Am I Really A “Helicopter Parent”?

The Helicopter Parent... Could You Be One???

The Helicopter Parent… Could You Be One Too???

I had never even heard the term “Helicopter Parent” before until my daughter in grade 12 at the time accused me of being one after I came home to pick up and deliver my son’s school project to him that he had forgotten. Slightly embarrassed, I had to ask her what it was to which she smugly said, “Mom, a Helicopter Parent is a parent who takes care of everything for their child! They hover over their children like helicopters making sure everything is always just fine. How is James ever going to learn to remember to take his homework if you keep bringing it to him?” She had a good point. When I read up on it a bit more I didn’t think I had all the traits of a Helicopter Parent but there were a few. Sure maybe I requested certain teachers each year for my children or I helped them sometimes a little too much with their homework when they asked or maybe brought their forgotten lunch and homework down to them once in a while, …ok, all the time.

Was I really being a Helicopter Parent? I didn’t do Everything for them; I wasn’t following them around hovering and watching over their every move so they never got hurt or experienced disappointment? I didn’t control everything in their life only a few things. I started to think about it. Maybe I was a bit of a Helicopter Parent. After all how was I really helping my child to learn for themselves if I was doing all these things for them? How was I empowering them to make their own wise decisions in life or to learn from their mistakes? Maybe if I stopped delivering my son’s homework to him he would smarten up and pack it the night before. If he didn’t get my idea of a perfect teacher maybe he would get the experience he needed with a different teacher.

In reading more about it I read about College professors complaining about parents coming in to tell them they are giving too much homework to their child and their child was overwhelmed. There were managers telling stories about parents coming in to ask for raises for their children, complaining their child was being worked too hard or treated unfairly and they wanted the manager to make changes to improve their child’s work experience. I know being a parent we all just want the best for our children in life and if we could, we would fix everything for them but when is enough, enough!

Sometimes it is tough to know the difference between guiding our child and taking over for them. When we take over we send the message to our child that we don’t think they can do it themselves. Not only do they not learn how to make decisions for themselves but they lose their self confidence and coping skills relying on us or others to fix things for them. If a parent fixes everything the child may never learn how to deal with their own mistakes or disappointments in life.

I realized as hard as it was to watch my babies make mistakes sometimes I had to let them fall on their own so they would know how to pick themselves up again and keep going when I wasn’t around. By rescuing them all the time I was not letting them experience their life lessons so they would keep repeating their mistakes knowing Mom would take care of it instead of getting the lesson and moving on. The next time James called me from the school to bring down his homework I told him he would just have to run home at recess and get it as I was out. He never forgot it again. It wasn’t as much fun going back for it himself as it was to inconvenience mom to bring it down to him.

I learned something very important through my daughter’s simple comment. We can guide and teach our children the best we can but ultimately they will have to figure things out for themselves. If we keep preventing situations from happening in their life they will never learn their life lessons and will always be fearful of taking risks and failing in life. I wanted to empower my children and teach them to have enough confidence in themselves to take risks. To do so I had to take a step back and watch, sometimes guide but ultimately let them experience the natural consequences of their behaviour and do it themselves while they were at home so when they grew up and left they would have the knowledge to take on lifes challenges on their own!

For more information on Helicopter Parenting check out this recently published article “How to avoid being a Helicopter Parent” by Jennifer Chung in the Toronto Star.

Sibling Babysitting “Star System”

Sibling Babysitters... How Can You Keep The Peace When You Are Not AtHome?

Sibling Babysitters… How Can You Keep The Peace When You Are Not AtHome?

The Sibling Babysitting “Star System” works by giving the oldest child an opportunity to receive monetary compensation for being a responsible babysitter and taking respectful care of their siblings while offering incentives to the younger siblings to behave and listen to their older sibling babysitter.

