Let Your Child Be the Helicopter


One of the toughest parts of parenting is letting our kids grow up. We want to hang on to them and keep them safe but our job is to let them go. It’s a process involving letting them do for themselves whatever they are capable of doing.

Ironically, when we hang on tightly we do not keep them safer because they are not given the opportunity to test themselves, to learn how to make decisions and to recover when they make a mistake.

Instead of being a helicopter parent, let them be the helicopter.

Let Your Child Be the Helicopter

Parenting is about raising kids to have both roots and wings.

First, we need to do the tough job of parenting, giving kids security and stability by modeling, expecting, demanding and supervising their behavior. We set limits, we discipline, we offer unconditional love and through this we raise kids ready to become capable. These are their roots.

From the stability of their roots, we give them wings. We understand that from their first independent breath we are engaged in the process of letting go. And it’s a process. Each developmental stage requires us to help them to develop the tools they need to move forward toward the day when they head out the door to create their own life.

I recently saw a photo of three children on a beach on the west coast. They were climbing all over some logs over the incoming tidewater. When you look carefully you can see that they are being very deliberate and careful in their actions but are clearly playing and clambering all over the place. They have wings.

From the time my son took his first step he loved to climb. And I’m afraid of heights.

One day he was playing in a gym program at the Y and I was appalled. There he was, five feet in the air and climbing. The young staff person took me aside and said, “Don’t look at the height. Watch his hands and feet and you will see just how careful he is being.” And she was right. With his hands and feet, three of the four were always stable on the rungs and he moved cautiously and deliberately. It was a good lesson.

Today we talk a lot about what we call helicopter parenting. We are seeing parents who are finding it a real challenge to give their kids wings and let them move toward independence. Instead of sitting back and watching them clamber on the logs, they hover. I recently visited a wonderful park designed for toddlers and preschoolers. It is totally fenced in, all the equipment is designed for little ones and the base is sand. My son and I were able to sit on a strategically placed bench, chat and watch my grandson play.

Most of the kids were playing with the toys, coming down slides, shoveling sand or asking their parents to push them on the swings. Then there were the other kids who couldn’t move with a parent holding their hand. I felt badly for those kids whose wings are being effectively clipped.

One of the most dangerous places at around 8:30 am and 3:00 pm is driving by a school. Dozens of parents who aren’t prepared to let their kids walk to school are lined up, often double-parking to drop off or pick up their children. These kids are darting between the cars and the rest of the traffic is at a standstill due to the traffic jam.

It is likely that all these children live within walking distance of the school and could easily make the trek with their friends, and we would avoid the annoying and dangerous traffic jam.

So, how do we help our kids learn to fly?

Remember when she took her first step and how exciting it was? You celebrated. You should now celebrate each of her transitions, to school, to summer camp, to take the bus downtown with a friend and to moving out of the house.

Teach her what she needs to know. Teach her how to walk to school with her friends. Walk with her at first and then let her go on her own.

Trust her. She will let you know when she’s ready for a new challenge.

Support her in her new ventures. When a child goes off to Kindergarten and her Mom is in tears it makes it hard for her to rise to the challenge. When we give them positive messages and are excited with them, they will thrive.

Permit them to own their own space. When they go off to summer camp, relax. Don’t be a parent who is constantly checking up on them. When they leave home to work or go to post secondary training, assume they can handle it. Instead of being the helicopter parent and hovering, let your child be the helicopter and slowly but surely take off on his own.

Our job is to raise our children to become capable young men and women and by giving them roots and wings we will accomplish this.

Bring Kathy to your Community

Do you want to hear more? Kathy is always happy to come and speak in your community, at you event or as a workplace wellness presentation. On her website  you can find more information on her material.

My presentations will share a basic value that I call

P.U.R.E. Parenting.

P — is a parenting plan

U — is unconditional love

R — is respect for your child as he is right now

E — is encouragement

Digital Books Make Parenting Information More Accessible.

There are times when digital is the perfect answer and let’s face it, on a holiday having access to hundreds of books on one small tablet is ideal. I always have my kindle with me when I travel.

There are lots of times when a busy parent would like to be able to simply read and my books are digital and make it easier for you to take a look.

Two of my parenting books started as print versions but the third is only digital. The first two are also now in digital format. Who’s in Charge Anyway? talks about roots. It provides a clear road map for parent to focus on the tough but rewarding job of raising children to be responsible, self-disciplined adults.

But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home talks about raising children to become capable young men and women.

The books are down to earth and common sense as well as easy to read. If you want some basic parenting tips and information these books are a good place to start.


Posted in News, Preschoolers, School-Age, Teens, Toddlers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2 Responses to Let Your Child Be the Helicopter

  1. Par Donahue says:

    Thanks for one of the best parenting blogs I have ever read.I have been a pediatrician for half a century and your advice is right on! Keep up the work. Let kids walk to school or take the bus. Our city has a great bus system and yet, parents are lined up 30-40 long following the bus to school. What a waste of time energy and a large daily contribution to air pollution. Thanks for all you do!

  2. Roz stroll1 says:

    Your articles are just delightful! Thank you…

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