."

Thirty or forty years ago (when many of us were kids), there were no SUVs, few pickup trucks outside of rural areas, few vans, and no Hummers. Buicks, Caddys, Chevys, etc., may have been big, but they were low-to-the-ground, and you could see children run out into the car's path.

Now, these big, fat-a** gas-monsters are everywhere, and the people driving them are, more often than not, multitasking. (Reading, eating, talking on the phone, putting on makeup, screaming at kids who are interrupting the phone calls, etc.)

Glad you think it's funny.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 4:12 PM

What do you consider to be dinner hour?

Sports practices are usually scheduled to allow working parents time to get home and get the children to the practice locations. For outdoor activities other than summertime, it must be early enough to get practice in before dark. Also, most of the recreational coaches are volunteers, and couldn't coach if practices were immediately after school.

Posted by: to jkr | October 16, 2006 4:13 PM

Please give me one example where someone has hit a child in their Excursion (or other sized car) because they didn't see them or because they were: Reading, eating, talking on the phone, putting on makeup, screaming at kids who are interrupting the phone calls, etc. More kids have been run over by their parents' tractors.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 4:17 PM

Oh no! Do I helicopter? My son is only five years old, but this weekend he got really mad at me when I ran the metro card through the machine for him. At the next stop, I made sure there wasn't a crowd behind us, and that kid put his card in the right way, pulled it out, and walked through! I'm so proud of him, but he had to push ME to let him have that little bit of independence. I suspect he has a few more tricks up his sleeve and a few more lessons to teach me.

Anyway, the conversation today has helped me be a bit more aware of my parenting (using it as verb just flows, sorry...) and give my ever-more independent guy some more space.

And by the way, the weather is great, the tourists aren't overrunning Washington, and it's worth the effort to take your kids "sightseeing" in this wonderful city. Talk about a low-cost activity!

Posted by: Arlinigton Dad | October 16, 2006 4:19 PM

Re sports practices and dinner hour.

I knew one coach who tried to incorporate soccer practice into the aftercare program attended by nearly all the team players. The school fields were the same fields used by the Boys & Girls clubs, starting at 6:00

He figured out how to work an early schedule two days per week, planning to coach soccer between 4:30 and 5:30. Parents were thrilled to have soccer over at the same time they showed up to pick up children from school after care.

But insurance details/wrangling between the school district,the parks system, and the Boys & Girls clubs did not permit this elegant solution.

We live more complex lives now, including the bureaucractic structures where work, school, parks, recreation clubs, and local government overlap.

Posted by: College Parkian | October 16, 2006 4:23 PM

oh no, someone started the SUV debate!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 4:27 PM

Oh no, you know what I just realized??? All the parents who currently helicopter are not recognizing themselves in this blog, or think we're all crazy or whatnot... while all the parents who currently let their bratty kids get away with everything and run wild and do whatever they want are now afraid they're helicoptering, so they're going to ease up on Junior even more! Aagh!! We're all doomed!!!

btw, I hope "Junior" is not a name associated with any race, creed, or sexual orientation, so I don't get angry responses here.

Posted by: spunky | October 16, 2006 4:29 PM

"What do you consider to be dinner hour?"

Well, I'm pregnant with my first, so now dinner is 7:30 or 8:00... but when I was growing up, dinner was at 6:00 so I would have time for homework, getting ready for bed, and some time with Mom before 9:00 bedtime. If you have several kids, some older, some younger, I would imagine the younger ones have a tougher time waiting to eat until big sis' or bro' gets home from soccer at 7:00 or 7:30... so everyone eats separately or gets a Happy Meal in the car. Not the ideal solution... but maybe I'm delusional to think/hope/wish a family sit-down meal is possible most nights of the week. I honestly don't know (everyone laments the family dinner has gone the way of the dinosaur, so I can only assume this is a problem for a lot of people)-- I realize I may end up eating a lot of my words once this baby (and any to follow) actually arrives!