Most children are not ready to take on the responsibility of babysitting until they are close to 11 years old. Once they are comfortable staying home alone you can start to prepare them to babysit their siblings? Before I let my children babysit I felt it was important for them to have taken the Babysitting Course offered by the Canadian Red Cross . The program teaches everything they need to know about safety and caring for children from babies to preteen so that they can be prepared for almost any situation that could come up during their time of babysitting.

Once your child has taken the Babysitting Course you can start giving them short trial runs with their siblings. When my oldest daughter Marie first started babysitting I would have her look after Anya and James while I was home doing something else or working in the garden. They all had a chance to experience the responsibility of staying on their own without being completely alone. This helped Marie become more comfortable with her roll of being the responsible babysitter and Anya & James to get used to treating their sister as a care giver instead of a sibling.

Babysitting Star System:

Before leaving the oldest completely in charge of their siblings do your best to set them up for success by sitting everyone down and reviewing the house rules…

Younger Siblings:

  • Would have the opportunity to earn between 0 and 3 Stars each time they were babysat. If they were really good and listen to their Sibling babysitter they could earn 3 Stars. If they misbehaved, didn’t listen or started a fight they would receive less Stars.
  • Their older sibling will let you know how they behaved and listened  while you were out then tell you how many stars he/she felt they deserved when you got home. Once they reached 15 Stars they would earn $15 towards a new toy or maybe an activity they would like to do. (go bowling or see a movie with mom or dad etc). If they wanted to save the stars up for something bigger that was ok too.
  • Explain to them that while you are out their older brother or sister is in charge and responsible for them not just their sibling. It is important they listen and respect him/her when asked to do something as it is his/her job to keep them safe.
  • Absolutely no Fighting- they need to work hard to keep the peace. If they feel themselves getting angry it is ok to go hang out in their room for a bit till they cool down or they can call you to help fix the issue.
  • If they do choose to get into a fight and can’t work it out themselves they would lose 1-2 Stars depending on how bad the fight was. If I ever had to be called home to deal with the fight they would automatically lose all their stars for that day and have to do a service for me once they had calmed down to make up the difference between the time I should have come home and the time I had to come home. (ie. if I was out for an hour and had to come home after only ½ an hour they would each have to do a ½ hour of laundry folding or some other chore with me to make it up to me) They would also have to do a service for each other (even if it was folding each other’s laundry) to make up for being disrespectful with one another. This one worked really well as an incentive to get along with each other and keep the peace.

Older Sibling Babysitter:

  • Explain to them it is important to treat their sibling(s) with respect just like they would someone else’s child while you are out. It is not okay to be bossy or mean with them. He/She is in charge and need to show you they can be responsible enough to handle it.
  • He/She would have the opportunity to earn a “Family” rate of hourly pay for taking respectful care of their younger siblings. I usually set the “Family” rate a few dollars less than the going babysitting rates. After all they were still learning the job and the service they were providing for me was also a way for them to contribute to the household. I was still paying for their food, shelter, clothing etc.
  • For example, their rate of pay could be set from a range of say $0-$5 dollars per hour depending on how they did as a babysitter. When you get home their siblings will report to you how they were treated and if he/she was respectful with them and nice when asking them to do things they would receive full pay. If he/she had been mean, started a fight or picked on their siblings their rate of pay would go down accordingly. If one of his/her siblings had to call you home because their older sibling had started a fight depending on what happened they may get paid nothing. If this ever happened in our home Marie would also have to do a service for me and her siblings to make up for it. Good incentive for keeping the peace and being respectful with her younger siblings.
  • If there were any fights he/she should call you immediately and the two fighting would have to deal with the consequences when you got home and sorted everything out.
  • Make sure he/she knows where the list of all emergency phone numbers including your cell number and a trusted neighbour’s numbers are. The best place to keep this list is on a bulletin board in the kitchen or near the phone for easy access. I would always make sure a close neighbour they knew would be home when I went out so if there was an emergency Marie could call me or run next door for help.

