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  • Writer's pictureNicole Yarling

Helicopter Parents


a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.

It was just a couple of weeks ago when I heard the term during a discussion with a colleague for the first time. Then again about a week later from a parent. I was familiar with “soccer parents” and how involved and passionate they can be about their children, but the idea of parents “hovering” over their children never occurred to me until I saw it first hand.

How will a student learn to play an instrument, learn a new concept, or get better at a sport if they are not allowed to make mistakes on their own? A portion of the learning process should be in part, trial and error. The students should be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. For example, when introducing a new piece of information, the student should be allowed to process the information on their own. When they hit a wall, the educator is there to guide them.

We are all aware as educators and parents that we can offer advice or an opinion about an idea, but until the student or child figures it out for themselves, our advice is useless.

In many instances, the student or child may decide that they know more about the subject matter than the instructor or parent. Sometimes it pays off to allow them to figure out on their own that they do not. As long as they are out of harm’s way.

The bottom line is we, the parents and teachers, were students ourselves. With this in mind, we should revisit our own childhood and remember when our parents or teachers “hovered”. I do quite often. With both my younger students as well as my university students. I do take my own advice. When I see a student’s frustration I back off and allow them to figure out whatever is frustrating them. Once you give them back their power they begin to trust their ability. They will come to you when they need your assistance.

I learn so much about teaching and about human nature from these situations.

It is important for us to be aware of living vicariously through our students or children. This can cause the student or child to lose interest when the parent or teacher “hovers” a bit too close.

Sometimes we need to love, enjoy and appreciate our students and children from a distance.

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