Helicopter parenting

  • Instead of mollycoddling kids, Nepali parents should let their children build their own paths
- NIRANJAN KHATIWADA, Kathmandu

Jul 25, 2017-Education is an integral part of a child’s holistic development. However, in our society, the education system is severely limited. Parents, who serve as the caretakers of their children, tend to blame the teachers if their children perform poorly. They also expect too much from their children, which only demoralises them and adversely affects their learning abilities. 

Sometimes, parents do not realise that children have different strengths, interests and needs. They push their children too much, which does not give these children a chance to develop independently as individuals. Because of this, everyone is put in a tough situation. For example, a teacher may be put in a bind because a child in class may not be capable of doing the work that the curriculum demands. And the children also suffer because they often cannot follow what is happening in class, thus making them feel like failures who cannot learn. 

Fostering independence 

In my job, I see some parents who are not sufficiently involved in the lives or the education of their children, but they often contact me when they are not satisfied by the grades their children have been given, or want to ask for clarification on an assignment or for an extension on its due date, or for an excused absence for their child. 

Parents are more concerned about paving the way for their children than in preparing their children to build their own paths. When parents make the way smooth, their children are unlikely to learn how to address problems and handle adversity. 

They will not develop the confidence to face problems either. While such excessive parental involvement may stem from love and concern for the child, in the end it will likely fail to produce confident and capable adults. Children may feel unnecessarily pressurised to please their parents and thus be put in a difficult situation. These circumstances, while far from desirable, are taking place in front of our eyes. 

The strongest trees grow in the most adverse weather conditions. Making everything easy for our children will not help them cope with hardship. Children need to have their own experiences separate from their parents. Parents should not be unnecessarily bothered by what other people will think if their children mess up a bit. Parents share a common misunderstanding that they cannot trust their children to be successful unless they are protecting and helping them at every turn, constantly hovering over them and micromanaging their every activity. With their tendency to overprotect, over-help and over-direct their children through hand-holding, parents deprive the children of the chance to build self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a fundamental tenet of the human psyche, far more important than self-esteem that is boosted every time we applaud. Hence, some parents who expect their children to perform at a level of perfection are found to argue unnecessarily with every teacher and principal at school, signifying themselves as their child’s personal handler and secretary. 

Building foundations

The world is progressing day by day and we need people who can think innovatively, critically and interdependently. Countries like Finland and Singapore are doing impressive things in their education system where they focus more on collaboration than on competition. Teachers in Finland and Singapore make a decent wage and earn respect from parents and students. At the same time, students in these countries generally outperform their peers from other countries on various standardized assessment tests. Parents or guardians are also well aware of the freedom and choices of their children.

It is necessary to prepare engaged and responsible citizens for the future by bringing major changes to Nepal’s education system. There is also a need for awareness programmes on proper parental care. Such measures will not only improve children’s academic performance, but will also educate them about moral, social and cultural values. This will produce responsible and sincere students who will learn to tackle problems on their own and will be prepared to take their own paths. It’s easy to keep mollycoddling children, but the parents who encourage their children to work things out on their own are doing what is best for their children. Our children need us to be a little less obsessed with grades and more focused on creating a better foundation for their long-term success and independence.

Khatiwada is a teacher and child counsellor

Published: 25-07-2017 09:02

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