Don’t let your type-a nature cheat your child out of valuable life lessons

I’ve always imagined myself as a rather laid-back mom…not quite the antithesis of a helicopter parent, but definitely trending towards the other end of the spectrum. Sadly (for me) I’ve learned I have a lot more in common with those much maligned parental units who hover over their precious charges than I would care to admit.

A few years ago, Will, my first born, started nursery school. He’s a social guy and took to it like a fish to water. Naturally, my heart leapt. “See,” I said to myself. “You were so smart to encourage everyone in the family (note: Will has 3 sets of grandparents, 26 uncles & aunts, and 30 cousins) to hold him and babysit as much as they wanted – you really got him used to being with others!” I practically broke my arm patting myself on the back for raising an “independent” child.

The universe was laughing at my naivete…and about to teach me a big, fat lesson.

Somewhere around week 2, the teacher pulled me aside at pickup with a grave look on her face. Apparently my sweet little 3-year-old socialite was at a total loss whenever it was time to clean up his toy mess. In addition to being an extrovert, Will is also very aptly named. That’s not-so-secret code for a total terror when it’s time to do something he does not want to do. She kindly asked me what our clean-up routine was.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was the clean-up routine. The devil on my shoulder snickered “Yes, miss I-like-everything-put-away-just-so, your anal-retentive need to control both how quickly and where toys are put away qualify you as the worst kind of helicopter parent: the kind that stunts your child’s growth.”

Life Lesson #624: Organize Yourself

Yes, as I realized a little bit too late: it’s often easier and faster just to get your kids organized yourself. But you are only cheating your child out of valuable practice time if you insist on doing so. Pray tell, whenever will they learn to pick up after themselves/organize their things/manage their own lives if you don’t let them take a long time and make a mess of it when they are very little? Children as young as 18 months are able to help with basic things, like putting away toys. So, the sooner you start establishing organizational habits, the better. Take a lesson from my stupidity and build in an extra 10-15 (yes, that long) minutes around key activities like playtime, bedtime, and lunch packing time, and use those minutes to allow them to try out (and fail at) critical organizational basics. Their teachers, and someday they, will thank you.

Anybody else stunt their child’s growth by hovering too much (or by failing to reign in their inner control-freak?)