I have always prided myself on not being a helicopter parent. I don’t hover over them when play outside or chase them around a playground. I let them solve their own friendship quarrels and ignore their tattle tales. I’m always here for them for advice and support, but I’d rather let them trip up and teach them how to fix their mistakes than solve all their problems for them and give them the wrong sense of how the world works.
And then came homework.
How did school go from this place kids go to learn to this ultra-competative, stress-factory where every grade determines your child’s future success in life, and is therefore a reflection of good of a parent you are. I blame those damn bumper stickers. “My kid’s on honor roll” is somehow a guarantee you won’t have a 28-year-old living in your basement playing an online shooter games, screaming up at you to refill his chips.
I so wanted to be that parent who just let the kids do their homework, turn it in and let the grades fall where they may. I know, in my heart, that the only way for them to truly have ownership over their grades is for them to receive what they earned through their own accomplishments. But somehow, letting them take a hit academically was so much harder for me to let happen. In my own defense, I am one of those people who always obsessed about getting a good grade, actually beating myself up if I missed one problem on a test.
It started innocently enough. They would do their work, and I would look it over. “Hey, number 2 and 4 are wrong.” “You’re missing part of the information on number 7.” My kids work was usually ok, but there were things here and there that could be tweaked to make the assignments better, the answers a little more in-depth. My good ol’ perfectionist tendencies kicked in, and I went a little crazy. I found myself saying things like, “What do we have for homework tonight,” and nagging about effort and grades. On top of that, I began dreading coming home to the homework, the battles, and the ensuing lectures.
That’s when the epiphany happened. I realized that the more time and energy I spent ‘helping’ my kids with their homework, the worse their attempts at the homework got. It’s like they knew that mom was going to strap on her cape after school and fix everything for them, so they stopped making a good first effort.
My attempt to ‘rescue’ them from failing, taught them stop giving it their all.
Message received loud and clear. Today I turned in my helicopter keys and exited aircraft. I love my children and I know that they are capable of doing their own work. I know that my value and ability as a parent is not tied to a math assignment and the best thing I can do for them is to let them succeed or fail on their own merit, standing beside them to support them along the way.