Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How I Failed as a Father... Maybe

"... there are 2 sides to every coin, so lets flip that coin over"

I expect that for every parent suffering from empty nest syndrome has similar thoughts. And I am equally confident that each parent asks themselves similar questions, with a wide variety of internal responses to these questions.

My thoughts always end up hovering about the fact that I am guilty of being a helicopter parent (yes, pun intended). I was totally immersed in my sons educational, social and athletic growth. The school years were spent at the table "helping" with his homework (and now I feel safe to confess, that a good number of times, I was the person receiving his grades, not him. Athletics were a combined effort, I continually packed his equipment for his various sports, I paced the sidelines, and ski hills - just searching for time to sneak him some advice. I was probably the only father that stood at the side of the skateboard park, complimenting him on his manoeuvres, and making sure a helmet was permanently affixed to his head. I think this paints a bit of a picture.

What makes these confessions of being a helicopter parent even more engrained in my retrospection is the increased awareness of the poisons and damage a parent does by over parenting a child. Talk shows, call in shows, social media - all in unanimous believe that we (I) irreparably damaged my child.

It is key, to clear the difference of a helicopter parent, and a parent that suffocates a child. I believe that a parent that refused to let a child leave the yard until they are 16 or makes scenes and sporting events, or completely stifles a child's personality is beyond what so many of us helicopter parents believe, and to be frank, this type of unquestionably unhealthy parenting method is a psychiatric problem and needs professional help. There is a clear line that differentiates a helicopter parent, and a suffocating parent - so I want to be clear that I speak only of the former - the latter is better addressed by professionals.

So based on the accepted belief that we now as a culture are harming our children's maturing by being a helicopter parent. We MUST let our children fail, in order to learn and grow. When our children show up at volleyball without their footwear, then we must let them sit out the game, be punished by the coach - because accepted knowledge is that our children will learn from these mistakes, and learn to be more responsible.

Never in a million years would I allow this scenario to happen, I would jump in the car and race back home to get his volleyball shoes or even run to a sports store to purchase new ones, to ensure that he was able to play in the game.

Again, current belief is when your child forgets his lunch, let him go without that day, as they will remember that, learn from that mistake and never forget it again. Well, I have left work, driven home many times to make sure the forgotten lunch was delivered before lunch time.

The examples of what NOT to do are endless, but basically all the same, let them make mistakes, let them fall down a few times - they will suffer the consequences and learn and become productive, learned adults.

So - with this line of beliefs, I am a complete failure -  I intercepted many, many opportunities for my son to fail, countless actually. So he MUST be scarred and have a adulthood of challenges dealing with the real world ahead of him. Well DAMN IT.

WAIT, maybe it is worth thinking along the lines of "for every action, there is an equal and opposite action".. or simpler yet - there are 2 sides to every coin, so lets flip that coin over.

So as a helicopter parent, one makes every effort for your child to avoid failure.. but what in fact is that also doing? That is at the same time, letting your child experience success. So what is a better influence on a child's raising, doing a school project alone, unassisted and getting a 60%, or having significant input by a parent, and getting a 90% - This is certainly an arguable outcome. But, does the sense of self worth, pride, and accomplishment of a top of the class grade, not stay with the child, and in a generation of low self esteemed children, successes breed success. (this too is an accepted axiom).

So delivering my sons volleyball shoes (or the like) to allow him to participate, feel success, not overrule the accepted failure lessons by sitting on the bench?

A weakness in the "learning by failure" also has a bit of a chink in the logic.. Anyone who have parented, knows for a fact that teenagers or younger, in their self centered world, in fact more frequently than not, do NOT learn from failure - as frustrating as it is as a responsible adult to watch. A forgotten lunch (and resulting hunger pain filled afternoon of school) is far from a guarantee that they will not forget it again. But, with my realizations that being a helicopter parent may offer more pro's than cons - a delivered lunch to school DOES guarantee one thing, you have a well nourished child that is will equipped to be in a learning state of mind, not one with low blood sugar and resulting near zero attention span.

Yes, I am beating this scenario to death - but this logic of embracing success versus learning from failure can be applied in near every case of "helicoptering".

So I feel refreshed in knowing that having my son raised in an environment of self confidence, long lists of successes... and yes, due to my intervention, a short list of failures.. I may not have failed as a father.

Would I do a lot of things differently??? - of course. Is this realization perfect, of course not. But if you are like me, a helicopter parent feeling beat up from all the naysayers.. feel good about creating this positive environment for your child.. They have a long adult hood to experience failures, and learn lessons, but as an adult they are much better equipped emotionally to manage these.. and will have a solid foundation of self confidence from their childhood to rely on.

Time to eat my lunch now - ah DAMN IT - I forgot it.

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