Everyone from the TODAY Show to Wikipedia and the Urban Dictionary has weighed in on the hovering mother, often referred to as a “helicopter parent.” Parents Magazine even has a quiz to identify whether you too could be labeled “A Hover Mother.”
Reading one such article, I had to laugh at a reference from the New Yorker regarding a tribe in the Peruvian Amazon who trusts 3-year olds with matches, while the author of the article admitted to snatching a “too firm” blueberry from her 3-year old in an effort to save her from certain choking.
Well, we all fall somewhere on the hovering bell curve, I would imagine. But the real question is why do we hover in the first place? While my desire for this blog post is to be informational, I won’t suggest that I could possibly share the psychological underpinnings of such behavior. I will address only one aspect of hovering here – HOMEWORK hovering. What I can offer, as much from my own experience as from those whom I have counseled, is that hovering CAN be a learned response from not getting the result one wants from cajoling.
Parents, mothers especially, of children with ADHD, executive function difficulties, and/or a potential or diagnosed learning disability, learn very early that their child’s homework is often their homework as well. It is a learned response that if the child returns to school without the homework accomplished, it reflects badly on both the child and the parent. It becomes a mixed bag of “Johnny can’t do it, or can’t be made to do it.” Thus, a hovering homework parent is born.
It may go something like this.
Child brings home homework in a designated folder. Mom tells child to get the folder out because it’s time to do homework. Child can’t do homework because she has not developed the skill to do it yet; mother helps every step of the way until the homework is complete. Everyone goes to bed happy for the most part because the homework is done.
Evening homework time arrives. Mom asks if there is homework. Child says he doesn’t know; together they go through a disheveled backpack, coming up with what could be homework. They fight to complete it, and everyone goes to bed tired and frustrated. The next day mom receives a note that the homework was not completed, and the child had to do it during recess.
Middle School Years:
Evening homework time arrives. Mom and child debate whether or not there was homework. Child says, “I did it at school.”
Mom goes on the Internet to look at the school’s online system, only to find many missing assignments—homework assigned in all classes—and a battle begins as to whether or not the child is telling the truth about homework. They both stay up very late completing homework together, some of which the child has no idea how to do, some of which missing information makes it impossible to do. No one sleeps well because school life is a mess.
Need I go on to high school? You get the spiral that occurs, and the hovering parent that is born from the need to be a Velcro parent regarding school and academic success. While this was not the original intent, it is a cycle that occurs and is challenging, but not impossible to correct. And, to add insult to injury, as the hovering parent seeks only to help and rescue, the child is often invested in pushing away as the years pass. So, what is the fix for this dilemma?
In my next post, I will offer tips to break this cycle in the elementary years, and advice for the middle and high school parent who was shouting AMEN while reading. Until then, here’s some homework for you to ponder:
How do we begin to foster independence in other areas of our children’s lives, and how can that thinking be applied to the academic arena?
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net