Over the last several months, as working parents have had to take on roles usually performed by teachers, coaches and school nurses—all while working full-time—we have become overextended and overwhelmed. Even those of us who never considered ourselves helicopter or lawnmower parents have found ourselves hovering over every aspect of our children’s lives. Even most of us who have always been hoverers would like nothing more than to have our co-pilots back.
During this pandemic, I’ve been continually inspired by parents who have taken the opportunity of increased time together to bake family bread and plant family gardens. It made me think that, as our parenting culture seems to be evolving, we might also take this opportunity to change the flight plan on our helicopter habits.
When our children are around us 24/7, it can feel impossible to manage every moment of their lives. This is a good thing! Once our children are safe and well cared for, we need to be able to get our own work done and enjoy some alone time.
With the following tips, course correcting your parenting style doesn't have to be painful. And it might be just the thing that helps you achieve the balance you’ve been seeking.
Allow your kids to learn to self-monitor by letting go of strict rules around screen use, bedtime, eating and diet. This means you can stop being the Screen time-Homework- Bedtime-Food Warden.
So, in the case of screen time, ask your child how much screen time per day they think is appropriate and how they plan to monitor it. Whatever their response is, say: “Let’s give it a try and see how it goes.”
This new navigation is a process. You’ll have to back off of peppering them with “How long have you been on your tablet?” and “Only one more hour!” types of questions and comments. If their own monitoring doesn’t work out, you can suggest they enable “Screen Time” if they have an Apple device, or hear their own ideas on how to make their system work better.
You are teaching your child a skill, and like any skill development, it’s going to take some time. But once they learn to keep themselves in check without you constantly on top of them, they’ll be able to apply that valuable skill to a host of other situations, making life a whole lot more manageable for you and them.
Sometimes it can feel easier to just do things yourself, but we’re not doing kids any favors by denying them the opportunity to take on responsibilities. Giving your kids a “longer leash” allows them to feel less controlled, more capable and more respected. So what does that look like?
If you’re like most moms, you hear “Mom, can you make me a snack?” countless times in a day. New course: this helicopter does not need a flight attendant. Children are perfectly capable of managing when, how much and what they eat. Older kids can learn to prepare their own meals, but even young children can open up the fridge and grab a snack. The key is to leave them some options (little baggies or containers work great for this). That way, they still have some choice and control over what and when they eat.