Striking a balance between latchkey and helicopter parenting

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Teaching independence benefits both parent and child

Generation X'ers are the generation of the latchkey kids.

The 'latchkey kid' refers to a child who returns from school to an empty home because their parent(s) are away at work or because they are living in a single parent home. Latchkey kids surged from the 1970s to the early 1990s due to economic changes that required two incomes to get by and societal changes where an increased divorce rate created more single parent homes.

"Now the generation of latchkey kids are parents themselves," Janice Emery, 4-H youth development specialist with the University of Missouri Extension. "Many generation X'ers over-compensate for their latchkey upbringing by being a helicopter parent."

A helicopter parent is one who pays extremely close attention to their child's experiences and problems, and are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead.

"As parents, it is important to find the middle ground between these parenting styles and balance protecting children, and making sure they grow into responsible adults," said Emery. "Parents have to keep in mind that parenting success is not measured by how much a parent does for their child, but rather how much they teach them to do on their own."

It is not always easy, but raising children that can handle the tough stuff that life hands them as adults will make them, and society at large, better and emotionally stronger.

A few tips for parents trying to strike the right balance between latchkey parenting and helicopter parenting is to accept that your child may not be the person you had planned.

"Whether your child is less academically successful than you thought, or maybe not the athlete you expected, children need to know they are loved for who they are and not that they are only loved when they meet the specific expectations parents set for them," Emery said.

Another tip is to slow down and take a deep breath. With the expectations and busy schedules of parents, finding time to enjoy being a parent is not always easy.

"No one looks back on life and says they regret spending too much time with their family," said Emery. "In the age of instant access and technology, kids still need parents to listen to them and spend quality parenting time with them each day without their devices or other distractions."

In slowing down, parents will appreciate the simple moments they have with their children.

"Some refer to these moments as inch-stones rather than milestones, because so often parents are caught up in how children are currently progressing that they do not take time to look back and be grateful for what they have already learned to do," said Emery.

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