I used to be a helicopter parent, constantly hovering over my kids’ lives trying to micromanage every aspect. For instance, I not only helped them with their homework but also went as far as rewriting some of their essays to ensure they got the best grades. I wouldn’t let them play anywhere outside, even in our yard without me being there to keep a close eye on them. Additionally, I never let them participate in any kind of risky play because, well, it was too dangerous.
As they grew up, I gradually morphed into a snowplow father too. I couldn’t bear to see my kids failing or getting disappointed so I did my best to plow forward in their lives, removing any obstacles that they might encounter.
I thought I had my children’s best interests at heart but somewhere along the way, the wires between trying to be a supportive, concerned parent and an overprotective helicopter or snowplow father got crossed.
My behavior was not only exhausting but was also not in my kids’ best interest. One day the penny dropped as I noticed my kids were not as active as others were and they were also having a hard time handling decisions and conflict by themselves.
I decided to change my ways and become a father who empowers his kids, not one who cripples them with anxiety. Here are the 5 things that helped:
1. Giving my kids more freedom.
I had to relax and accept that I couldn’t protect my kids from all the dangers in the world, I could only teach them how to handle them. So I gradually let them take small risks and gave them a little more freedom. For instance, while they could go skateboarding, they always had to wear safety gear.
2. Letting them make their own decisions.
Along with a little freedom, I let my kids make some decisions of their own. I started off by giving them the chance to pick their own outfits for school and choosing the extracurricular activities they wanted to participate in. I also included them in some family decisions such as choosing a vacation destination. As a result, my kids gradually began voicing their opinions and became more confident.
3. Equipping them with basic life skills.
As my kids became teenagers, I realized I had only a short time to teach them the basic life skills they needed before they left the nest. I wanted them to know how to manage money, interact with others, live healthily and whatever else was required for them to become independent young adults.
4. Letting them fail and make mistakes.
Watching your child fail is hard but it’s part of life. After all, kids learn by taking risks and making mistakes. Letting go of my helicopter parenting tendencies meant that I had to stop doing things for my kids that they could do themselves. I gave them responsibilities and let them learn from the consequences of their actions (within reason, of course).
5. Teaching them to become problem solvers.
Finally, I stopped swooping in to rescue my kids every time they cried for help. They had to learn how to solve problems and handle conflict on their own. Whenever they came to me with a problem, I asked them what they wanted to do about it and we brainstormed solutions together.
Bringing up kids isn’t easy and as parents, it’s natural that we worry about our children’s safety and well-being. However taking a step back, getting a grip on our anxiety and giving them the freedom to make mistakes while simultaneously equipping them with skills necessary to problem-solve has a much better outcome.