Posted by: JKR | October 16, 2006 4:31 PM

Everyone's actually being quite nice today. I think all the nasty ones moved over to the layaway at WalMart debate.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 4:32 PM

"Please give me one example where someone has hit a child in their Excursion (or other sized car) because they didn't see them or because they were: Reading, eating, talking on the phone, putting on makeup, screaming at kids who are interrupting the phone calls, etc."

My friend's husband was killed by an SUV driver who was on her cellphone getting directions while driving on the Beltway at 65+ mph. Ok, not a kid getting hit, but the father of two children. Please don't tell me that talking on a cell phone doesn't distract a driver. I was almost hit by a driver who ran red light while talking on her cell phone two weeks ago at the intersection of M St. and Conn. Ave. Every day I see dumbasses yakking on their phones and running red lights during rush hour.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 4:33 PM

Here is an idea: watch your kids and keep them off the road, then you don't have to worry about any car big or small hitting them.

Then you will be a hover parent.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 4:35 PM

Was he standing in the middle of the beltway?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 4:39 PM

Ok, I'm old and I don't have kids. But when I was in high school, we practiced sports after school on the school playing fields and then one parent gave several kids a ride home, usually rotating among parents. Once we were 16 and had licenses, we drove ourselves to school and then home after practice. It seems to me that most kids in this area get cars when they are 16 and they drive to school. I also notice a lot of playing fields still connected to schools, so why are kids being driven to other "practice areas". Are there too many sports activities competing for the field connected to the school? Ok, I understand that kids under 16 need to be driven, but does each individual parent need to do this every day? I honestly don't know and don't quite understand.

Posted by: Sharon R. | October 16, 2006 4:41 PM

"Was he standing in the middle of the beltway?"

Of course not. I thought you were trying to say that people on cell phones don't cause accidents.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 4:43 PM


I've just become a new parent. I think I'm good, but maybe time will test that.

My sister has a 15 yr old daughter and 17 year old son. I love my sister, we've always gotten along very well .. Until not long ago at least where I accused her of "over parenting". WOW, what anger came from her. I've since learned to lay waaay off that subject.

How is it possible to tell someone that? It's almost like telling an alchoholic they drink too much.

Posted by: Bob | October 16, 2006 4:43 PM

"The other big road block is the elimination of sidewalks. I swear that gave kids a lot of freedom to have the run of the neighborhood. I really hate that communities are not being built to be walkable."
This is a really good point. It seems like the most walkable communities are older and, often, more expensive. This is not just an issue for kids.

Posted by: anon mom | October 16, 2006 4:43 PM

that's bad that he got killed, but you can't blame the car for operator error.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 4:51 PM

According to Dr's Joan B. Kelly and Sanford Breaver, mothers divorcing receive the children in 90% of the cases and on average 50% of the husbands income tax free with which to raise the children.great incentives for divorce. This all comes about in most states excluding 11, because of legislation that was proposed and written by NOW and other tax funded womens organizations and the monkey see monkey do mentality of the court system. This year in New York a preference for joint physical custody for fit parents was before the legislature, it was defeated. The only opposition came from these organizations. There is a measure before the voters of N. Dakota, same opposition, same in every state. These organizations are hurting our children, women spend some time and look at the stats. on school achievment, juvenile crime, teen births etc etc. etc. in every catogory the rates are far far higher for children in single parent homes.

Posted by: mcewen | October 16, 2006 4:55 PM

"How is it possible to tell someone that? It's almost like telling an alchoholic they drink too much."

Easy! "I think you're totally smothering your kids. Perhaps if you drank more, you'd find it easier to back off."

Posted by: Lizzie | October 16, 2006 4:56 PM

talk about a quick comeback

snap.

Posted by: to mcewen | October 16, 2006 4:57 PM

Elimination of Sidewalks or the expansion of suburban density to rural town that cant keep up. Some very interesting studies have been done, the most elegant is that pinting white shoulder lines on the side of the road creating a 10 foot auto-path makes a dramatic improvement in road safety for pedestrains and bicyclists. When drivers only see the ceneter line they spilt the diference between road's edge and the center - often creating the "I didnt see them, they were in my way" response. Roads are not car railroads.

