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Raising Independent Humans

Every few months a meme (or a link to a story) gets shared around Facebook. They are designed to tell us, modern parents, what we’re doing wrong.

We help kids too often and do too much. We coddle and helicopter, creating kids who can’t handle anything — who are entitled, have thin skins, and can’t deal with adversity or disappointment. Our overcompensation leads to a lack of knowledge, too. Kids can’t boil eggs or find their way from Point A to Point B. Even worse, they’re being set up for a lifetime of anxiety and depression. And, as usual, research supports this.

For instance, according to a 2016 research report out of Florida State, “students who had mothers who allowed them more autonomy reported higher life satisfaction, physical health and self-efficacy. However, students with a so-called helicopter parent were more likely to report low levels of self-efficacy, or the ability to handle some tougher life tasks and decisions. In turn, those who reported low levels of self-efficacy also reported higher levels of anxiety and depression, and lower life satisfaction and physical health.”

I’d love to poo-poo this, but as a recovering helicopter parent, I must hang my head in shame and agree. I have blogged extensively about how hands-on I was with my oldest. When she was little, I was right there to fix every problem, wipe every tear, and defend her against every slight. While my helicopter ways did come to an end when I got hurt, the damage was already done. After 11 years of hovering, my big girl has big issues making decisions. She’s anxious, too. Recently, she came to me holding two dresses. Which one should she wear to her award ceremony, she wanted to know. “Please don’t make me choose,” she said. “I don’t want to be late.” I didn’t want to be late, either, so I told her to wear the blue one, cringing that I didn’t make her choose herself.

I’m trying to dig us out of this hole, though. This morning my big girl made herself Cream of Wheat. She didn’t want to, but I made her do it. Was she happy? No, not really, but one day — when she is running late for work and needs a quick meal — she will appreciate that she can take care of her own needs. She’ll also appreciate that I started doing my job right. Rather than just taking care of her I taught her to take care of herself, which should be the end goal for all of us. If we do our jobs right we make our positions obsolete. At least until the grandkids come!

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