The playground is the battlefield.
One one side, the army of squealing kids, determined to suck the marrow from life.
On the other side, the army of terrified mothers, bodies alert, voices shrill.
I hate to be so melodramatic, but it sure seems like that sometimes.
What’s the problem with helicopter parenting?
Here’s what happened at our playground last week.
The Kid Version
There were 10 kids on the playground ranging from toddling to 5 years old. They sized each other up as suspicious strangers. They squabbled over the scarcity of the swings.
Then, there was a glorious discovery! If you put rocks on the bridge and then jumped across it, the rocks went bouncing into the air.
Every single child on the playground came together to experience this together. There was delight. There was cooperation. There was turn taking. There was bonking into one another and helping one another back up.
Extra Reading: Trust Kids – There are so many ways!
The Helicopter Version: Three moms stood nearby doing that thing. That thing adults do where they think they are needed when kids are having fun.
First, one mom tried to stop the game all together. “This is not a fun game!” she shouted. “Yes it is!” yelled one of the kids. “No it isn’t!” she shouted back.
Then one mom took up policing the game with maximum anxiety for maximum safety: Stop. Now you stop here. Now you go. Watch out! Go to this side! Okay, you here! Take turns! Watch out! Be careful! No, wait-. Ok, no wait there! No… okay, now go!
Then finally a mom said, “Let’s do something else. This game is boring!” and started shooing the kids away.
The Problem With Helicopter Parenting
Helicopter parenting is built on anxiety, worry, interference, policing, nitpicking, and control.
The problem with helicopter parenting is that it gets in the way. It takes adult concerns and sticks them in the middle of kids’ play.
It’s rude. It’s disrespectful. It’s weird.
What Kids Really Need
Kids need to control their own lives, their own activities, and their own choices. They need to play with each other and figure things out between them.
They need to make mistakes. They need to get hurt now and then. They need trial and error.
They need to have fun. They need to make up their own games. They need a community of children that isn’t boxed and belittled by adult baggage.
How You Can Help
Maybe you don’t want to helicopter at the playground, but you feel pressured by other parents. I’ve felt that pressure, too.
I felt it last week. Expectant glances said they wanted my help breaking up the spontaneous outbreak of fun. I took deep breaths and stood still and quiet. I was 15 feet away from the action, and I refused to help manage the children.
Thwarting a pack of kids often requires a coordinated effort from meddlesome adults. Because I didn’t help, my child went right on playing. All the kids got 10 minutes of play before the game was successfully broken up.
That 10 minutes of play is a little thing. But it matters.
Adults don’t have to control everything about kids’ lives.
The playground doesn’t have to be a battlefield.
But as long as it is, I’m on the kids’ side.
For a really funny look at being a relaxed parent, I love this book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids (affiliate link). What inspires you to chill out as a parent? Join us on Facebook for more daily parenting inspiration!