Helicopter/Hover parents. Hmm - Allow me to stereotype: Dad's let the kid fail and learn from mistakes, Mom's always want to protect, preserve self esteeem and promote.

Sports/Activities/Overscheduling: Very tough to measure and moderate. To compete in the HS arena for the arts or sports difficult to make a kid choose to specialize in elementary school. Either way you'll be criticized: Overscheduled or Overfocused. Everybody is a critic.

DD helped me paint a room yesterday. Good times.

Posted by: Fo3 | October 16, 2006 4:59 PM

"Please give me one example where someone has hit a child in their Excursion (or other sized car) because they didn't see them or because they were: Reading, eating, talking on the phone, putting on makeup, screaming at kids who are interrupting the phone calls, etc. More kids have been run over by their parents' tractors."

Well, if this is true, then I guess all that discussion a couple weeks ago about "mommy spaces" in parking lots is moot.

Hear that, ladies? Your kid is in danger of getting run over only if you live on a farm and have a tractor. Now you can all sleep better at night!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 5:01 PM

Painting, arghhghg, cant type, Is that my mom's fault or the latex paint?

Posted by: Fo3 | October 16, 2006 5:02 PM

Please give me one example where someone has hit a child in their Excursion (or other sized car) because they didn't see them or because they were: Reading, eating, talking on the phone, putting on makeup, screaming at kids who are interrupting the phone calls, etc. More kids have been run over by their parents' tractors.

Posted by: | October 16, 2006 04:17 PM
=====

Just follow links cited in most of the cell phone driving laws that are creeping up. Statistics show that distracted driving is rising extremely rapidly and cell phone usage is one of the primary causes and they become more commonplace.

At least 5000 people per year are killed due to distracted drivers. This has been true since at least 1989 (the earliest that I could find references to statistics). Although fatalities are going down, the number of accidents which include injuries seems to be going up. You can find references and statistics at various sites, but I don't have much time (I'm late leaving now). I did find the following two sites that have a lot of information on them. I sifted through the sites to find references to the above.

Although cell phone usage is the primary cause of distracted driving, it is far from the only one.

http://www.bts.gov
http://www.drdriving.org/pedestrians/

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 16, 2006 5:05 PM

or was pinting a freudian slip for a draught off my CO2 pwered beer dispenser?

Posted by: Fo3 | October 16, 2006 5:06 PM

or was pinting a freudian slip for a draught off my CO2 powered beer dispenser?

Posted by: Fo3 | October 16, 2006 5:06 PM

"How is it possible to tell someone that? It's almost like telling an alchoholic they drink too much."

Actually, overinvolved parents and alcoholics have a lot in common physiologically as well as psychologically. The need to over-control their kids can be an anxiety response that soothes their own needs for reassurance.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 5:09 PM

Just a quick thought:

Is there such a thing as a "helicopter grandparent"? For example, a grandmother thinks that just because her coworker's granddaughter is learning sign language, her own grandson should also learn.

Posted by: mth1031 | October 16, 2006 5:13 PM

Don't we all have our helicoptor moments? As the child forges forward, we might not see that they need or have earned more freedom, more responsibility.

We don't want to see them in pain. That is normal, even biological. But parenting sometimes takes courage to do what is right, instead of what is easier. Sometimes, courage is simply saying no, setting limits, or following through on the structure.

I have a friend who admits her natural peak parenting phase is toddler-to- preschool. She knows to keep toning herself down for the next phases. BTW, she channeled this ability/focus into dog training. She works miracles, for peanuts, on difficult dogs.

When a teen boy in our neighborhood was killed by a train, I admit that ALL of us helicoptored big-time for a while. And, some of us agreed to scrutinze and check a bit more about teens with "where are you going?" "Who will you be with?" We also phoned each other to check on parental presence. Alcohol remains a real problem with young people. Even "good kids" from involved families.

