I love the title AND sub-title of this book! Who can’t relate personally to that urge to “hover” over kids’ interactions, despite the fact that we know they should handle their own stuff. It’s one of those things that’s so easy to see when someone else is doing it, but so hard to see when we do it ourselves (or easy to justify, right?!).
Dena Higley, an Emmy award winning soap opera writer and now author of this very funny and practical book on moms and kids, provided some MomTastic tips for The Lounge that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did…
5 Parenting Tips for your Teen from One Helicopter Mom to Another
by Dena Higley
1. Don’t ask a lot of questions.
“How was school?”
Ever gotten a decent answer to that one? Sometimes they don’t even bother with the common courtesy to mutter “fine”. Sometimes they just ignore me altogether. Which angers me and once anger comes into play for no good reason or a habitually, you’ve got a problem. Respect the fact that this kid wants part of his/her life off your radar. Let them slam into their room. Stay calm and upbeat. You won’t believe the stuff they’re willing to volunteer about their day later, on their own, initiating it themselves. A simple question from you seems like a full on interrogation to them.
Other sample questions to try to avoid, (I know, it’s hard): “Did you and (insert boyfriend/girlfriend’s name here) have a fight? Your teen is probably not going to divulge much info if the pain of the breakup is fresh and raw. If you and she (or he) have clearly communicated your mandates about sexual boundaries and are good with all that, then everything else is kind of none of your business. Besides, it’s so much sweeter when they comes to you with her little tearstained face to want to talk about it.
And finally, the most common fight-instigator of them all: “Do you have homework? Did you do it?” One mom told me every time she asked her son this question he felt like she was condescending to him as if he doesn’t know the status of his homework. It never did any good any way as the son didn’t ever do his homework. Since the question didn’t work and only caused a fight, I suggested she stop asking. She did and now there’s peace in their house and he’s actually doing his homework.
2. Don’ t buy them anything hot off the shelves.
What ever happened to waiting until Christmas or a birthday to get a much longed for gift? Kids these days have to have Halo 4 the second it hits the stands. I used to give into this kind of pressure and by Christmas I was scratching my head as to what to give my kids for gifts. They had everything already. This generation doesn’t know how to wait. MAKE THEM WAIT.
3. Don’t share your attention with your cell phone.
I don’t ever do this but I’ve seen other adults do this in the presence or their kids. Even my adult children do this. If you’re with someone else and you’re on your cell phone, you’re rude. It’s simply a message that says: you only deserve the smallest amount of my attention. It’s especially dangerous when parents are with little kids. Demi Moore tells the story of one of her kids getting so frustrated with her that she took her mom’s phone out of her hand and threw it in a fountain. This little girl was tired of being unimportant or invisible. Put the phone away. Stop trolling the internet 24/7. And for heaven’s sake, stop playing games. Put your phone in your purse or pocket and be PRESENT. Be in the moment one hundred percent.
Of course the exception to this is long car/train/plane rides where everyone hunkers down to pass the time and conversations are just not going to happen.
4. Don’t clean up after them.
This is a hard one for me. But it’s super important. My oldest daughter is a wife and a mom and she has no idea how to keep her house clean. I just never taught her. I don’t care if you have a housekeeper, put police tape across your kids’ bedrooms if you have to. That space is their responsibility. Every once in a while I’ll do a surprise inspection. (I get to because I’m the police chief.) This includes a thorough inspection of the bathroom. If I don’t like what I see, there will be dire consequences. My kids begged me to help them organize a schedule… who would do what chore on what day. Are you kidding me? If you’re old enough to take an SAT, you’re old enough to divvy up chores. I don’t very often lose my cool but this one made me see red. What mental laziness!
5. Set every boundary in the name of love.
You’re not going to all this trouble because you enjoy being unpopular. But your martyr days are over. (“Poor me, no one cares about this house but me… no one takes out the trash but me… blah, blah, blah.)
You’re setting these rules because you want your offspring to be strong, smart, capable, responsible adults. It’s not about you. Yes, you deserve their respect. But why? Because they won’t be respectful, kind adults if they can’t even respect their parents. Let them know how much you love them. Even if they act like they don’t believe it, it will sink in.
If you’ve read my book you know that I’m very much a fan of letting kids make a lot of their own decisions. BUT… every once in a while, they come up with such a boneheaded idea, I’ve had to but the kybosh on it. My kids are not used to this and they push back. On these occasions I’ve resorted to invoking a higher power, as in: “If I let you do this stupid, God is going to take away my Mommy Union Card.” I know it’s a crazy thing to say but it makes your child understand that you are not making stuff up, that no parenting decision is random, although it may seem that way on the surface. Each decision is part of a bigger picture… the cultivating of their character and sense of their self in the world. And frankly, you (as their mom) are still the keeper of their physical safety.)
On other occasions, when the stakes are low, I let them do stupid things. I go on record as saying I think it’s stupid. There’s nothing more gratifying that having your child say those three magic words: You were right. But you don’t gloat. You hug them and tell them you love them and that you, as an adult, also make stupid mistakes. And you remind them that we’re all in this together. To borrow a phrase from the 60’s. Make love, not war.
Author Bio: Dena Higley is author of Momaholic: Crazy Confessions of a Helicopter Parent and a recovering helicopter mom. An Emmy award-winning writer, she has been the head writer for Days of Our Lives and One Life to Live and is a playwright in Glendale, CA. She blogs at Moms Kids Love.
Editor’s Note: I love Dena’s approach, and think her ideas are fabulous. Teaching self-sufficiency is not the easy route, but it’s probably the safest way to getting these kids to fly the nest safely and responsibly one day. How about you? Are you a helicopter mom? Are you aware of hovering, or does it take you by surprise? How do your kids react when you hover vs. keeping your distance? Add a comment to this post!