Every dutiful parent wants to help their child(ren) discover and maximize their gifts and talents. A fundamental principle of Acton at Serenbe is that this is a priority, not only at home but in the learning environment at school as well. It is unlikely anyone would disagree - but how is it accomplished?

Countless articles and research identifies basic behaviors adults should adapt to identify, understand, and nurture the gifts and talents of children. These all have one basic principle in common; the child must have a substantial degree of freedom and independence to make decisions about the activities they engage in and the manner in which those activities are pursued (5 Ways to Help Your Children Find Their Gifts and Talents, How to Find Your Child’s Talent).

Increasingly, adults fail to execute this principle largely due to fear. Increasingly in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the natural human instinct to protect children from potential physical and emotional harm has translated into protection from failure and the elimination of obstacles. The term frequently used to describe this behavior is “helicopter parenting”. Needless to say, this type of adult involvement impedes normal psychological development of independence and confidence in young people.

“Helicopter parenting refers to overly involved and protective parents who constantly communicate with their children, intervene in their children’s affairs, make decisions for their children, personally invest in their children’s goals, and remove obstacles their children encounter” (Investigating Helicopter Parenting, Family Environments, and Relational Outcomes for Millennials). In a recent study, college students who identified as being raised by over-involved parents demonstrated lower psychological well-being with an increased likelihood for depression and anxiety. In addition, college students whose parents self-reported over involvement expressed lower levels of satisfaction with their family life (Helping or Hovering? The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on College Students’ Well-Being).

The problem with helicopter parenting is how it advances a child’s achievement in a transactional manner that impedes their ability to develop and face present and future challenges (Does Hovering Matter? Helicopter Parenting and its effect on well-being). Research also found that “helicopter parenting is associated with decreased self-determination” (The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on Academic Motivation). Another way of putting it… children who are not allowed to fail and learn on their own develop into adults without grit.  That is the reason for the expression shared in my first communication, “if our children don’t learn how to fail, they have failed to learn”.

For more information on this topic, I encourage you to read The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey.

May you and your families have a wonderful holiday season, winter break, and prosperous 2019!

Edward J. Lindekugel
CEO Acton Academy at Serenbe