Forget the Helicopter Parents. be a Submarine Parent!

“I called the director of Chloe’s camp to let him know she only drinks orange-pineapple juice for breakfast…not plain orange juice.”

“We had Jacob’s soccer coach over for dinner to make sure he understood that Jacob doesn’t respond well to direct commands. We want the coach to use “suggestions” when talking to Jacob about soccer techniques.”

“I can’t believe the teacher asked Phoebe to write her paper again with better penmanship. Doesn’t that woman know it’s the content of the writing rather than how it looks? I don’t want Phoebe to think she is a poor writer just because of sloppy handwriting.”

Ahhhh the thought patterns of helicopter parents! These over-bearing, obsessive, hovering parents micro-manage every aspect of their children’s lives. It isn’t enough to make sure their toddler listens to Baby Einstein and excels at Gymboree classes. The Wall Street Journal recently reported cases of helicopter parents accompanying their college-graduate children to job interviews. Some companies offering internships for college seniors now conduct parent orientation programs to stem the numerous phone calls from helicopter parents. While helicopter parents may have the best intentions, in reality, they are raising children with few problem solving skills. Children with hovering parents never get the chance to face disappointment and build up resiliency.

Let’s hear it for …SUBMARINE PARENTS! Think about your typical submarine. (Not an everyday topic of parental discussion.) Submarines usually remain underwater, out of sight. In case of a need for emergency surfacing, submarines can rise so quickly they are propelled partially out of the water. Submarine parents also remain out of sight, yet able to pop up in the case of an emergency. Let’s look at the difference between helicopter and submarine parents: Helicopter Parents: Prepare sack lunches for their child, complete with dinosaur shaped sandwiches and lengthy notes extolling the wonder of their child’s intelligence, good looks and ability to use the remote. Submarine Parents: Lay out a variety of school lunch supplies and encourage their child to pack his own lunch. If Matt packs only chips and carrot sticks, he’ll get hungry and pack a bigger lunch the next day.

Helicopter parents: Sell family heirlooms on E-Bay in order to pay for a $3, 995 Silver Cross Pram. (Canopy only an additional $225.00!) In order to get full use out of this pram, even three and four year olds are pushed through the park while munching on gourmet, flax-seed crackers. Submarine Parents: Buy a sturdy and comfortable stroller at a garage sale for $25.00. As soon as the child starts to walk, the stroller is re-sold at a garage sale and kids get exercise by walking and running.

Helicopter Parents: Participate in all their child’s homework projects. When a fifth grade teacher assigned the task of building a model of the solar system, (without using Styrofoam balls!) helicopter parents complained in mass. How could their future astronomer reconstruct the galaxy of planets without proportionately sized Styrofoam balls? Submarine Parents: Encourage their children to look around the house for items to use. One mother donated a collection of dryer lint so her son could add glue and create mini-lint balls representing planets.

I admit, I’m a submarine parent. My job as a parent is to have fun with my daughters while letting them explore and learn natural consequences. My youngest daughter Sondra didn’t know stores had dressing rooms until she was eight. I bought all her (cute!) clothes at garage sales and consignment shops. After washing each item, she’d find it hanging in her closet or folded in a drawer. There was no discussion about, “Will you wear this if I buy it for you?” My older daughter found herself acting in commercials and making more than minimum wage as a teen. To give her a sense of the real world, I insisted she spend three weeks every summer, picking strawberries and earning $3.50 on a good day. When Sondra was six, she wanted an uber-expensive American Girl Doll. I cut the full color, 18″ picture out of the American Girl catalog and had it laminated. “Here’s your American Girl Doll.” I said “When you turn nine, I’ll buy you the three dimensional doll on your birthday.” Sondra played with her flat doll for months, making clothes and furniture for her. She learned creativity. I saved $88.00.
Silvana Clark is a professional speaker, presenting keynotes and workshops on business-related topics.The author of 11 books, she gained her marketing experience by getting her “ordinary” dog to star in TV commercials. Oh yes, she also appeared on the Fox reality show, Trading Spouses.http://www.silvanaclark.com
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