Don’t RESCUE Your Child (AKA the Helicopter Parent Post)

Yes, I said it! I’m a helicopter parent!

In light of a recent webinar I completed as well as this well-shared article about ‘helicopter parenting’ by Stanford University dean, I’m re-posting this previous blog post.

As a parent and an OT, I am continually analyzing my children’s skills to make sure I don’t miss anything. I think all parents do this to some degree. I had an ‘ah ha’ moment today.

Parents are naturally driven to make sure their children are safe, fed, protected. It’s how we were designed. Our kids live in our homes for at least 18 years so that we can help teach them right from wrong. So, in essence, we are not only parents, but teachers of life. Here’s an example:  today my teenager went to our apartment’s mailbox to mail a check for his field trip. He had missed the due date for the deposit in order to guarantee his spot on the bus. As you might imagine, his anxiety got the best of him. As he went down the stairs, he saw the mail truck drive away and became flustered. He missed the truck! Instead of asking me to drive him to the post office, he placed the letter into the locked box. Of course the already late envelope was going to be even later, since next pick-up is tomorrow.

As he came inside, he had a meltdown. A missed opportunity and a lesson to be learned….don’t put the time-sensitive letter in the box after the truck has driven away…..take it to the post office instead. You see, later in life he may have a proposal due for work and it might need to be postmarked by today’s date. This was a real-life lesson! Not only should you write time-sensitive events in a planner, but also, stop and take a think break to consider consequences.
I generally would’ve tried to contact the office of the apartment, or driven another check to the person in charge BUT this time, I let the situation go. Believe me, it took ALL I had!

The latest term is a ‘helicopter parent’ and it’s new to me. BUT apparently I’m one of them. Great, another label. My boys are now teenagers and the they have ‘tested out’ of many therapy types. The pressure’s now on me, as a parent to ensure they have every skill necessary for a functional adult life.  I simply want them to be able to ‘pull their own weight’ in society. To be happy and manage their daily life.  Since my children have autism, I’m intensely in tune to them in order to try to manage meltdowns, work on picky eating, ensure they use their sensory corner and behavior boxes, practice Yoga moves, etc……Frankly, I’m getting quite exhausted.

Are you at that point too? An exhausted parent of a child who has special needs?  Give me a virtual fist bump.

What can we do to help teach our children who have special needs to be more independent? Let’s take some of the pressure off of ourselves.
I’d like to share some ways to help teach independence with consequences for learning.

1)  Teach responsibility early with daily chores. BUT instead of giving your child a pass if he doesn’t do them, consider a consequence.  Make a visual schedule of chores for each day of the week.  They can be simple or more complex depending on age. REVIEW what happens if your child does not do the chore ahead of time.

2)  Give children boundaries and limits. It’s OK if your child is not permitted to go into your kitchen and clean out the snack bin without making a list of items to be replaced. It’s OK to restrict the time playing video games. We all have societal limits/boundaries and there are serious consequences if we fail to follow them.

3)  Limit choices. We all become overwhelmed when there are many choices. Give two or three pre-determined choices and let her choose from them.



4)  Let your child fail at simple tasks.  Don’t ‘rescue’ her every time. Yes, I said it! Allow failure on an assignment or non-life threatening task. Natural consequences will occur and your child will learn from them.

5)  Don’t call the school if your child doesn’t get an ‘A.’ It’s OK if you don’t complete your child’s work for him. Let the test show what your CHILD knows, not what you know. Ouch, does that hurt? Me too.

6)  Be a good model for your child.  The old adage, ‘Do as I say and not as I do,’ is true. Your children are watching you! Set general consequences for everyone to follow and don’t make excuses for yourself.

I’m going to try and follow my own advice. Who’s up to join me? Let me know how it works…..our children’s future function in society depends on it!!!

Is your child afraid of loud and un-expected sounds? We can help!  Our Sound-Eaze download has sounds set to rhythm and music for your child to control!


Here’s one more resource from my friends at Harkla:  Encouraging Independence 

Retained Reflexes Course – Brain & Sensory Foundations

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