Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Monday, August 5th, on The Today Show, I watched Lenore Skenazy, founder of FREE RANGE KIDS, talk about the all too familiar “helicopter mom” syndrome. The phrase is no longer headline news. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, my mom had a healthy concern for my safety, but it was more about not getting my hand slammed in the car door or swinging off the top of a swing set and breaking my arm. Both of these events happened and even though my mom was a nervous wreck, we all survived.

The other day I heard a trailer for the news at 5 say something like…  “Is your child already lying to you? If so, tune in at 5 and find out why you should be concerned.” 

Two issues immediately popped into my mind: 

1) the media is instilling fear as a tool to boost ratings, and 2) the media is giving parents just one more reason to become worried/paranoid.

Although my kids are grown, I have my own concerns about the safety of my grandkids. Mostly fueled by headlines on the news, 20/20, Dateline, or subject lines for movies, all of which I try to avoid if at all possible. My mind can conjure up enough gory scenarios all by itself, thank you very much.

So….what is the goal of parenting?

This is where I introduce one of my favorite actors of all time, Betty White…or as I see her, Kathryn, the main character in Saving Gracie.

Kathryn, from day one, made all decisions for her daughter. Instead of teaching her how to do things for herself, Kathryn did everything for Grace and I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Hence the term “helicopter mom.” 

Next enters another one of my favorite actors, Debra Messing…or, Grace, as I see her in Saving Gracie.

Through Kathryn’s efforts to be the always-on-top-of-things Mom of the Year, she created in her daughter what is termed “learned helplessness.” 

Example taken from about.com psychology:

“Learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action.

This phenomenon can also be applied to children and adults. If all their decisions or attempts are ‘corrected’ by a well-meaning adult, the child no longer believes anything they do is right. Over time they become dependent on the ‘authority figure’ to make all decisions because 1) it’s the path of least resistance and, 2) their idea will probably be wrong or 3) overruled. So…why bother?”

Learned helplessness portrays Grace in Saving Gracie. And after her mother’s death, Grace felt utterly lost as to how to live her life without her mother making all her decisions.

Once again…what is the goal in parenting?

Two excerpts from Saving Gracie:

“A teacher prepares a student to think, evaluate, take risks, fall down, re-evaluate, and learn. And then…move forward.” Angela paused. “Parents are teachers too.”

 “Listen to me. The greatest gift a mother bird gives her babies is to teach them to fly,” Angela said. “She pushes them out of the nest.” Angela hugged Quinlan tighter. “She doesn’t clip their wings.”

Kathryn had issues…boy did she have issues. Although portrayed as a classic helicopter mom, her motivation did not stem from fear for her child, but more from her own childhood.

I erred often in my parenting skills as do all muggles (Harry Potter term for humans), but I don't think I would have been classified as a helicopter mom...however, my kids may disagree. But with age comes wisdom. If I only knew then what I know now…


  1. Hey Terry Lee!

    I love this post! It makes total sense. I'm glad you shared this because while I'm not an extreme helicopter mom, sometimes I do hover. I think after reading this, I'll be more aware of my actions. Oh, and Betty White is a rockstar! Just saying. :)

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Celeste:)
    Wouldn't it be nice if parenting came with a handbook? So often as a mom I'd try to avert situations, hoping to spare my kids what was such a hard lesson for me to learn. But then...how do they learn?

    Again, thanks and totally enjoyed your comment:)