So, the balance point changes. We need to keep adjusting parenting to the children at hand.

Posted by: College Parkian | October 16, 2006 5:26 PM

Helicopter parents have been around forever. They think their kids are entitled and they intervene on their behalf rather than let them achieve for themselves. Around here, they have lawyers for parents.

Seriously over scheduled children are newer and have engineers as parents. My own over-scheduled child is one of the toughest nine year olds around. She wouldn't let me over protect her if I tried. I'll get her extra coaching and practice but she succeeds and/or fails on her own.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 5:40 PM

Wow, reading this parenting blog I see the same problem when people discuss driving habits - Everyone thinks they do it the best and nobody thinks they suck at it.

Posted by: Arsenal | October 16, 2006 5:51 PM

One of my favorite scenes on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood involved Fred Rogers and "us" getting ready to go visit the local theater group. Suddenly, the phone rang, he answered, spoke for a few seconds, put it down and said, "Well, they're not quite ready yet, so we're going to have to think of something to do for a few minutes. What do you think we should do?"

Wow! When has a TV program lately offered kids such a real-life situation and solution?

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. .

Posted by: wenholdra | October 16, 2006 5:58 PM

"Helicopter parents have been around forever. They think their kids are entitled and they intervene on their behalf rather than let them achieve for themselves. Around here, they have lawyers for parents.

Seriously over scheduled children are newer and have engineers as parents"

Oh dear, my child is doomed - he's got a lawyer and an engineer as parents! Ack, run for it kid, before it's too late.

And for what it's worth, Arsenal, I know I'm a terrible driver and I try to do it as rarely as possible. I think I'm an ok parent, but I fret about that a lot more.

Posted by: Megan | October 16, 2006 6:07 PM

Everyone's actually being quite nice today. I think all the nasty ones moved over to the layaway at WalMart debate.

Posted by: | October 16, 2006 04:32 PM

The person who made that nasty comment didn't!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 6:55 PM

Lizzie I laughed so hard at your 4:56 that I snorted beer out of my nose.

megan, I'm sure that I'm a worse driver than you, and my helicoptering skills are even worse. Over the last few months, you've become my favorite lawyer, and I'm so tempted to ask you if you & hubby are going to make another baby, however, by the comments from the other day's thread on how rude it would to do this, I'm not going to ask. Please share though, on how you celebrated passing the bar.

An now my annoying son has this tune cutie he is singing to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.",
but the words are:
If you're emo and you know it, cut your wrists.

Laughter is my therapy, the best medicine for all parents.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 16, 2006 7:48 PM

Largest problem I have encountered among my 50-ish parent-peers is too much laissez-faire parenting from ages 0-18 combined with overdoing everything for the child - so that when the child is 18, has never done own laundry, shopped for and prepared a family dinner, done personal banking, ridden public transportation, etc.

Parents seem afraid to make reasonable demands and act instead as if they want to be buddy-buddy with child rather than setting expectations. This undermines adult growth, autonomy, personal responsibility, which is the goal of parenting after all, isn't it?

Posted by: JayoBlade | October 16, 2006 9:15 PM

"If you're emo and you know it, cut your wrists." -- writes FO4 about annoying son. DASon must be nearly a teen, if not one already.

'Emo' means sensitive, confessional, tortured, reveal-the-soul indie music, typically acoustic or relatively unplugged.

Some emo-dudes and dudettes wear dark clothes with Converse tennies, and square, black Buddy Holly-like glasses.

Oh yes. I played a Janis Ian song for some emo-youth: "I Learned the Truth at Seventeen." They nodded at her emo-ness.

Posted by: College Parkian | October 16, 2006 9:20 PM

Three things that have changed over the last decades that I haven't seen mentioned.

