Helicopter parenting, do you do this?
The term "helicopter parent" was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott's 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter. It became popular enough to become a dictionary entry in 2011. Similar terms include "lawnmower parenting," "cosseting parent," or "bulldoze parenting."
I was a helicopter parent with my son, nothing he did was good enough and everything he wore was terrible. I coached him in Aussie rules footy, so you could imagine how ‘good’ a coach I was to him.
I often say now that I am a better coach than I was a father, as my son and I had a fractured relationship for many years. It probably wasn’t until about two years ago we connected and rekindled a father son relationship. That being said, I have to text him first to see if he can talk otherwise, he won’t pick up.
Why am I telling you this? Too often I see and hear parents either coaching from the sidelines or making comments that are not encouraging for the child athlete.
When we first opened, we allowed parents to sit by the side of the mat as it was a good opportunity to allow them to see how their children train and maybe understand the sport better. But as time went on, we saw this was a negative aspect to the child’s development in the sport as they would forever be looking over their shoulder towards their parent in case they were being reprimanded by either a look or verbally.
When our children are drawing or painting, we don’t stand over the top of them telling them what colour to use or how they should draw. We need to be like this with sport irrespective of the sports they play.
For BJJ, more often than not, the parent has never felt what it is like to be pinned to the floor unable to move let alone stepping on a BJJ mat and feeling what the sport is like.
When the child athlete steps on the mat to train, it’s their time for fun, to learn, get physical and problem solve.
Should the child athlete ‘play up’, well that’s the coach’s job to reprimand and correct the behavior.
I’ve also seen and heard from plenty of parents who find watching their child at training stressful because of the way their athlete interacts. But I’ll let you in on a secret, more often than not they ‘act’ this way because the parent IS there watching.
At the end of the day it comes down to control, and when your child is playing a sport, you don’t have control. We want to guide them and make sure they make all the right moves but we can’t be there all the time and this is where the child’s path of self-discovery is so important.
Let them make the wrong moves, let them learn. But don’t chastise or ridicule them for what happened. Ask them why they did what they did and if they were in the same position or situation, what would they do differently?
Praise them for being there.
Tell them you saw them doing something good.
Ask them about what they did that they felt good about.
Ask them about a technique they used.
Tell them you were proud of their hard work and effort at training. After all, the more you encourage your child athlete to participate in the sport, the more they will enjoy it.
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