• Jaime Richards

Hey, Helicopter Parents, Get a Dog!


If you think being a "helicopter parent" is harmless, you probably haven't listened to Julie Lythcott-Haims. The former dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford says that when parents don't step back, they're damaging their children.

Here's why: When parents "overparent" (do way too much for their kids) they're sending them the signal that they aren't good enough to make it on their own. That without mom's (or dad's) doting, they'll fail.

If parents sincerely want to see their children become self-supporting and self-reliant, Lythcott-Haims urges them to stop hovering. need to have the opportunity to screw up and fail.

The question is, do parents truly want to see their kids become self-supporting and self-reliant? Or is their (perhaps unconscious) aim to raise children who endlessly depend on them?

My first-grade teacher wife is an eye witness to mothers showing up at lunchtime to spoon feed (literally!) their six and seven year-olds. And I'll never forget when one of my 12th graders' mommy relentlessly pestered me about the B her son received on a project. (Her 18 year-old never said a word about it to me.)

For parents like these who can't bear to watch their babies grow up, I have a suggestion. Adopt a dog.

Dogs will never be potty trained. They'll never cook themselves a meal. They'll never brush themselves. They can't take themselves to the doctor. And doggy school teachers want you to be right there with them in class!

If you're one of those parents who won't let your kids grow up, get over it and cut the line. It may be painful at first for both you and them, but, unless your child has special needs, you've got to do it.

And if you can't get past the sadness, visit an animal shelter. There's a doggy waiting there for you who needs a helicopter parent.

Listen to Julie Lythcott-Haims here: http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201506251000