Parenting is challenging, especially in today’s post-pandemic world. It certainly wasn’t easy raising my own three daughters.
I don’t claim all the credit for their achievements, but all three grew up to be very accomplished people. Susan is the CEO of YouTube, Janet is a PhD, and Anne is the co-founder and CEO of 23andMe. They rose to the top of ultra-competitive, male-dominated professions.
When I wrote my book, How to Parent Successful People, I got so many questions about different parenting approaches. But what everyone wanted to know was, “What is it worse parenting style?”
Based on my experience and research, I believe that “helicopter parenting” is the most toxic.
What is helicopter parenting?
Helicopter parenting, sometimes called “snowplow parenting,” is when you constantly remove obstacles so your children don’t have to deal with challenges and frustrations.
This form of hyper-involvement disempowers children; Basically, you are doing everything for them and making sure their every need is met before they even know they have a need.
Studies say it also impairs children’s abilities to develop self-control, problem-solving skills, navigate conflict on their own, and create an identity separate from their parents.
Helicopter parents have the best of intentions, but the results are the opposite of what they want: they are producing children who are afraid to take risks, always need help, and lack creativity.
My friend Maye Musk, a successful model and mother of Elon Musk, agrees on the harmful effects of helicopter parenting.
He never checked his children’s homework. She couldn’t. He worked five jobs to make ends meet. When her homework required parental approval, she would have them practice her signature so they could sign for her.
“I didn’t have time,” he told me, “and it was his job.”
This is exactly what children today need: not to be controlled or overprotected, but to be allowed to take responsibility for their own lives.
Parenting styles: It’s all about finding the balance
On the other hand, parents should not go to the other extreme. Don’t send kids shopping alone when they’re five, or expect them to make dinner when they’re 10. Give them age-appropriate challenges.
The goal is for them to be proud of the work they do, a work that is theirs and theirs alone. They develop skills towards independence and will also learn to help around the house.
It could be in the kitchen cooking, for example. We all cook. Teach your child to prepare his own breakfast. They can pour cereal and milk. Older kids can make a scrambled egg. Or they can all learn to make a salad. It’s very simple: wash the lettuce, cut a tomato or avocado, add the dressing… and voila!
If your child has never cooked, he may not feel able to cook anything without someone watching him. Most children do not know how to do anything for themselves. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not.
The simple “trick” to successful parenting
Both parents and teachers can empower children to be independent thinkers, work with peers, and build self-confidence.
I recommend following TRICK, acronym for Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration and Kindness:
- Confidence: Trust has to start with us, the parents. When we are confident in the decisions we make, we can trust our children to take the necessary steps toward empowerment.
- Respect: Every child has a gift, and it is our responsibility to nurture it. This is the opposite of telling them who they should be, what profession to pursue and how their life should be.
- Independence: This is built on a solid foundation of trust and respect. Truly independent children are able to cope with adversity, setbacks and boredom, all inevitable aspects of life.
- Collaboration: Collaborating means working together as a family, in the classroom or in the workplace. For parents, it means encouraging children to contribute to discussions, decisions and even discipline.
- kindness: Real goodness involves gratitude and forgiveness, service to others, and awareness of the outside world.
Take a break and stop over-supervising your children. Let them help and lead. They will appreciate it, grow more independent and believe in themselves.
Start by letting your kids make decisions about what they want to do this weekend, maybe even plan something for the whole family. Imagine how empowered they will feel.
Esther Wojcicki is an educator, journalist and best-selling author “How to Raise Successful People.” She is also the co-founder of Deal, where he brings his student-centered teaching philosophy to classrooms around the world. Follow her on Twitter @EstherWojcicki.