Saturday, July 30, 2011

Helicopters Are Noisy

Lenore Skenazy is a reporter for The New York Sun who gained notoriety among her friends for letting her 9 year old son ride the subway by himself.  She is part of a movement of parents that is reacting to what is perceived as overactive parenting that developed in the 1990s.  What people like Lenore are concerned with is that "helicopter" parenting (named because parents, so fearful for their child's safety, hover around them) is convincing children that everything is dangerous.  From a teaching perspective (or at least a Jules Henry perspective) the noise of helicopter parenting is creating a society of distrustful wimps.  Children see danger everywhere because their parents scare them with warnings.  They are taught that every stranger is a kidnapper and everything must be done with adult supervision.  This experience also stifles their imagination, their ability to explore and the development of independence.

Lenore blogs about the responses she gets to her parenting style:
People who want me arrested for child abuse were sure that my son had dodged drug dealers, bullies, child molesters and psychopaths on that afternoon subway ride home by himself.
Believe me, if I lived in a city like that, I’d evacuate. But crime wise, New York City is actually on par with Provo, Utah — very safe.
Not that facts make any difference. Somehow, a whole lot of parents are just convinced that nothing outside the home is safe. At the same time, they’re also convinced that their children are helpless to fend for themselves. While most of these parents walked to school as kids, or hiked the woods — or even took public transportation — they can’t imagine their own offspring doing the same thing.
  Lenore believes that there are consequences to being too protective of children.  In her own words:
Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned.
If learning is about exploration and independence, helicopter parenting is inhibiting a child's ability to learn.  Without the ability to take risks or be away from his parents how is a child going to learn to try things on his own?  When teaching Sunday school some students were very independent (unfortunately too independent and they would get in trouble when trying to climb a tree to get a ball down) and others would need me to tell them what to do all the time.  Those in a leadership role are tempted to reward the dependents because they make you feel more in control of the group.  But the question is, which one of those students is better equipped for exploratory learning?

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