To hover or stand back: Which parenting style proves best?

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Photoillustration by Sam Musgrove

By Derek Seidl and Joe Molloy

Senior Aaron Kelley’s mom is a strict parent and is proud of it. She likes to know where her children are and what they’re doing at all times. In Jill Kelley’s mind her strong parenting style is a way to insure that the character of her children is at the highest standard possible.

“My mom used to be really mad at me when I didn’t text her where I was even if it was at school,” Aaron said. “There also have been times when I have to tell my friends that I can’t hangout because I haven’t been home enough that week.”

My mom used to be really mad at me when I didn’t text her where I was, even if it was at school.”

— Aaron Kelly, senior

Aaron said his parents are strict, and he’s not alone. In fact, the term helicopter parents has developed signifying parents who often “hover” over their children’s lives.

But there are many parents, including Aaron’s, who find a strict parenting style best for their child. They say a stricter style allows their child to develop into the best person possible.

Among other things, a helicopter parent will excessively text their child about where they are, involve themselves in school or social issues, and be overly harsh about sports or extracurricular activities.

“I would describe my parenting style as involved and structured,” says Jill who knows that her son thinks she is strict. “I am strict, but I don’t believe I am overly strict.”

Jill is the mother of two children and said she has utilized her strict style for multiple reasons.

“I feel it’s effective because I don’t want my children just going through the motions of looking good and being a good citizen,” she said. “I want them to own their beliefs and live them day to day.”

She admits to logging on top her children’s social media accounts and reading through their texts.

“They were not very happy about it,” she said, “but my kids have always been very trustworthy, and it was never about them as much as it was about what is out there. So I err on the side of safety.”

Aaron said while he understands where is mother is coming from, he sometimes feel that she goes a little too far.

“She always threatens to take things away if I don’t do well in school,” he said. “I’ve never done that bad, but yeah, she’s even threatened to not let me play water polo.”

In addition he said he feels the pressure to get good grades knowing the consequences if his grades don’t live up to his parent’s standards.

Dexter High School Counselor Kristie Doyle says she feels helicopter parenting is not an ideal form of parenting,

“Parents need to let the kids learn how to problem solve and show them that they trust their judgement.”

Strict parenting is seen in many different forms and there are certain parents who feel it is necessary and is beneficial for their children’s future.

I would say my parenting style is a dictatorship with democratic undertones, and I sprinkle a lot of grace in there, too.”

— Leigh Hook

“I would say my parenting style is a dictatorship with democratic undertones, and I sprinkle a lot of grace in there too,” Leigh Hook said.

Hook, who has four children, said there are definite rules around the house that all family members must obey.

“The rules are not meant for punishment or for squelching fun, but rather to level the playing ground so that everyone knows what is expected and can make choices that help us to live and function as a family,” she said.

Hook said she looks at her children’s texts and Facebook posts and says a phone is a privilege not a right. If she feels her children are acting secretive, she said she will check to see if they are in line.

“There really is something about a mother’s intuition,” she said.  “I may not always be right, but I am willing to be wrong to help teach and guide my kids – which is my job as a parent.”

Doyle said there is a clear difference between being a strict parent and a helicopter parent. Being a helicopter parent is not a productive style of parenting while being strictly consistent with rules and expectations is.

“Parents need to show kids that they trust their child’s judgment,” Doyle said.  “As the parent, actually sitting down with your kid and talking about what would help them is better than just jumping in and doing what you want. We definitely have a handful of helicopter parents, but I wouldn’t say it’s an epidemic.”

In other words, according to Dr. Dorothy Stubbe, Associate Professor in the Child Study Center at Yale, “ The trick is to stay just far enough away that the child begins to develop her own autonomy, but close enough that if a child is floundering, the parents can come in and pick her up.”

Many parents are aware of the effects that being overly strict can have on a child.  Julio Rodriguez, father of junior Nick, believes that it’s important to let kids develop the ability to make decisions for themselves as long as they act maturely.

“In my opinion if you are overly strict with your kid, they are going to get into the real world at some point, like in college, and they will just end up going crazy,” Julio said.

Nick appreciates the amount of freedom and trust that his dad has in him and understands what he is expected to do.

“If I’m getting good grades, he will let me do my thing,” Nick said.  “but if I don’t get good grades he will get involved and work with me on things. Basically he lets me do anything that won’t get me into any sort of trouble.”

Julio feels he can have an effect on his kids without being too controlling.  “I like to try to lead by example and be a good role model,” Julio said. “But also try to give him some independence. He is at an age now where he is an adult, and we try to treat him that way.”

Julio said that his parents used an independent approach when he was young, and he carries that on with Nick. He said he has seen parents who are extremely strict, and he feels that it isn’t what is best for the child’s future development. At the same time, Julio said he hopes that his son will trust him to help if a bad situation comes up.

“I was a teenager once too and things are going to happen,” he said. “If it does happen, call me. And I hope we have that relationship where he knows that I am not going to go crazy on him; we’ll work it out. I don’t want him to be afraid and hide it.”

The way that parents choose to raise their kids plays a huge role in how their kid grows up as well as how their kids raise their own children later in life.

As for Aaron Kelley, he said while he appreciates his mom’s parenting style, he thinks he will be less strict with his own kids.

“I would give my kid more freedom,” he said. “I would probably pressure them to get good grades but I wouldn’t threaten them.”

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