Archive | February, 2013

4 Signs You Might Be a ‘Helicopter Parent’ — And How You Can Stop

25 Feb

It is an unspoken right – and even social expectation — among those who have reached a certain age to express concern about the younger generations. You know the comments:

  • “Kids today just don’t have any respect for authority.”
  • “What’s going to happen when these kids start running the country? We are going to be in serious trouble.”
  • And a host of remarks that begin with something like…“When we were growing up, we didn’t have…”

But today, perhaps more than at any other time since the height of the Baby Boom Generation, parenting styles also have taken the spotlight. We hear much of what happens if you raise your children without structure and rules, and what happens if you have too much structure and too many rules. We hear about raising your kids with too much self-esteem and not enough self-esteem. And you might remember all the media attention paid to the “Tiger Mom” and how it prompted a national discussion about parenting.

Nevertheless, it is the phenomenon of Helicopter Parents that is the most discussed and analyzed by professional psychologists, family therapy experts, parents and educators. The consensus is that this type of parenting, while often well-intended, tends to do more harm than good.

bloghelicopterparentsgraphicFor those who may not have heard of the term, it refers to parents who are overly involved in their children’s lives and who tend to “micromanage” their kids’ day. In many instances, this “hyper-involvement” continues into the college years and sometimes even beyond. The consequences of this type of parenting style can include hindering kids’ ability to gain a proper amount of age-appropriate independence and to solve their own problems.

Suzanne Carroll, professor of marriage and family therapy at Southern, and Phyllis Gordon, manager of the university’s Family Therapy Clinic, are quite familiar with this trend. Both say that many people might not even be aware that they have fallen into the Helicopter Parents category. They offer four examples of how you know you are probably a Helicopter Parent:

  • You are doing homework assignments for your child or are frequently checking to make sure they’ve done them.
  • You are the one managing their responsibilities, such as doing their homework, waking up on time and attending athletic team practices.
  • You refer to your child’s team, club or organization as “we.” For example, saying that “we have a game today.”
  • You and your child are communicating too frequently, such as with multiple texts and/or phone calls each day.

Carroll and Gordon are not in any way suggesting that parents should be oblivious to their children’s lives. On the contrary, they underscore the importance of showing concern for their children’s well-being. But being overly involved in their lives can create long-term problems. Here are some suggestions that Carroll and Gordon offer to strike that balance of being a responsible mom or dad without being a Helicopter Parent:

  • Set REALISTIC goals and expectations with your child, based on their age and abilities.
  • Work with your child to make a plan (if needed), on how to meet those goals/expectations.
  • Step back. Have your child take responsibility for meeting those goals/expectations.
  • Be prepared to renegotiate.
  • Let your child accept the natural consequences of their efforts.

Carroll and Gordon recognize that resisting the inclination of parents to “fix” their children’s every problem or task can be difficult – especially at first. After all, it is perfectly natural for parents not to want to see their children struggle. And, of course, there are times when swift parental intervention is necessary. But a consistent pattern of micromanaging can have significant consequences as a child gets older and enters the world of adulthood.

“Remember, parenting is the illusion of control,” Carroll says.

For additional reading about the phenomenon of Helicopter Parents, check out a recent column written by Anne Michaud, interactive editor at Newsday.

Advertisements

A Revolution in American Romance

13 Feb

As romantic vibes fill the air with the approach of Valentine’s Day, it is easy to assume that today’s customs — such as buying your significant other a token of affection or taking them out for a candle-lit dinner — have always existed in the American culture.

blogphotovalentinesdayGranted, the chocolates that existed once upon a time probably didn’t come in as many forms or flavors. And a floral arrangement in the 1700s might not include one of those cute teddy bears. But the basic idea was pretty much the same, right?

Not really. In fact, dating as we know it did not even exist in America until the Revolutionary War. And even courtship – a serious effort to woo a potential marriage partner – had been confined primarily to the elite class, according to Marie McDaniel, assistant professor of history at Southern.

To be fair, the country was much more sparsely populated back then, and there were no cars to hop into for a quick drive. People either walked, or traveled on horseback, wagon or if you had money, by carriage.

So, guys, if only you were alive in those days, you wouldn’t need to worry about trekking out late on Valentine’s Day eve to pick up a card, or get those chocolate truffles she has come to expect.

But romance began to change in America after the birth of our nation.

“The Revolutionary War served as a social revolution, even though it was an unintended consequence,” McDaniel says.

She notes that during colonial times, marriages were based more on economic interests than romantic ones. And companionate love took precedence over passionate love when considering a spouse. “The emphasis on romantic love really doesn’t take off until after the Revolutionary War. The culture and customs in colonial America were in many ways a backlash against England,” says McDaniel, who notes that passionate love was alive and well in England during the 1700s.

But societal mores began to change. The courting ritual began to take hold among what would later be known as the middle class after American independence.

The change to a democratic form of government had a cascade effect that led to the proliferation of romantic literature, especially in the form of novels. McDaniel notes. America began to place a higher value on education after the war – first with boys — because it recognized the importance of an educated citizenry in a democracy. White male property owners had gained the right to vote to elect the nation’s leaders and with that right came an increased responsibility. But an increased emphasis on the need to educate girls would follow – not because women could vote back in the early 1800s, but because mothers needed to be better educated so that they could raise well-educated sons. This better education of girls enabled them to read more novels, which encouraged their publication.

And by 1840, and the advent of the Victorian Era, the whole concept of romance in America had changed. Even many of the trappings of marriage that exist today, such as the wearing of white dresses and the exchange of vows and rings, began to flourish around that time.

Billions of ‘Earths’ May Populate Milky Way

7 Feb

For all you astronomy buffs, a follow-up to our recent post about NASA’s Kepler mission. The goal of the project is to identify potential Earth-like planets in a small swath of the Milky Way Galaxy. To date, Kepler has confirmed 105 planets that orbit in a “sweet spot” distance from their sun and have the potential to be hospitable to life.

A new study by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics used the Kepler data and estimates that billions of such planets probably exist in the vastness of the Milky Way Galaxy. Science.com reports the story.

Elliott Horch, an associate professor of physics at Southern who has developed a telescopic device that is being used in the Kepler mission, believes the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics study is legit.

“It is an estimate, with some sizable uncertainty, but it is based on data we have from Kepler so far,” Horch says. “Kepler is great for getting statistics of planets because it’s looking at so many stars at the same time.”

Who knows what else Kepler and related research will find in the months and years ahead?

%d bloggers like this: