Park The Helicopter And Invite Play Over For A Date

Did you catch the Katie Show today?

I had a rare moment of “by myself time” and happened to tune in and the topic was particular, over parenting.

Katie had parents, psychologists, pediatricians, and children breaking down the game of teeter totter we call PARENTING. How much is too much? Not enough? What are the consequences for being present all the time or not enough? Is attachment parent with co-sleeping and breast feeding on demand for you? Are today’s young adults (the boomerang back to home generation) a product of over parenting? Do they expect too much? Work too little? Need constant positive feedback?

It was certainly much to think about.  I know I think about this more than my parents did – how about you?

While I sat there listening to views from both ends of the spectrum (both age and parenting style), I thought to myself, in the end all parents (or at least most) want a child that is happy, healthy, and independent.  There are many  roads we parents can choose from to get to that point and most of us base those choices on our own experiences being parented, our cultural views, and our own family goals.

The interesting message from the show was that doing too much can become a road block to independence and happiness. The parent who can’t stand their child to experience discomfort and therefore makes things as easy, simple, and pain free, may end up with a child that can’t cope when things don’t go their way. The parent who filled out the college application for their child (yep, it happens) has the child who can’t take steps to try new things on their own. The parent who steps in to navigate social situations and be a friend vs. a full time parent may end up with a child who can’t resolve conflict at work (and yes, the show reported that some adults have their parents call in to work to fix problems for them..really?).

My spin on this is…whether you are an attachment parent, a Ferber parent, a authoritarian parent, a natural parent, and free will parent, or a parent like me (who spent time today at the library with my girls, but also justified that the hours they spent planning a dance recital to perform in the kitchen tonight provided them with social and imaginative skills they need (and me with a fresh pedicure and a hour to watch TV alone!)…some sort of independence is a goal. And all those roads that hopefully eventually get us to that independent and happy state  start with PLAY.

There is no better way for a young child to learn than through unstructured play (the kind that adults don’t plan out for them). When we get out of the way, their imaginations can soar. Whether they are 11 months old and pretending with a phone or 9 years old dragging every dance costume, Easter dress, and tiara to plan a recital, THEY are in charge of what they are doing and how they will learn in that moment. Take a moment to think about how you learn best. I’m not talking about that test that tells is you are a visual learner or auditory etc. I mean that no matter what your learning STYLE is, we all learn BEST through experiences of some sort. So keep in mind that if you want to have an independent child one day, you need to have a child that plays today. Without experiences, there is no learning. Even when experiences mean some dose of failure, frustration, heartache, or stitches!

Encourage children to set their own rules (within reason) to build cognitive planning abilities and to negotiate conflict and solve problems. Ignore messiness (at least for a few minutes). Feeling the stuff that gets their clothing dirty (mud or yogurt or paint — whatever your pleasure), wires learning through sensory experiences. Having to use some sort of communication to make requests (vs. meeting their needs automatically) builds independent language and self sufficiency. Jumping, climbing, skipping, and riding a bike keeps their bodies healthy, coordinated, & ready to tackle life!

Studies show that children who are well bonded to present parents early in life do well. They also show that children who have opportunities to try and fail (no matter how hard it is for them and for us) become independent.

So choose your parenting road. Give your child a hug. And then park the helicopter on the landing pad and allow play to take over!




What parenting style do you practice in your home? How does it include free and unstructured play? We’d love to know!

Want to enhance your play time with your child and when they are playing with others or alone? Check out our home page to see why Today’s Parent and In The Know Mom think that 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is the perfect choice to help you do JUST that! 









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