Is the Pendulum Swinging Back to Common Sense Parenting? (Let’s Hope So!)

Posted June 5, 2009 by

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Over-parenting, over-praising and micro-managing your kids is suddenly out of fashion. What’s hip now? A revolutionary new idea: just letting them be. At least, that’s what a new article in the New York Times stated last week.

In the article, Motherlode blogger Lisa Belkin says that helicopter parents are starting to be seen as “uncool”. What was once a bone of contention (which mom or dad can be more involved in their kids’ lives?) is now seen as being overly controlling. It’s “time to let kids be” proclaim the experts now.

Well, I have to admit, I’m kind of relieved. I was never very good at the helicopter thing, anyway. I also think we’re seeing that it’s handicapping kids later in life, who seem at times powerless to make their own decisions because mom or dad has been there directing every activity since day 1.

In fact, a buddy of mine who works in admissions at a law school told me that they had to hire extra help just to deal with all the parents who insisted on going through orientation with their kids, and even attending the first week of classes with them. I actually know of one mother who went through a master’s program with her daughter in order to “be there for her.” She made sure they took the same classes together, and even insisted on sitting next to her (25 year old) child in class. It might sound nice to some on the surface, but it was a bit of a nightmare for the daughter, who never really made friends within her program and was never allowed to just, well, make mistakes sometimes.

In fact, someone told me recently that a big software corporation (which shall remain nameless) has personnel on staff JUST TO DEAL WITH THE PARENTS OF NEW HIRES. The parents are so intrusive that they need to have their own handlers. I don’t know about you, but by the time my son gets a job, I am hoping he’ll be able to handle whatever comes his way on his own, with some occasional advice from mom and dad.

So finally, common sense, hands-off parenting is coming back in style, and it’s just about time. I personally think it’s important to let kids be…and even let them fail sometimes. Otherwise, how are they ever going to know how good it feels to really succeed — on their own?


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. Louise Sanborn Report

    Jan and Mag: I’m with you. While it’s important to coach our kids and help them learn new skills (like how to get along with others, how to be good sports, etc.) at some point parents have to take off those training wheels and let our kids ride down the big hill on their own, whether they’re 6 or 16. Believe me, I know how hard that can be. On the other hand, it’s good to remember that kids can really surprise us with their strength and resilience. And even if they fall, I think figuring out a way to get back up and keep going is one of the most important things our children can learn in life.

  2. mag (Edit) Report

    Halleluah! This is how my parents raised me ( and my 4 siblings). We absolutely have to let our kids fail and not be right there to praise them at every breath they take. Kids shoulf learn t make-up games,pretend play and converse all without being prompted by nervous-nellie mom and dad. . How will they ever learn?

  3. Jan (Edit) Report

    Lord, let’s hope so! Some of the parents at my kids school are insane. They do way too much for their kids. IMHO, we have to let our kids fall down once in awhile in order for them to learn how to run.



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