Matthew Piercy teaches two courses for Global Online Academy and is also a grade 12 teacher at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. His experiences in the classroom include every grade from 3rd to 12th. He also enjoyed a stint as an instructional coach. Matthew has worked in international and boarding schools for over twenty years. Thailand, Tunisia, Ecuador, Hungary, Hawaii, along with the states of Colorado and Georgia, all at some point were called “home.” Matthew also enjoys leading summer expeditions for National Geographic to destinations like Iceland and Cambodia. A diverse pathway in life has led to Matthew’s passion for global-mindedness and he is constantly searching for ways to enhance learning, meaning, and transference.
2024 is the perfect time for the “helicopter” to land. Consider the following two dialogues.
Teacher: Your child’s grades have shown a notable improvement.
Parent: Of course, we’ve been studying a lot at home.
Doctor: “So, what are his symptoms?”
Parent: “Well, we had diarrhea and an upset tummy.”
Helicopter parenting or excessive sheltering, is when a child is deprived of the opportunity to independently explore and form their own experiences. This is not a new phenomenon. In effect, helicopter parenting has morphed for some parents into snowplow parenting. Snowplow parents attempt to remove every obstacle so their child never experiences discomfort or even faces a challenge. Both parenting styles continue to gain traction. Addressing such parenting with actionable strategies can nurture independence and inspire hope.
Parenting Puzzle: Balancing Mental Health Challenges and Overparenting
As mental health challenges rise, especially post-COVID-19, the World Health Organization shared in a report that there is a 25% increase in global depression and anxiety. With increasing economic uncertainty, inequalities have been exacerbated. Parents grapple on shifting soils, in a world in which current institutions have done little to protect our children and their futures. Think governmental responses the world over in adequately responding to climate change! Professor Elizabeth Cripps imparts in her new book Parenting on Earth, “When it comes to protecting our children … the buck stops with us.” Thus, continued societal change continues to bear witness to cultural norms of parenting, especially for the privileged middle and upper classes. Parents singularly focused on not just removing obstacles but creating a clear path for their child’s journey. A tell-tale sign often is in the language parents use, adopting the pronoun “we,” similar to the opening dialogue between a parent and a doctor or teacher.
In a Psychology Today article titled, “Does Overparenting Contribute to Loneliness and Anxiety in Gen Z?, the author shares how “Chengfei Jiao and colleagues (2023) published a recent study that found overparenting to be a risk factor for emerging adults’ well-being.” This is sensical because the more a parent takes control, the less independence a child has the opportunity to realize. A child may also be left feeling as if everything is out of their control, and yet they are responsible for both themself and their parent. Stress is a likely result even though all well-intentioned parents might want is for their child to avoid failure. Technology, often labeled as ‘the longest umbilical cord,’ fuels overparenting. Real-time grading systems allow constant monitoring.One student recently reported, “My mom recently even texted me during class when my teacher noted how I forgot a book for class”. Some parents are even participating in their child’s job interview. Te-Ping Chen chronicled this in a Wall Street Journal article she authored called, Helicopter Parents Show Up in the Workplace.
Understanding parenting styles might help us understand how to implement effective strategies that foster independence in children. Moving forward, we explore actionable approaches to encourage self-reliance while addressing the challenges posed by overinvolvement.
Practical Strategies for Independence
The first step is for parents to realize how their overinvolvement is actually like stealing from their child. Recently in a cafe I just wanted to sip my coffee and catch up on work. However, I felt compelled to intervene when I overheard a father read out the ChatGPT results for a speech his son was going to be delivering. The vocabulary was not that of a teenager and the son called his father on this. “Hardly does that sound like me, Dad!” The two seemingly had a positive relationship because the son then unhesitatingly reminded his father, “Just let me do it. Remember how you said you would back off after you created my LinkedIn profile?” Such overinvolvement is likely to stifle the child’s ability to learn, think, and grow on their own. Further, building one’s inner confidence by not acting independently may be jeopardized. A few signs that you as a parent may be overstepping your bounds might be:
- Completing your child’s homework
- Excessively monitoring grades
- Intervening when there is a possible conflict with your child’s teachers, coaches, or even friends
- Overscheduling your child
- Restricting independence by refusing to allow your child to make decisions or solve problems on their own
- Filling out your child’s college application forms, writing the application essays, and imposing an undue influence on which university to attend
|A few strategies for parents:
● Wait for your child to seek help before getting involved
● Guide children towards choices but let them decide what direction to take
● Let your child fail. Low-stakes failures are positive and with reflection can result in growth. It also leads to greater confidence and resilience
● “Recognize who owns the problem because different skills are required. If the parent is upset about something the child has or has not done, the parent owns the problem” (David J Bredehoft Ph.D.)
Shaping Students’ Skills and Success in Education
For decades, educators have held parental involvement as a cornerstone. Research supports such relationships as pivotal in positively shaping students’ outcomes. Of principal importance is the role of collaboration. To provide balanced and comprehensive support between home and school requires a unified strategy. One where there is agreement that ultimately the child should remain in the “driver’s seat”. Life skills, or what often is referred to as durable skills (ie. critical thinking, communication skills, and adaptability), must also be emphasized. These skills in tandem with opportunities for transferring learning to real-world applications must be valued by schools and families alike. This requires a shift from grades alone and empowers students with practical knowledge beyond academics. In doing so, students become better equipped for the challenges of the real world. For example, a mobile beehive project students presented at COP28. Additionally, a strategy for schools to employ is to build robust extracurricular activity programs. These promote autonomy and allow students to explore diverse interests and take ownership of their passions.
Cultivating Hope and Trust (ADD: student, not teacher or parent-driven learning)
In the last few years, we have seen a shift from VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) to BANI (brittle, anxious, non-linear, and incomprehensible). The latter is focused upon a future of facing chaos. Whether VUCA or BANI, hope and trust are both imperatives. Hope for the world our children’s children will inherit. And trust in our ability to create this. Though a few years old, Rebecca and Kimberly Yeung’s weather balloon project will never go out of date. Nor will their insatiable appetite for learning and positively identifying with the possible being probably. The Yeung sisters also exemplify the benefits of independence, left with the space to explore and form their own experiences.
Another example of student driven, not parent or teacher driven, is Global Online Academy’s (GOA) semester culminating in the Catalyst Exhibition of Learning. The venue “offers students the opportunity to explore, create, and display a self-directed project connected to their coursework content,” writes Natalie Broderick, Senior Learning Design Coach. GOA is an international consortium of schools representing six continents and more than 30 countries around the world. Nearly 600 students participated in the most recent Catalyst Exhibition. Their learning inspires hope. A carefully designed process incorporates crafting a compelling question, carefully researching, and creatively presenting to raise awareness and or enact positive change.
Such examples of purposeful learning are rational for trust in the coming generation.
Parents Receive Clearance to Land
2023 likely will be remembered as the year generative AI began its inexorable march toward redefining how we live and work, what does 2024 hold? Human Intelligence (HI) certainly will always be of importance. Inherent in this intelligence is relationships. Children’s relationships with parents will continue to be critical. Effective parenting involves offering guidance and support but also provides children the space to learn from their own experiences, fostering independence and self-reliance. Balance will be the key to 2024. Achieving a balance between involvement and autonomy empowers children to develop crucial decision-making skills and self-assurance.
The life control tower calls out:
“Parents, prepare for landing”.
“Approach Landing Zone”.
“Adjust Altitude and Speed”.
“Follow Ground Instructions”.
You got this!