Helicopter parenting—This is the story of me (and not me).
Let me explain.
At 4 days old, we learned our daughter, Maddie, had
cystic fibrosis (CF). From that moment on, there was always
this small fear tucked in the back of my mind “When
will I lose her?”
It was a HUGE fear at first, because of the unknown, but
it quickly turned into a small fear because she seemed
so healthy. The average life expectancy then was 29 years.
It seemed like the inevitable was so far away…
At First, I Didn’t Coddle
My natural tendency was NOT to coddle Maddie. As a
helicopter parent we are over-protective and want to
take over-responsibility for our kids, and not let them
make their own mistakes.
I really did my best to NOT do this, and so that’s how I
was not an over-protective parent. I really didn’t worry
about Maddie. I thought she’d live a long life and over-come
the obstacles in her path.
This allowed me to be in the present moment with her.
We Have Good Intentions
Our conscious intention is to keep them safe from life,
from bullying, from sickness, from any physical, emotional,
and mental pain.
The subconscious message sent to them is that we don’t
trust them to figure things out, to be resourceful when it
comes to creating a happy life.
CF is a progressive illness and gets worse as they age.
Maddie went into the hospital for the first time when she
was 15 years old.
Even then, she was relatively healthy. She’d only go in once
or twice per year. It didn’t stop us from being travelers of this
amazing planet, from Paris, Australia, Puerto Villarta to Hawaii
and Colorado and many more states.
As she continued to get older, though, things got harder. She
was also diabetic. CF affects all of the organs, with the
many antibiotics and medicines and all their side effects.
We watched her increasingly suffer; the disease began
robbing her of a quality life. She missed her high school
graduation because she was in the hospital.
Yet, even with this, she traveled and got out and had a good life.
It wasn’t until the last year that she found it difficult to travel.
Yet we still went to Florida together in June 2018 and created
some amazing memories (like holding her in the ocean on that
last sunny day).
She wasn’t up to flying or going to see her dad in PA. Because
Maddie was determined to squeeze every ounce of life out of
her life, it helped me to hover and smother less. She told me
how much she appreciated this about me.
I Frequently Got on Her Side of the Street
YET, the way I was a helicopter mom was that I frequently
got on her side of the street, advising her how to eat
to heal her gut, what supplements to take and water to drink,
to avoid soda, to take colloidal silver, and on and on AND ON.
You may be tempted to think this was justifiable because
the consequence of her not taking care of herself was death.
However, no matter how much I can rationalize my behavior,
in the end, taking the mom-knows-best approach didn’t
It created separation. It made her feel “less than,” incompetent,
ashamed, like her efforts weren’t good enough. Of course, this
wasn’t my intention, but it was the result.
Is Your Parenting Style Creating Connection or Separation?
Consider if the over-protective parenting style is leading you toward
the relationship you want with your children… or even others, for that
No one expects you to change anything overnight. Just think
about it for now.
What do you do if you have this as your primary parenting
style and want to change it?
Give Back Responsibility
Give back responsibility. Think of one specific thing they
can do on their own, depending on how old they are (unload
the dishwasher, do their own homework, do their own
laundry, pay their own bills, etc.).
By giving back responsibility, this creates a new belief
about what they are capable of, increasing their confidence
and self-esteem. It requires us to give up the need to
control outcomes, and so it isn’t easy to do.
If you’d like to explore this topic more, join Morgan Higdon
and I on 7/24/19 for this class on how to be a compassionate
parent and create connection with your kids.