It helps to set up a quiet activity before leaving so you know the children will be occupied while you are out. When my kids were little, they didn’t watch a lot of TV during the daytime. On the days I was going out I would save their TV time and let them watch a movie while I was out. Before I left I would set them up well away from each other in separate chairs. I would give them each their own drink and snacks and turn on the show just as I was leaving. Then I knew I would have at least an hour to an hour and a half to shop or run errands while they were enjoying their show. In all the times Marie babysat Anya and James for me I was only called home once to deal with a fight that had gotten out of control. The Sibling Babysitting “Star System” works! It gives everyone incentive to choose to be cooperative and respectful with each other so they all come out Winners!

Sibling Babysitting: Step One – Preparing Your Child To Be Left Home Alone…

When Is My Child Ready To Stay Home Alone?

When Is My Child Ready To Stay Home Alone?

Welcome back everyone! I have missed blogging but a holiday is always a good thing bringing us back rested and ready to go. Hope you all had a fabulous summer!
So, let’s get started!

Have any of you wondered when you could finally leave your child home alone safely? How long you would have to wait before your oldest was ready to babysit his/her siblings or being the way they fight while you are home if they will ever be ready to be left at home alone together?

Having young children can make it really challenging to get out and do anything without taking your children with you wherever you go. A task as simple as grocery shopping can be a challenge. I remember trying to grocery shop with my three children when they were younger. My cart was always twice as full because they would add their preferences when I wasn’t looking. There was always an argument over who could push the cart, ride on the cart or help mommy shop and sometimes we didn’t even make it into the store because one or the other was having a meltdown in the car. I couldn’t wait until my oldest child was finally old enough to babysit. What a relief! I could run errands by myself!

Then came different concerns… What if my other children didn’t listen to her? What if she wasn’t respectful with them? What if there was an emergency? All kinds of things could go wrong while I was out and I wanted to make sure she was prepared.

Well over the next couple of weeks I will share some of the tips that worked for me when my children were younger and I finally felt they were ready to take on more responsibility and be on their own.

Staying Home Alone:

The first step to prepare your child for babysitting is to teach them how to be home alone safely by themselves and feel comfortable staying alone. You can do this on your own by going over all the rules, teaching your child what to say on the phone, how to answer the door or not to answer the door etc. Hopefully your child will listen attentively to you. However, if they are anything like my children their mind will be on something completely different like their next Mindcraft move or art project. Everything I say will go in one ear and out the other.

I have noticed over the years that if important information comes from an outside source be it a teacher, coach or mentor my kids will listen. So, when my oldest daughter Marie was 10 years old I enrolled her into the Home Alone Program available through the Canada Safety Council.  The program is now also available online  allowing you to go through the program with your child at home if you choose. The course taught her everything she needed to know about being home alone safely. What to do in emergencies, basic first aid, how to answer the door, what to say when answering the phone and how to enter and leave the house safely. It covered everything I had been teaching her and more and she listened because it didn’t come from mom or dad.

At first I would leave her by herself for short periods of time until she was comfortable being home by herself. It didn’t take her long. Being the oldest she was ready before I was and loved having her independence. It was really nice to go shopping with only two children instead of three and it gave Marie a chance to get used to being home on her own for short periods of time. I always made sure she had my cell number handy and a close by trusted neighbour was home so she could contact someone in an emergency. Once your oldest child is comfortable staying home alone you are ready to start preparing them for babysitting their siblings.

Next week I will share the Babysitting “Star System” that worked for me when my eldest started babysitting her brother and sister. The Star System helped to keep the peace amongst my children while I was away and ensure that everyone was respectful with each other and house rules were followed. Have a great week!

Check It Out!

Disclaimer

The information on this site is based on the personal experience of the author. There are no guarantees of a perfect method to raise a child, it is all trial and error. Please feel free to try some of the suggestions on this site and let me know how you make out. If you would like to use any words or pictures from this blog please contact me for written permission. © 2013

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