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Editor's column: Support, yes. Hover, no.

March 31, 2012
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

This is a story about "helicopter parents." If you don't know what a "helicopter parent" is, you're either too long in the tooth to care, or you are one yourself and you're in denial.

After a basketball practice this past winter, my daughter told me she wished she could dunk.

I told her I wished she could, too - for other reasons other than the sheer joy it would give me to watch her sky over her opponents and throw one down like Baylor star Brittney Griner.

She then quietly reminded herself she's a pretty small girl (she'll be lucky to reach 5-foot-6 with a perm). I think she subconsciously gave up on her dunking dream right there.

Now, if I were a "helicopter parent," the dream would be alive and we would've started calf-strengthening exercises the second we got home that night. If I were a "helicopter parent," I would work her until she drops, or until her vertical allows her to jump high enough, whichever comes first. Then, when we - not she, we - are ready I'd drop in on a high school basketball practice and demand coach starts her on varsity, not caring at all that she would take the spot of some other starter. Hey, I'm a "helicopter parent," like I care about the other kids.

"Helicopter parents" are the ones who hover over their kids and entrench themselves in every aspect of their life. You probably know one or two. Or 10.

Of course parents should be involved with their kids - at home, making sure they get their homework done, at school, maybe volunteering at a bake or book sale. They should go to their events - to watch and encourage, not to yell at and berate others because things aren't going well for their kid on the court or stage.

I even hover a little. I coached my daughter's basketball team this winter, although I didn't do it to push her into becoming the first 9-year-old kid to dunk, I did it to bond with her. I guess if I were a hard-core "helicopter parent" I would be shooting her up with a little HGH once a week. Forget Flintstone vitamins, we're talking steroids here. Pretty soon she would have bulging gastrocnemius muscles and quads the size of fire extinguishers. She could live with a little facial hair if it meant being the superior athlete on the court at all times, right?

Maybe that's what I could do to even out the playing field a little. My daughter's a Smurf on the court - some girls she went up against last season could've held her under their arm like they're carrying a pomeranian around. "That's not fair," a hard-core "helicopter parent" would think. "My kid needs to be the biggest, the best, and score the most points. I want what's good for her (and me) and I won't let her fail."

I'm a novice "helicopter parent" at best. But that's something I don't want to be good at, like the ones in Colorado Spring, Colo., where organizers of an annual Easter egg hunt have canceled this year's event because of over-aggressive parents who will not let their kid(s) walk away from the games without a prized egg.

Last year's hunt was over in a blink, as parents reportedly jumped a rope put up keep them from joining their kids on the hunt. Hilarious - they were trying to keep the parents OUT. That's gold. These are folks who are members of what's called the "millennial children" generation, parents who just can't stay out of their kid's lives - like the ones who attend youth sporting events and end up cussing out another parent or sucker-punching a ref. And being proud of it.

Ron Alsop, the author of "The Trophy Kids Grow Up," says this phenomenon began when Baby Boomers who decorated their cars with "Baby on Board" signs in the 1980s began having children.

I hated those signs.

It's hard to tell if "helicopter parents" want what's best for their kids or what's best for them. I'd say it's a little of both. No parent wants to see their kid lose a game, or cry because they didn't get as many Peeps as the other kids did, but the more they prevent those things from happening, the less opportunity there is for that same kid to learn a valuable lesson about losing. Losing isn't fun (or fun to watch) but kids need to experience it. And when it does happen, that's the time parents should step in and talk about it.

Don't be afraid of your kid losing once in awhile. It's as much a part of growing up as Flintstone vitamins.



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