Our local news was just running a story about an area school having a book study program for parents that are ‘too involved’ in their children’s school lives. I’ve heard the term helicopter parent and know that some parents go way overboard, just like some parent don’t pay any attention and allow their kids to have a completely free range childhood.

We’ve tried to strike a happy medium. First discussing with our kid’s whatever the issue is and then approaching the teacher if it hasn’t been worked out. I had read the book The Gift Of Failure a few years ago which talks about how letting your child fail at some things will help them succeed in the future.

Modern parenting is defined by an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness: parents who rush to school at the whim of a phone call to deliver forgotten assignments, who challenge teachers on report card disappointments, mastermind children’s friendships, and interfere on the playing field. As teacher and writer Jessica Lahey explains, even though these parents see themselves as being highly responsive to their children’s well being, they aren’t giving them the chance to experience failure—or the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems.

The Gift of Failure

Having a child with anxiety, autism, and sensory issues though means we walk a fine line between interfering too much and not enough. Our special child normally does so well in school, but we’ve seen before the cases where he’s penalized for being different. One of my examples includes his first couple years where he was receiving grades of S on counting from 1 to 10. We really should have questioned it at the beginning, (our child could count to over 1000) but when talking to other parents that included teachers from other schools they made it sound like the teachers were penalized for not showing progress and that our son was probably given an S so that they could give an E the next quarter. – To show classroom improvement. I believed the story…. it made sense… and waited…. until I saw the next S. After finally asking – his whole report card was grades of S on all skills he knew already – we got the answer that because he already knew the skills before they started teaching them he was graded with an S instead of an E that he would have received if he had learned them that quarter. First off I have to say that to me was crazy but second off we should have got in touch at the very beginning about it.

Years later, and I really do mean decades, I’m still hurt by things teachers said to me in school. My mother didn’t feel she should get involved at the time thinking the teachers knew what they were doing. I try to err on the side of helping my child when I see something that makes him too anxious, but first letting him try to navigate what he can.

With every child it’s a fine line, if you stress academics too much, your child is panicking over scores and you are calling the school over each little thing. Not enough and your child accepts low scores, not doing homework, and can become complacent or happy with mediocrity. I have to stress there is nothing wrong with earning whatever grade you earn, what I personally worry about is the kid that sits and does nothing and then says they are totally fine with it. To me it becomes wasted potential…..

Have parents changed that much? In the past the parents knew all the teachers, it was a small community, the teachers were people that parents saw each week at church, ran into at the store for a chat, interacted with at sporting events. Parents knew how their child was doing all the time and a parent had no problem with resorting to corporal punishment if their child was slipping in grades or behavior. I remember in school my cousin’s husband being our principal for my Kindergarten through 2nd grade years, another cousin’s wife was the 1st grade assistant. Even with all that I still managed to bring in a note and convince the school that my parents had changed my name in Kindergarten. (Keep in mind that most kids in kindergarten can’t write a note saying their parents have changed their name and convince their mother to sign it….. ) It took a couple weeks before I was caught on that one. The shot swap, I told my mother what had happened as soon as I got home (swapped names with a friend at the beginning of the day and it happened to be the day they gave shots at school. I ended up getting her shots).

I think in reality because the method of connection has become more digital and less personal, there is now a feeling that it is more invasive. Parents do have the ability to track grades in real time as they are entered, track phone locations, text to ask questions at any time which adds a more real time component to the interactions – but in the past teachers were part of everyday life.

So yes, personally I see where some parents do become overboard helicopter parents, but in order to have a life of your own it can’t be sustainable. Another book available is about Free Range Parenting- going the other way. There has to be a happy medium out there.