Helicopter education is unnecessary, suggests a new study
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In modern parenting circles, helicopter, lawnmower, or attachment education have been canonized as the best way to raise children. There are tons of books, TV shows, and movies that idolize hyper-involved parenting, such as Helicopter Mom with Canada’s very own Nia Vardalos. In one scene, Vardalos hovers over her son on the screen while he does homework – first by bringing him water, then dusting dust around him, and finally eating french fries while leaning against the door.
“Some [the] Parents I know tend to be a lot more careful about their children, managing every little thing and interaction, ”said Sarah Coderre, 33, a Calgary mother of a two-year-old and a four-month-old. “And then others are the opposite – maybe too relaxed. And I think I’m usually somewhere in the middle. “
A new study from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania counteracts the urge to respond to any whim and supports Coderre’s approach in the middle of the road. After observing 83 mothers with low socioeconomic status and their infants to assess attachment, the conclusion is that “good” parenting is much closer to “perfect” parenting.
“The traditional level of parental care called sensitivity did not significantly predict attachment outcomes,” says lead researcher Dr. Susan S. Woodhouse. According to the results of the study, as long as a parent responds to a baby’s screams 50 percent of the time, the child will still feel a bond with the parent.
“It turns out that babies are pretty forgiving and that you can do a lot wrong and still have a safe baby,” says Dr. Woodhouse. While 50 percent of the baby’s reaction time is the bare minimum, parents can rest assured that they don’t have to react 100 percent of the time to be a perfect caregiver. Coderre says of the study: “I feel totally relieved.”
“I think this study allows parents to trust their children a little or to give them the opportunity to explore and test boundaries – to try things out for themselves,” said Caron Irwin, child development and parenting expert from Toronto, about such a study has never existed. “I think when parents step back and see that their children are successful, it gives parents the confidence to encourage them [take calculated risks] when they get older. “
Irwin recommends that all parents and caregivers trust their instincts. “I think this is something we have to celebrate, we have to honor it, and we have to acknowledge that all parents have this,” she says. “It is something that could develop trust in families potentially facing other factors,” such as low-socio-economic parents who have more external stressors than middle-class families.
For Dr. Woodhouse hopes this study will help childcare services, governments, and corporations take a more prudent approach to parenting in today’s society, and help parents incorporate more organic and intuitive actions into their daily lives.
For example, Irwin suggests babies and toddlers have a routine so parents can respond appropriately to their cues. When babies have the same sleeping and feeding schedule every day, parents will recognize when their baby becomes hungry or sleepy (and feel free to remove the guilt for occasionally not doing it) or look for different ways to bond like to play eye spy while driving a car or going for a walk. Keeping the children part of the conversation as they go about everyday chores can help parents develop a close relationship without having to float around and pick up.