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  • Autumn Quiles, LCSW

Helicopter Parents

I work with a lot of helicopter parents... parents who spend a lot of time and energy guiding their child through life. Initially, it seems like these parents are giving their child a life advantage. These parents are the envy of many other parents, parents who don't have the time or resources to Helicopter successfully. The kids of helicopter parents have the Most Thoughtful school projects, they are the Most Featured in the dance studio or they are Most Giving in the community organization. These kids seem bigger, brighter and shinier than all the other kids... until they become teens.

I work with so many teens of helicopter parents.

It's normal and natural and exciting to see a teenager who is moving out into the world, independently, stretching her wings and learning to fly away from her family into adulthood.

But teens of helicopter parents are afraid to fly. Afraid to fall. Afraid, sometimes, to even spread their wings. They sit, on the ground, watching their peers take flight and they begin to think something is wrong with them. They believe, somehow, they are not worthy of flying. Their parents, with deep worry and sadness, often try to make the wind blow... or hold up their wings... or convince them to just "flap a little." When nothing works, they call me.

I love helping these kids to find their wings. I love watching them as they start to take off. I also love watching their parents discover more Pride than they have ever experienced.

I recently ran across a TED Talk (LOVE those!) by Julie Lythcott-Haims, a writer and ivy-league educated lawyer, who was a Dean at Stanford. She talks about How To Raise Successful Kids- Without Over-Parenting. She talked about the work I do, helping families with a child who is temporarily grounded. Her words were inspiring and validating.

She reminded me of the four steps to teaching any person, any skill. These steps are necessary for learning to brush your teeth, learning how to keep on top of your homework, or even learning how to choose the "best" relationships for yourself. Researchers, years and years ago, have clearly defined that this is how we learn something new. The steps are:

  1. You do it for them

  2. You do it with them

  3. You watch them do it

  4. They do it on their own

Helicopter Parents have, mostly unintentionally, interrupted this learning process for their kids. Sometimes, they never get to Step 2. Sometimes the parents can't do Step 3, so they go back to Step 2. Sometimes, the kid screws up Step 4 and the parent pushes them back to Step 2. I am very good at figuring out where the parent got stuck in this process and helping them be comfortable with helping their child onto the next step.

This is how we work together to help your child fly.

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