I saw a small child warily ascend three rungs on a ladder to the top of a kiddie slide at a neighborhood play program. They paused at the top, waiting for a well-meaning adult to reposition their legs forward so that they could slide down. Their parent was briefly unavailable since they were busy helping their other sibling into a riding car. The child atop the slide stood there frozen in this posture waiting and waiting for someone to reposition them forward.
In another world -- a helicopter parent-free world -- this child would have ascended the rungs confidently, then taken their time to wiggle their legs from behind them to the front. They would have braced themselves against the ground upon decent. They would have been damn proud of themselves.
But this is not a helicopter parent-free world. And, by this, I mean parents who hover over their children like helicopters out of fear of failure and danger. I'm not interested in trying to convince helicopter parents to change their ways. I can just let this talented writer from TIME Magazine tell you the negative impacts of smothering. This blog post is for helicopter parents who are ready to change their ways, one wobbly, unprotected step at a time.
Some info about me: I own a home daycare and take care of five children from infancy to five years of age, and I have no choice but to teach children independence. Here are some of my tried-and-true methods to get you out of this rut and into the realm of supervised independence.
I used the term "supervised independence" because independence actually requires a great deal of your attention. Unlike parenting back in the 70s (hands up if you were shoved onto the floor of a station wagon during long drives and told to just "hold on real tight"), this type of childcare means you are within arms reach as they play and move independently.
1) Stand back.
I have had a few daycare kids whose parents did not teach them how to climb stairs. Ever. The thinking was that stairs were dangerous. Of course they are dangerous.
That's why, if my daycare kids have the use of their legs, they need to learn to climb them. As soon as a kid learns to walk, we head straight to the stairs and we climb up and down. I stand back far enough that they cannot reach out to me, but close enough that I can grab them in case of emergency.
First, you might let the child sit on their bum to descend and climb ladder style upwards. Then as they grow older and can reach, you can have them stand and reach for the banister. If your instinct is to help all the time, try putting your hands in your pockets. Look the part of a confident, relaxed parent. Maybe chew some gum and smile.
2) Take your time.
In my opinion, one of the main reasons why helicopter parenting is so rampant is because we don't have a lot of time to devote to teaching life skills. It takes way less time to put baby guards on drawers and doors rather than teaching why drawers and doors can hurt you and how to avoid such disasters.
When it comes to putting on clothing independently, I devote 30 minutes to dressing before our departure depending on weather and skill level. This extra time allows me to sit with each kiddo instructing them step by step.
3) Understand your child's 'can.'
Doing things by themselves does not mean I will stick a one-year-old into a room with lace-up shoes and scream, "Do it up!" It means that a toddler who is learning to put on shoes may first learn to adhere the Velcro on their sneakers. Then a few months later they will learn to lean on something and lift their feet up into the shoe. A year or so later they may learn to tie laces. After every milestone, remember to give lots of positive feedback. "See? You did it all by yourself!"
4) Allow kids to play with each other.
Here is where I see the most negative effects of helicopter parenting. When you play with a child, they are most likely just watching you put together a puzzle or build a tower. When you allow children to play with each other or with toys that allow their imaginations to soar and their bodies to move, they learn sharing, they learn taking turns, they learn communication and they learn to actually play instead of being passive spectators.
5) Watch the tone of your voice.
I once saw a parent say in the most anxious voice, "Don't worry! Don't be afraid!" as their child swung on a swing for the first time. Of course the kid cried the entire time. I also saw a set of parents with their children on a merry-go-round turning it at a snail's pace saying over and over again in druid-like mantra "Slowly. Slowly. Slowly." Take a breath. You may not have to say anything at all. Smile. Believe yourself when you tell them ,"You can do it!"
6) Learn the art of failing brilliantly.
The daycare kiddos now know that when one of them falls for whatever reason, we all cheer. "Yay! That was a great fall!" I say as I brush them off. Think about how this could have changed the way you walked through this world: How failing would be a success because you simply tried.
7) Tell people to hover elsewhere.
I have become an expert in holding my arm out to create a physical boundary between helicopter parents and my daycare kiddos because helicopter parents love to helicopter over other people's children, too. Be confident in telling these folks that you know what you're doing. You're letting your kid fail -- brilliantly.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
MORE ON HUFFPOST: