MOTHERS member Jennifer Minear picked up the Sunday paper two weeks ago and received an unexpected jolt from an article on parenting styles and their alleged consequences. She felt a lot better after writing this post as a guest blogger, and we’re happy to bring it to you.
On July 4, 2010, The Washington Post ran Margaret K. Nelson’s article “Helicopter moms, Heading for a Crash”, which claims that mothers who hover are setting themselves, their marriages, their friendships and their communities up for disaster.
I find so many problems with this piece. It marginalizes parents, most particularly mothers, of all walks of life, socio-economic backgrounds, styles, and income levels. The author draws unfair conclusions on the negative impact of this parenting style without offering proof. Nelson writes, “When people turn inward to their families, their communities also pay a high price.” This is blanket statement, discriminatory towards involved parents, regardless of whether they hover or not.
In September 2009, David Kerr, of Oregon State University’s psychology department, Deborah Capaldi, Katherine Pears and Lee Owen of the Oregon Social Learning Center, published the results of over 20 years of research on the impact of parenting styles on three generations of families and their communities. “Positive parenting”, defined as “warmth, monitoring (of) children’s activities, involvement, and consistency of discipline”, was found to extend benefits to the children, their children, and their communities. Delinquency levels, and drug and alcohol abuse were lower as a result of these practices; self-esteem, close personal relationships, and engagement with society were higher. Although Nelson cites sources and studies, they seemed to point nowhere definitive in the discussion of helicopter parenting. Robin Wilson’s study on the divorce rate of women with higher-level degrees suggests nothing about the effects of helicopter parenting. Absent is any mention of whether or not these women are in fact mothers.
“Erica” is vilified for her decision to monitor the programs her children watch, also for discussing the material with them. I’m still trying to figure out, after reading over this article 10 times, why this is a bad thing. A mother dialoguing with her children about things that they’ve seen and heard is “hovering” – a practice that will carry negative implications for Erica, her marriage, her friendships, and her community, according to Nelson.
Conversations with one’s children are windows of opportunity – to teach, to imprint, to shape their character, to gain insight into their minds, and simply to spend time with them.
Children today are inundated with an onslaught of information, mainly delivered through screens. Is it not the duty of an engaged, involved parent to filter the material and talk it over with their children, rather than leaving them to navigate it on their own?
Nelson writes, “Erica’s TV policy is not just exhaustive; it sounds exhausting.” News flash: parenting is exhausting. Parenting is a full-time, “totally consuming” job, regardless of your parenting style and choices. It just is, and there’s no way around it.
– Jennifer L.G. Minear is a freelance writer living in Rockville, MD. Although NOT a “helicopter parent”, she is a very involved mother of 3 children who felt compelled to speak up in defense of all parents implicated in this article.