Schools have gotten larger and more widely spaced apart. It isn't possible for all kids to walk to school anymore. Or to the neighborhood park. Not to mention all the developments that were built without sidewalks.

Along with this, our neighborhoods are more anonymous. If you don't know the people on your block, you're no doubt more reluctant to let your kids out to play by themselves.

Three, most families "space" our kids. Back in the 50s, kids were born one after the other. I don't think there was ever time to do more than get the basics taken care of. Any parents of multiples out there feel like they are overparenting?

Posted by: karin | October 16, 2006 10:04 PM

The term "overparenting" might need some examination. The problem arises when we confuse managing our children with actual parenting. I believe we meaningfully parent our kids if we are there for them when they need us to help them make sense of this crazy world we live in, be they toddlers or teens...and I don't mean sometimes there for them, I mean all the time and for the long haul, emotionally available and supportive. And of course this can be done even if its fit into a working parents' hours. Giving as much as we can in this way is not "overparenting", and is available free of charge, except for tapping into the depths of our own emotions and hearts. The important distinction is that all of the involvement or pressure or micromanagement by parents may seem like parenting, but can't substitute for real emotional involvement and caring. No one has a monopoly on raising children well, no matter how many outward symbols of success they seem to have.

Posted by: longtime mom | October 16, 2006 11:08 PM

Father of 4, if you're still up, since it's after 11 out there: Megan had a lovely party on Saturday night. A good time was had by all! Not to mention her husband's a great cook.

And thanks for sharing the great story about your son with the blind girl at the playground. Who else would know how to play with her like that? You are raising wonderful, compassionate kids!

Posted by: niner | October 16, 2006 11:14 PM

Father of 4, I'm honored! We did have a big party on Saturday (glad you had a time, niner!) and of course, we celebrated ourselves immediately on getting the good news. But my husband feels quite strongly about being "Father of 1" and I think that's probably best for me too. I love my little boy like crazy, but so far the thought of doing the early days all over again makes me panic. ALthough, oddly, the idea of being pregnant and giving birth again makes me wistful, I suppose I'm nuts.

Sky report: This afternoon when the boy and I took a pre-dinner walk, it was a clear, bright blue with lots of big puffy clouds scattered all around, lit up with the setting sun's rays. By the way, I've meant to tell you what a gift the sky reports have been, I pay so much more attention now and it's really been a lovely thing for me.

Posted by: Megan | October 16, 2006 11:35 PM

"ALthough, oddly, the idea of being pregnant and giving birth again makes me wistful, I suppose I'm nuts."

Megan, if you're still up, since it's now approaching 11 *here*: my father-in-law has a theory that hormones erase all of the pain from birth, morning sickness, etc., and cause you to only remember things like feeling the baby kick, holding him/her for the first time, etc. I think he's on to something. And whatever it is, it's giving him another grandkid!

Posted by: niner | October 17, 2006 12:33 AM

"And thanks for sharing the great story about your son with the blind girl at the playground. Who else would know how to play with her like that? You are raising wonderful, compassionate kids!"

Yep, too bad his son is so annoying or he'd be perfect!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2006 9:41 AM

Leslie -
As someone who ended up with a stepchild I wasn't expecting and knowing people who adopted children who were not babies, I wonder if you would solicit experiences from these late/accidental/all-of-a-sudden parents!

Posted by: Idea for Future Column | October 17, 2006 4:36 PM

One item what I noticed in your column today that might be part of the problem of women still being treated unfairly or being put down and this is your statement to the effect that you are not a psychologist or medical researcher. If you have the evidence and good reasoning, what difference does it make?
Some women can tend be either too timid or too aggressive in expressing a well developed opinion. So called education or experience can often mean nothing,just look at our current foreign policy and political messes. If you look at the resumes of these people, for example, one should expect enlightened genius. When one has the facts and arguments, forget about the so called experts! Deference for all of us is a function of well defined obedience to lawful authority and no more. I have reminded both of daughters of that.

Posted by: Peter Roach | October 30, 2006 9:27 AM

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