Monday, May 10, 2010

Am I a helicopter mom?

Last night (while I was up at 3:00 am again with the worse case of poison ivy I have ever seen in my life) I read a couple of interesting blog post about supervising our children and how free we should let them play. The first post was by Natalie at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns. Natalie has some interesting comments about how we over supervise our children here in the US and do not give them enough freedom. The second post was by Simple Mom asking her readers "How freely do you let your kids play?" I highly recommend that you read both articles and the comments that followed for some interesting opinions on this topic.
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This brings me to my take on it. I was raised in the country with a few acres of yard and a busy highway running across the front. As far back as I remember my sister and I knew to stay far away from the highway but had free range to run and play on the rest of the property. We would stay outside together (but without our parents) most of the day and come inside when it was time to eat.

I would love for my boys to have that kind of freedom. Unfortunately, we live in a suburb outside of a large city and the situation is very different. We are fortunate to have a decent-sized fenced-in backyard and the boys are allowed to play in it alone while I am in the kitchen. That is about the extent of their freedom. I would never allow them to play in the front yard without me. Diego has learned to stay out of the street but Mateo proved, yet again, the other day that he still has not figured that out yet. And yes, I will admit it. I am terrified of someone abducting my children. It maybe that I am paranoid or have watched one-too-many Cold Case Files but the thought is often in my head.

We were at the park the other day and I noticed several mothers sitting on one end of the park talking while their two and three years old were on the other side of the park playing, definitely out of sight. They did not check on these kids for about fifteen minutes. I, on the other hand, stayed fifteen feet or so behind the boys but followed them around the park the entire time.

So am I am helicopter mom? I think so. This is probably something I should work on. I think that as they grow up I need concentrate more on teaching them how to make good choices and make decisions for themselves. I want them to grow up confident and not afraid.


  1. I am also very paranoid. Dawson is only 18 months old, but I know I am always going to be the mom that is right there behind him. Like you I want him to grow up confident, but at the same time I want him to be safe. Better safe than sorry, right? Especially when it comes to our kids.

    Great post! It definitely made me think, but I don't think I could change my overprotective ways even if I wanted to. *lol* I guess only time will tell, Dawson is still too young to have any freedom outside of the house.

  2. No, I don't think this makes you a helicopter mom . There is a time for relaxing and a time to step up and pay attention. Playing in a city park is a time to pay attention.

    Now hovering over your child while he or she is in a safe environment and waiting to jump in and make (or help) things "get done the right way" rather then let your child figure it out without you is when you might say you are a helicopter mom:)

  3. I'd say you're probably bordering. Maybe sit down where you can still see them, but you're not right behind.
    I like to be able to see my kids so I can know where they are, but as long as I can see them, it's okay if they're a little further away.
    But I'm with you on not letting the kids play in the front yard by themselves yet. I'll let them if the older kids are playing in the front yard, but not by themselves.

  4. In my opinion you can't be a helicopter mom of preschoolers. My 3 1/2 year old is now allowed in the backyard, on the swingset by herself. At a sight and needs to be within a short distance.

    In another two years she'll be allowed to walk to a friend's house by herself, I suspect. Depends on maturity. (We live in a development of 30 houses...makes a difference.)

  5. Thanks for talking about my post, and I am glad that it made you think about those issues. I agree with Annette - preschoolers are really too young to be left unsupervised in a busy place like playground. In our area a lot of kids play in front of the house, but I don't want Anna to do it just yet either. At least Diego and Mateo will be roaming together soon and looking after each other. I wish Anna had a built-in playmate like this too :)

  6. I like this post because it's something I think about also. I never had this freedom myself but my husband and his 12 siblings grew up in a farm and were free to roam around all day until time for dinner and bed. It sounds to me like kids can a learn a lot this way. But this is not the case where we live either and I don't like leaving my kids alone much. My oldest has just started to really seperate from me and run around in the park while I try to sit and chat with other mom's and I'm constantly getting up to go check where he is when he gets out of sight, it makes me nervous.
    But I don't think you are a helicopter mom. I think that's more when you start to interfere with kids doing things for themselves and thinking for themselves. Supervising little kids just makes sense in this day and age and it probably depends on the environment too. I think back to when we visit Mexico (small town) and how even the youngest little kids run around the town free. But there is very little car action in the narrow streets and everyone knows everyone. However, in Mexico city this not the case, so it really does make a difference where you live.

  7. Interesting topic. I think back just when my oldest was ten and my youngest was four. My husband had filled a jug of water into a uncleaned milk gallon to fill the basketball hoop with. We were inside, we have a gated backyard. My husband checked on the kids within five minutes through the back window. All three of them were drinking the left over water. My point in sharing this is that yes it was just water, but what if it was something posionous. I wouldn't have thought that my oldest daughter would have dranked anything from such a uncleaned container but she did. I always tend to my children by either being involved or working on something very close by. Each child develops independence and trust at a different rate. Trusting is developed by our children knowing what boundaries are and prove their understanding. I teach my kids to have integrity. Integrity to me means what you do when no one is looking. Until my kids get at least a mastery level of 85% with this. I will continue to observe and watch my children like I have eyes on the back of head. After all I am responsible for every action that they make, especially the negative ones. Oh this is such a touchy topic thank you for allowing me to share.

  8. I think when it comes to public places - you can't be too careful. We live in Escondido, CA - where there were just two horrible abductions of children - which you may have heard about on the national news. I say, "hover away!" When they are in a more controlled environment, where there are parameters - give them more freedom.

  9. My nearly five-year-old still is a runner and it makes me nuts. I really would have thought he would have outgrown it, but parking lots in particular are frightening. I wish we had a fenced yard, that would really help.

  10. I am just like you. I am scared to death of abduction and I really don't want my kids to get hurt either. I had a lot more freedom as a kid, but things are different now. I don't think you are a helicopter parent, and I don't think I am either. I know people who are in their child's classroom every day, are constantly involved in every aspect of their child's life (always the coach of every team their child is on, always in their school, always with their child) - that is helicopter parenting in my opinion. We have to give our children some room to grow without being there to hold their hands all the time, but I think it's okay to supervise them outside from a distance.


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