What the Park Taught Me About A Helicopter Parent

The park for a kid is a place to explore, be a kid, have fun, and push yourself to the limits.  For an adult it is a place to relax, forget about my current troubles, and more importantly, watch other parenting styles in action.   The one thing that I have noticed is that when you are at the park, you see all sorts of parenting styles.  You have the one parent who is on his/her phone the entire time, or the parent who is too busy socializing with another parent and not watching their kid, and the complete opposite, the helicopter parent.

When I started taking my 3-year-old to the park, I was a helicopter parent.  I bet that there is not a single one of us who could deny they were at one time a helicopter parent. I will not deny that by any means.  I was always one step behind him cautioning him about the dangers that the large twisting slide had.

Eventually, after one visit to the park, I backed off and I stopped being a helicopter parent.  I knew that the Kid would be able to master climbing the rock wall or climbing the ladder up the playground equipment.  Now, I sit on a bench and watch him have fun and socialize with the other kids that are playing there.  Which is good for him, seeing that he is no longer going to a daycare.  Sure, there is another dad there that is a regular when we visit the park.  He and I are always deep in a conversation about our fantasy football league, but during the conversation we always, ALWAYS, have our eyes on the kids.  It is not uncommon for one of us to get up off the bench mid-sentence to assist our child on the jungle gym.

Helicopter Parent - Dads Round Table
The Kid knows that even though I might not be there right behind him, that I am there for him.  He knows that if he gets stuck on something or can’t do anything that I will jump right up and help him.  There comes a time when a child needs to be able to given the independence to explore and do things on their own.

I’m not going to encourage my son to get hurt but getting a few bumps and bruises will not hurt him long term.  Sure there are a lot of places that he could fall and get hurt while he is playing at the park.  He knows though, that there are certain places he should and shouldn’t go.  I also know that if I see him walking to the rock wall, that I need to go over and help him.  There is no need for me to be that helicopter.

I don’t like being a helicopter parent.  He has to learn that he can do things on his own.  This will translate to school as well.  I’m not going to be that parent that is in the nose of the parents checking in on my son.  I will expect him to get good grades, of course, but my expectations will be set in a way that I would hope that I would not have to check on him.

I do not like to criticize other styles of parenting very much.  There comes a point there where you need to let your child free.  Not the free like they are 18 and going off to college.  The freedom to explore, learn, and play on their own without a helicopter parent behind them

Are you a helicopter parent? What are your thoughts on parents who are helicopters?


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  1. David Stanley says:

    Excellent thoughts. As a teacher, there are days when I heard the helicopter rotors beating overhead. The most important thing we can teach our kids is something we can’t really teach – resiliency. Lord forgive me for quoting Chumbawamba – ” I get knocked down. But I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.” Or as my late Bubbie used to say “No one ever died from eating a bit of dirt.”

    • Exactly! My son licked his hand after handling worms the other day when he was playing with his friends… he hasn’t died. In fact I laughed about it.

  2. Happiest Daddy says:

    Well said! I think about this often. I think it’s an evolution. When our kids are little — especially our first — we hover, wanting to make sure they are safe. But just as they cut the cord from us, we have to do the same.

    • Yes! I’m not saying we need to let them explore from day 1. Oh no! I realize that there is a time when we can cut the cord, so to speak, and it’s when you see that they are wanting to explore on their own. Let a baby crawl around and feel the independence, but keep a watchful eye. I let my son do what he wants at the park, while I sit on the bench, but I keep watching him.

This is what I think...