Parents rarely get it all right the first time. We make mistakes: We’re anxious. We’re impatient. We’re overeager. And, usually, it’s the oldest child who pays the biggest price for our flaws.
Subsequent children are like a do-over – they are our chance to correct our behavior and make things right.
Now that I am a mom of two, there are some things I am doing differently with the second child. And it generally comes down to micromanagement, or what some experts call “helicopter parenting.”
A study published earlier this month in LiveScience says overly protective parents may unintentionally raise neurotic children who are unable to solve their own problems as they enter adulthood and have trouble adapting to new ideas or situations. The study, conducted on college freshmen, came about after college admissions counselors around the country began seeing an uptick in the number of parents who were intervening on behalf of their grown children to solve problems that previously had been handled between the university and the student.
The study is far from being the definitive word on the effects of helicopter parenting. There are plenty of kids who are better for it, I’m sure. But it got me thinking about some of the changes I have made the second time around in parenthood.
Here’s my “do-over” list. What’s yours?
Let them figure it out themselves. My husband and I look back with some disappointment at how much we intervened in my son’s early years. The best of intentions, of course, but was it really necessary, say, to show a one-year-old how to correctly play with that Fisher-Price tree house? If he was holding his spoon or cup incorrectly, we’d jump in constantly to make it right. You name it, and we corrected it in the spirit of showing how things should be done the “right” way. And we wonder why our son now despises doing something if he can’t do it right the first time.
I’ve found with my 8-month-old daughter that less really is more. And it’s mostly a function of me having less time to obsess over the little things (and understanding that it all really works out in the end). I let her play freely and inevitably she figures things out for herself. She’s already holding a sippy cup by herself, in large part because I don’t have time to sit down and hold it for her the entire time.
Ease up on the schedule. I am still a big believer in routines. Predictability makes for happier babies, no doubt about it. But flexibility does not necessarily lead to chaos, as I once believed. When my son was an infant and toddler, I stuck to his routine like glue. Any deviations were cause for stress. He had to eat at a certain time, nap at a certain time, and bathe at a certain time.
My daughter, on the other hand, has had to adjust her schedule constantly to fit to our changing routines and her older brother’s needs. Beginning at three weeks old, she was carted around to soccer or Tball practices and games that sometimes interfered with her naps or feeding schedule. And guess what? She survived. She adapted. She was happy. Amazing.
Germs are inevitable. Good hygiene remains at the top of my list. And I still make sure I always have Purell on hand. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that germs are unavoidable. No matter how hard you try, your kids will get sick. So why turn them into germaphobes? Again, my husband and I took things a bit to the extreme with my son to the point where he refused to get his hands dirty in class. Finger-painting was cause for stress. My son hated it at first. (And, frankly, he can still do without it.)
I’m guessing my daughter’s immune system will be like Teflon thanks to all the germs she’s inevitably exposed to purely by having an active older brother.
POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)
> Discuss this entry