Authoritative is not helicoptering

The title of Pamela Druckerman’s recent New York Times piece, “The Bad News About Helicopter Parenting: It Works,” will delight those parents who are running their children’s lives. But a closer read–and the referenced research–reveals that she’s not really talking about helicopter parenting.

From the article:

The most effective parents, according to the authors, are “authoritative.” They use reasoning to persuade kids to do things that are good for them. Instead of strict obedience, they emphasize adaptability, problem-solving and independence — skills that will help their offspring in future workplace situations that we can’t even imagine yet.

That’s not helicopter parenting. Helicopter parents don’t persuade their kids to do things that are good for them. They just jump in and do it for their kids. Or they make every decision leading up to the point where the parents are restrained from further involvement. A parent can’t descend into the orchestra pit and play the violin for their kid, but if they choose the instrument and decide on the lesson frequency and make every other decision around the role of this instrument in their kid’s life, that’s a helicopter parent. And it’s an entirely different parenting style than one in which the parent highlights the benefits of music in their child’s life.

The simple metric: Could your student do this for themselves? And if not, how can they stretch just a little beyond their current abilities so that you don’t do it all yourself? That will prevent your helicopter blades from whirring too close to your student.