Put It in Park: Lessons From a Parent and Teacher Who Retired Her Helicopter
Children with hovering parents and role models can have a difficult time with some important life skills
Image courtesy of Aleutie/Shutterstock.com
I love teaching. This profession affords knowledge, but just as much wisdom comes from parenting. The years help me evolve, learning valuable lessons on teaching and parenthood. One lesson I have learned is through my recently expired membership in the “Helicopter Parenting Club.” This membership used to be a badge of honor, but now I feel guilt at the damage I did in the name of love.
I came into teaching for children. I wanted to coddle those youngsters who found a seat in my heart. So many of them are hungry, literally and metaphorically. Hungry for validation, love and attention. Daily, I roamed the classroom, looking for lost souls who struggled. I noticed mistakes before they even finished a sentence, gently noting errors and correcting them. Questioning them about their struggles, I finished their sentences halfway through with how to get the “right answer.” Whenever I left them to work independently, there was a line at my desk that would put any Social Security Office waiting room to shame. I prided myself on this line; my students trusted me to guide them to success.
However, the longer I did this, the more I realized they didn’t want guidance; they wanted ANSWERS. Instead of building skills, I built dependence. Instead of building confidence, I built doubt. Things needed to change and, unfortunately, I did not realize this in class. I realized it when seeing my son’s tears, who was, to my dismay, now more man than child.
One day, I came home to find him sitting there with the face of the condemned. I questioned him, and he showed me a monstrous assignment from science class. Immediately, I got into my metaphorical helicopter and set my auto pilot for planet Google. “We can do this,” I told him. “It’s not hard. Let me show you.”
He burst into crocodile tears, ones that scar a mom forever. “No! “He shouted.” “I love that you want to help,” he said, “but nothing I have ever done has been my own. I don’t even feel proud of my grades because you helped me so much.” I could see defeat in his eyes. He wanted to fly solo, to feel powerful. In showing him my support, I had shown him his weakness. In my giving, giving, giving, he had never tested his own wings. What good was an “A” if it cost my son’s self-worth?
I decided to teach him a lesson, perhaps the best lesson ever — one unrelated to school. It was the power of his own voice and talent. Now, when he struggles, I question, not answer. I remind him of his strength, not barrage him with knowledge. I have even brought this epiphany into my classroom. Like caterpillars struggling to be butterflies, the metamorphosis must be theirs, not mine.
Even since that day, I let the child “pilot.” At times, there are winds that threaten their ride, but they always prevail. Each time they land safely, they feel the greatness of their spirit and their own person. This is the greatest lesson of all.
Dawn Bevier is a nationally board-certified English teacher and has been teaching for many years at Lee County High School in Sanford. After telling her students to never to stop pursuing their dreams, she is practicing what she preaches by freelance writing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.