Saturday, March 31, 2012

Helicopter, Lawnmower, or Scooter Parent. Which one are you?

Recently, I was pondering helicopter parents.  If you have never heard the term helicopter parent it is a term that is used to describe a parent who constantly hovers around their child anticipating that they will be needed.  These types of parents interfere constantly.  Behaviors can range from complaining about a perceived injustice (possibly a poor grade that their child earned but that they feel the child should have not gotten); to becoming angry that their child is not a starter on a sports team; or writing reports and papers for your child.  Sometimes parents need to step in when something may be happening that is unfair, but I’m not talking about those times. I’m talking about those individuals who engage in over parenting to the point that they are not protecting, but actually hurting their child’s development into adulthood. Over parenting to the extreme.

Usually this type of over parenting behavior does stop after the child leaves the nest. At the college level the term applied is Lawnmower Parent. The type of behavior seen at the college level is one where the parent clears any or all obstacles to make life easier for their child. Whether it is to wake them up in the morning to get to classes, get a job, pay bills… (Would you believe it?) Instead of college age students making decisions on their own the parents do it. (If your 18 year old can’t get themselves dressed and out the door in time that is their own darn fault!)

Does it stop after college? (Nope.)  Recently I watched a news report (with my mouth open and on the floor) that reported how hiring companies now have to deal with parents negotiating their adult child’s health insurance, as well as contract and salary negotiations.  (Really?)  I would have been embarrassed if my parents ever had called a future employer, and frankly if I was a future employer and mom and dad called to discuss and negotiate with me (on behalf of their adult child) I would retract my job offer immediately. This type of behavior demonstrates to me lack of life skills development. If a parent interferes at this level then they have been interfering forever.

One parent interviewed explained that they were doing only the things that they wished they had been told about when they were young.  I think they miss the point. If your child needs your life’s wisdom then offer it, but let your adult child make the decision and gain knowledge and experience from the act. Don’t do it for them! 

I think the main job a parent has is to prepare your child for adulthood and life. You must be there to provide love and guidance, give them opportunities to gain knowledge and learn, and to grow into competent happy adults. Constantly hovering about, making things easy, or doing it for them when they could do it themselves does the child a disservice. 

I would suggest that is you see yourself over parenting you try to slow down. My suggestion would be to become what I call a scooter parent. Take things slower and as they come. Enjoy your time more with your children doing simple things like playing. This makes life enjoyable, adds value to your relationships, and takes stress and pressure off of your shoulders and your child's.  It may also improve your relationship with your spouse. (An added benefit!) 

Personally I don't understand it. My experience has been that all children grown up at different developmental rates and sooner or later get to adulthood and become successful.

(Well, I guess I need to stop lecturing you… I need to do my 25 year old's laundry, rewrite my 16 year old's English paper, ask my mom to call my employer to negotiate my next round of pay raises, and make sure my husband is building our 14 year old's science project correctly….)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

School Lunch Challenge

I can’t make up my mind if making school lunch is one of the most boring jobs a parent must do. It certainly is one of the most challenging. Don’t get me wrong I want my children to eat a nutritious and delicious lunch. It is the variety and the daily grind that I have a problem with.

If you are parents chances are you have a daily routine. (We certainly do.) The making school lunch is scheduled around 7:30/8pm which is (after our family athletes and musicians are back from activities) and after dinner has been served and cleared. Chances are my husband and I prior to dinner went through a “what in the heck should we make for dinner?” phase and thankfully one of us had some sort of brainstormed idea that resulted in dinner. Now an hour later I am back at square one to figure all over again what we have in the house, and what will be an acceptable lunch for my children. Sometimes I just don’t want to make lunch. Sometimes I just want to break the vicious cycle and be lazy. (To heck with this grind. Go buy lunch kiddos!) Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I plan and do execute lunch effortlessly, but it just gets challenging on a daily basis.

I should tell you that I have the added challenge of children that do not like sandwiches. (Yup. You read correctly. No sandwiches! Unheard of right? Or maybe my children were SO smart by telling me they did not like sandwiches I would then have to deliver something else, something more exciting?) This anti-sandwich situation was an enormous hurdle at first, until my husband and I started purchasing microwaves for their classrooms and school lunch rooms. Even so the variety and how you cycle your leftovers can be just as challenging.

To make matters worse the school year is winding down. This is a dangerous time for me. What was once an acceptable and enthusiastically welcomed lunch when the lunch box was opened, has now received comments like “not this again”. Naturally my children break the news to me gently..”Mom, if I have pasta salad to eat again I think I will be sick!” “Ok, thank you dear.” (Damn another lunch crossed off my list.)

I actually have figured out that during my children’s school years I have (so far) made a total of roughly 5,249 school lunches in my lifetime. By the time my youngest leaves for college I will have made over 6.000 school lunches. (No wonder I’m tired of the grind!)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dog Park Drama

Going to the park with your kids is a great idea, however; sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth it when there are others that just don’t play well or know basic etiquette. As a parent this can result in a great opportunity to teach, but when your baby is a dog and you have a bad experience at the dog park that is just not the case.  Since we now take our high energy, love to play all the time German Boxer to the dog park several days a week to burn energy, I have been pondering the similarities between taking kids and dogs out to the park.

I think the fundamental rule of any parent is that you should watch your kids (or dog). Either way lack of supervision can result in problems and issues. And some parents don’t have a clue. Here are some of my (and most likely other’s issues/pet peeves) that cause dog park drama….

Pick up after your baby.  (It’s that or diaper your dog. Poop.)

Some kids don’t share well with others. Same with dogs. 
Don't bring outside toys. A dog sees anything new brought into the park as open for their own enjoyment. Denied that opportunity, any dog can act up, and if your baby doesn’t like to share …. well opportunity for dog drama increases.

Territorial dogs are a pain. Whether they are protecting their human, guarding the park water bowl, or taking procession of the entrance gate area- no one likes a loud, unsociable hog.  (Anyone should be able to play when and where they want, and not be harassed.)

Don’t bring in a puppy less than 4 months of age. (It reminds me of bringing an infant and laying it down in the sand box with 2 year olds to learn how to play.) If you want to socialize your baby take your baby to puppy events specifically designed for socializing.  Arrange appropriate level play dates. I can’t tell you how many fights and bites I have seen because of a younger out of control behavior. (Kids too.)

SIck dogs should stay home. Do everyone a favor  and do not expose others to an illness or disease. 

Dogs in heat. (Ok, there really isn’t a kids parallel.  Perhaps young teens in lust?) Quite frankly I think it is in extremely poor taste and very inconsiderate to bring a female in heat. For goodness sake this is play time not “shagging time” and (while I’m not a prude) it is embarrassing!

And finally…parenting skills dictate that if your child is misbehaving then you need to correct them. Same goes for dogs. If your dog plays too rough, is too unruly or starts a fight… correct the behavior, leash your baby, and leave the park.

Ok… I know what you are thinking. We are talking dogs here not humans, but really I have to confess that while I am not a dog trainer by profession, I am a pretty good parent of three great kids and one great dog. What they all need to know from their parents are: rules, clear expectations on behavior and boundaries  (of course followed by love, acceptance, and lots of play).

I feel better know having got this off my chest, however life experience has taught me that it takes all kinds, and I’ll just have to except people and dog drama. (But that won’t stop me from fuming silently.)