Stop Hulling Their Strawberries: 5 Things I Did to Not be a Helicopter Parent ~ Part 1
Stepping aside as a parent might sound downright delightful to some. But if the idea of moving over makes you dig your heels into the tile, read on.
When my eyes first read the term “Helicopter Mom,” I felt pretty good about the fact I wasn’t one. At least not in general. But the more I examined my mother heart (sprinkled with a bit-o-pride), the more I realized I had tendencies.
Working on the following list has been eye-opening. I want to gradually loosen the reigns now so I don’t accidentally pack my kids’ bags for them when they leave for college. I hope it helps you stop any possible swirling blades, too.
Disclaimer: I still struggle with every one of these. Slow progress is better than no progress, right?
5 Things I Stopped Doing That Helped Me Step Down… and Gave Me Extra Minutes.
1. I stopped folding their laundry.
My exceptional stay-at-home mother always folded our laundry perfectly. It was drawer-ready and lovingly placed by our doors for my sister and me to put away. I naturally continued the tradition with my kids.
When they were old enough (about two or three), I had them match socks and put away easy things like undies and jammies. When they were in elementary school it dawned on me: folding their clothes was a waste of my time.
Now clean laundry gets dumped on our bed and the kids picks through it to find what fits them. The rest is mine and my husband’s and it’s so much faster! When certain young people decide to forget about getting their clothes, the next basket gets dumped on their bed and they get to distribute it to the family.
2. I stopped cutting their meat.
This was especially exciting when I didn’t have to stand over them in restaurants anymore. Yes, the first few tries (or months) brought frustration, but once they got the hang of back-and-forth sawing instead of pushing (around ages 7-8), they felt like mini adults. And I got to stay in my chair. Magical.
3. I stopped worrying about their safety.
Hold on… this might get bumpy. If I was going to claim to have 100% faith in our mighty God, I knew I needed to ease up on the mental safety talks.
This does not mean I don’t care if my kids are safe or not. (Come on—we live in Mexico.) It means I continually give them back to the One who loaned them to me. I do this by praying God will take care of them—here’s the clincher—according to His will.
If I truly believe Romans 8:28 and that, “All things work together for the good of those who love God,” then I have to be okay with what He allows. It does not mean I will be happy about a tragedy, but if God allows something to happen to our children I need to work on acceptance, remembering His perfect plan is not always mine to know. Easier said than done? Of course. But this is what I stand on.
4. I stopped threatening their consequences.
Instead, I started handing them out. Years ago I read counting to three to get your kids to obey is giving them three chances to disobey. And I resolved to never count.
Even littles aren’t dumb; they know exactly how long they can continue to get away with something before the parental tipping point sets in. And that’s precisely why they don’t obey; if they know we’re not serious about a consequence there’s no motivation to change.
Yes, I still find myself repeating certain requests/rules, and sometimes to a fault. Occasionally my husband reminds me to “stop talking to them about it and hand out the consequence.” Their behavior changes when we change. Band together, brave parents! Proverbs 13:24 will probably help, and your kids will respect you more in the long-run when you hold them accountable for their actions.
Whether or not you love The Message Bible, this verse pops so much more for me in this version:
“A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them.”
5. I stopped telling them to be careful.
It makes sense to say such things to toddlers because they’re wobbly. Telling a ten year-old to be careful while he goes down a slide though? He already knows.
If your kids are anything like mine they have to touch the hot plate at the restaurant, jump over the ditch deep enough to do damage, and swipe the blade to make sure it is really as sharp as we claim it is. But that does not mean they don’t trust us; it means they have to learn by doing.
I can tell my son 23 times to tie his shoelaces so he doesn’t trip and fall. But he probably won’t ever care about them until he actually trips and falls. Hello? Every once in a while I still catch myself about to tell one of my kids to be careful. When my youngest started to ride a motorcycle the week he turned seven, I had to bite my tongue and just give him a thumbs up.
If my answer is yes, then I need to let them do what I said they could do. They do not need more commentary before they attempt something slightly risky or foolish. Besides, even when they haven’t been calculated in their risks, a few good falls have taught them way more than my, “Be careful!” ever did. Duh.
P.S. Does your son have a thumb? Can your daughter use a spoon? They can hull their own berries. And you can go read a book. Bada bing, bada boom.
What about you? Have you stopped doing anything that made a big difference in your parenting or your child’s behavior? Please share! We’re all in this battle together, and your experience could be the next bit of wisdom that turns someone’s dilemma around.
Go on now… don’t be shy.
See you next week for Part 2: Start Peeling Away (The top five things I started doing that helped our kids step up. And taught me big lessons.)
Wow. That is it. Needed that this minute. Love you, friend.
Thanks, amiga. I needed it too. Sometimes I’m wonder if God is just giving me ideas to write about so He can work on me. What a great bonus that He’s helping two of us! 🙂