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Hovering Helicopters Are Not Productive

Do you belong to a group of parents not so affectionately known as helicopter parents?

Maybe you don’t recognize your membership in this group of moms. Maybe you see it in others, but not in yourself. After all – you are only looking out after the safety of your children. You want them to grow up healthy, happy and full of the same character and values you hold dear.

Unfortunately, one of the laws of parenthood you discover as your children begin to reach double digits, is they are becoming their own person, with their own set of values, personality and desires. Yes, you can shape their future, but you can’t pour them into a mold you want them to become.

Yes, you can give them guidance – but the greater your insistence they follow your ‘guidance’ or ‘rules,’ the faster they run in the opposite direction.

I was working at a small rehabilitation hospital in Indianapolis as a case manager when the unit manager (head nurse) turned in her resignation. I applied for the position but was told I lacked the experience they were looking for – so they hired another woman who came “highly recommended” from her past position.

This recommendation was likely because they were eager for her to move on to her next post.

So the hospital I worked for hired her and she quickly became a pain in everyone’s behind. I was two months pregnant with twins (and unbeknownst to everyone, just two months shy of bed rest and maternity leave).

She was, what you would lovingly call, a micromanager. She was in EVERYONE’s business trying to keep all the plates spinning on her own. She asked you to do a job and then watched over your shoulder as you did it.

She did it to those under her and those above her. It was no wonder her past boss wanted to ensure she was hired somewhere!

Imagine what that’s like at work. . . your boss doesn’t trust you. She doesn’t believe you’re capable of doing the job you’ve been doing months before she got there. She checked up on the staff nurses, on the administration, on the case managers, therapists and respiratory therapists. If anyone had anything to do with patients on her unit, she was all over your business.

While I was not thrilled with bedrest (premature labor) or the risks involved (of course!) I was grateful to get off the unit for several months. Everyone of my decisions was questioned and became a topic for discussion. I truly wasn’t sure where she found the time in her day.

This is EXACTLY how children of helicopter parents feel. It’s what they experience. It is how they live their day – without the relief of maternity leave 🙂

One of the rules of great staff management is to trust the staff you hire – and if you don’t trust them then hire others. Trust they know their business and judge them on the results – not on the minutiae they go through to achieve their results. When the path taken isn’t safe, or the decisions about to be made may increase a risk for poor outcomes, it’s time to step in and give an opinion.

Time for a confession. While I understood the concept – and lived the reality of micromanagement – I was once a helicopter parent.

Let me rephrase that. I was a helicopter parent with each of my children until they reached seven or eight years. Food, toys, toxins, television, bed time, nap time, pillows, allergies, medications . . . you name it – I was sure to oversee each decision and every movement those little ones under my care made.

My sister is fond of saying I wouldn’t let her drive the twins (the oldest) until they were out of car seats. While I’d like to think she’s exaggerating – I’m afraid she’s right. When it came to their safety I was momma bear times ten.

Once they reached seven and the next one had come along, I was a little less strict about a few things – but continued to watch their friends closely, how late they stayed up, how well they cleaned up their toys and was diligent about their school work.

It was overwhelming, but it paid great dividends when they were older. The time put in as children paid off when they were teens and I was slowly letting them make their own decisions so they could fail while they were still at home and over a safety net.

In my opinion, the danger in helicopter parenting is not between infancy and seven, but rather as they grow older and more independent. Suddenly habits of seven years are falling away and you may not recognize how much of a helicopter you’ve become!

 

Raising children is a bit like herding cats. The more you push in one direction, the harder they push back in the other.

 

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