A few months ago, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam called for Singapore parents to evolve in the area of their parenting style. He particularly called for parents to do away with the potentially harmful practice of helicopter parenting.
About competitive helicopter parents who have unrealistic expectations for their children, Minister Shanmugaratnam said that there can be a “greater sense of anxiety, a loss of a sense of individuality or independence, and greater stress,” that can develop in the children who are exposed to this type of parenting.
Are you a helicopter parent?
Helicopter parenting connotes a vivid image of a parent hovering over their child, watching whatever they do and following wherever they go.
For example, there are parents who would befriend, or worse yet, intimidate their child’s teacher to haggle for higher grades or class incentives. Some parents would go as far as actually doing their child’s homework or project for them, just so they would get a better grade. There are also parents who keep their children on a short leash, always needing to know what their kids are doing or who they’re with.
Helicopter parents also often spoon-feed their children to make life easier and help them succeed, or so they think. These parents often don’t make their kids do chores. Neither do they allow their kids to make decisions for themselves, nor are they allowed to solve problems on their own.
Helicopter parenting can take other forms. In Singapore, we are driven by the ‘kiasu’ mentality. This fear of lagging behind others and the need to succeed in everything can drive parents to overprotect and over-control their children.
Sound familiar? If any of the previous examples remind you of yourself, then you might be guilty of helicopter parenting.
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How helicopter parenting can do more harm than good
Even though most helicopter parents have well-meaning intentions and plans for success for their children, this parenting style may just end up doing more damage to their children in the long run.
Research shows that helicopter parenting can stunt a child’s emotional growth and affect their social skills and behaviour. The long-term effects of perpetually hovering over your child can be seriously damaging. Children with helicopter parents can grow up with low self-esteem, make poor decisions, develop unrealistic goals for themselves, and have trouble socializing and making friends.
Here’s a nugget of truth for us all. Parents who go out of their way to make everything in life go smoothly for their children aren’t really preparing them for success. They are actually making them vulnerable to failure.
For example, a child keeps forgetting to bring their homework with them to school. The parent, not wanting their child to suffer the consequences, would take the forgotten homework to their child during school hours. While it may seem like what any caring parent would do, the habit does not teach a child to be responsible of their own actions. The child ends up always thinking that their parents would deal with their failings for them.
In other words, helicopter parents end up being safety-net parents, and children never learn to take responsibility for their own lives.
So, what can you do to upskill your parenting style?
Manage your expectations
As a parent, you must know when to assist your child with their tasks and when to let them work on their own. Children must learn to develop a sense of responsibility and own up to their actions. Instead of doing their homework for them, guide your child into solving the problem on their own. Provide them with the necessary tools and point them in the right direction.
In this highly competitive culture, it is quite common to encounter – or even grow up with – parents who treat their children as though they are trophies. These parents might set unrealistic expectations for their children, controlling their schedule and pressuring them to excel in academics and numerous extracurricular activities. Competitive parents can often brag about their child’s achievements on social media. These parents view their child’s achievements as a measurement of their own worth as parents.
Rather than conditioning your child to work hard in order to prove themselves to you or to others, it is best if you guide them to improve themselves and their natural strengths.
Develop healthy emotional bonds
Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but growing up Asian, we aren’t really used to our parents verbally expressing their admiration or their love for us. Oftentimes, parents withhold praise from their children and don’t go easy on the punishment, thinking that “tough love” is the best way to raise successful children.
Here is how you can make a change. If you want to upskill from traditional authoritarian parenting, it’s best to live by the parenting method of positive reinforcement.
How do you do this? Well, here’s one place to start. Instead of focusing on what your child does wrong, focus on what they do right. Praise them for their good choices and the things work hard at.
Enforcing regular punishment teaches the child to obey you out of fear and not respect. If you keep on highlighting their mistakes, it’s possible that the child will develop low self-esteem which could lead to more serious mental and emotional issues as they grow older.
Positive reinforcement allows you to develop a healthy emotional bond with your child. Rather than praising you child for being smart, praise them for their hard work. In doing so, you inspire them with the value of hard work and effort.
Practice what you preach
Of course, actions always speak louder than words. You may not be aware of it, but your child watches you closely, too. As the old saying goes, “More is caught than taught.”
Your children can pick up and imitate way you respond to stress or problems and the way you treat people who have a lower economic status than you do. Whatever behaviour a child observes at home, they can bring to school. If you want to train your child to be a responsible citizen, then you as a parent are the best role model for them.
We’ll be writing more about parenting in issues to come, but in the meantime, I think you may find this article on approaches to parenting to be of interest: Giving Cash Rewards To Children – The Carrot and Stick Approach in Parenting
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