Letters about My Helicopter Parents: Part 2

helicopter parentDr. Robyn Silverman

We’re continuing our discussion about helicopter parents, overprotective parents who won’t let go and hover over the heads of their children, heading off potential challenge/risk or taking over their responsibilities even as they enter their teens and adult years. This is part 2– part 1 is here.

The questions for today are, how can we help parents to take a step back and allow children in their 20s to grow up and be self-reliant?  Should we? Are adult children in their 20s too young to “go it alone” in today’s world? Do you think parents are having a problem “backing off” these days and allowing children to make mistakes and take risks?  As a parent, how have you approached the “letting go” process? Are you helpful or a helicopter?

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Letter from 20-something, T.O

Hello I know the feeling and everything you say about these helicopter parents. I have two. But why is my mom…an Extremely Over Protective Parent, does she have the right to control my life? I thought we are all consider adults at 18 years old? I am now in my late 20’s.! I don’t know what to do anymore!!! She treats me and my older sister (who is in her early 30’s) like we’re 10 years old…!!
PLEASE HELP Its DRIVING ME UP THE WALL!!!! (T.O.)

Dr. Robyn responds:

Hello T.O.

I can tell that you’re very frustrated with your parents right now. They clearly care about you. Have you talked to them, in a very adult manner, about your concerns, wants, and needs As an adult? Do you live very close by? Do you have healthy boundaries with you parents?

As an adult, it’s very important that you talk to your parents and tell them how you feel and what you’d think would be healthier in your parent-adult child relationship. Be specific. Sometimes, when people don’t move away from home (for college or otherwise), there is a lack of shift in the relationship from between childhood and adulthood.

It’s past time. It may be a difficult conversation, but after all, you’re an adult, and you can handle it!

Certainly, be kind to your parents. The more adult, grateful, and kind you can be, the more they will see you as the independent adult you long to be.

Best regards,
Dr. Robyn

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Please provide with your comments and feedback for T.O and whomever else might be wondering what to do in similar circumstances.  Do you have helicopter parents?  Have you been able to overcome their over-protectiveness?  How?

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Would you like to Give Away your Child?

stressed

Nebraska Safe Haven Law: Used Fairly or Not?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

We all get frustrated at times with our children.  It can be exhausting.  It can push mothers and fathers to their limits.  On the worst days, it can even make parents throw up their hands and teeter on giving up.  But they don’t.  Except when they do. Or perhaps– except when they can.

Given that November is Fairness month for Powerful Words, I’d like to propose a few thought-provoking fairness questions.  You opinions are certainly appreciated.

The question is: Fair or Unfair?

A woman in Nebraska dropped her 18 year old “child” off at a hospital, BryanLGH Medical Center West, citing Nebraska’s newly enacted Safe Haven Law (in July), which states that a “child” can be dropped off at any licensed hopital without question or penalty.  The law was enacted for the purposes of protecting newborn babies who were either unwanted or unable to be cared for by the birth parents.

The mother of the 18 year old relayed that she could no longer control the girl who is bipolar and has refused to take her medication.  The Safe Haven Law does not specify the age of the “child” in question therefore it is not illegal to take advantage of the law in this way.  However, is it fair?

This law has been used in creative ways since its enactment 4 months ago.  In September, 3 Dads abandoned their children at two Omaha Hospitals.  One father left 9 siblings between the ages of 1 and 17 years old.

“They were tired of their parenting role,” says Todd Landry of Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Most parents are citing behavioral problems rather than financial issues for the need to abandon.

“This was never the intent of the bill,” (Republican state Sen. Arnie Stuthman, cowriter of the bill).

In order to get support for the bill, the writers changed the wording to encapsulate all children.

“We really opened a can of worms,” he says. “We have a mess.” He says the law needs to be fixed.

A special meeting is planned on November 14th to assess the law again. Will their be an influx of abandoned defiant teens or challenging preteens in the mean time? There have already been 30 children and teens dropped off since the Safe Haven law was enacted in Nebraska. All 50 states have “safe haven” laws, but the others apply only to infants less than 1 year old.

So, what do you think– fair or unfair use of the law?  Fair or unfair to the parents? To the children? To the state? Or is it an issue of a different kind all together? Please comment below.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

8 Ways to Teach Children to Be “Greener”

It’s our responsibility to help our children learn how to be more environmentally responsible and consciences.  It’s always the perfect time to talk about environmental responsibility– but especially this month, as our Powerful Word is Responsibility. Colleague and “green mommy with girl wonder,” Kirsten Aadahl, takes us through how parents can be educators, mentors, and examples to their children to protect and sustain a healthy planet.The environment is a hot topic today– but like anything, education begins at home.  Please welcome our guest, Kirsten Aadahl.

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

8 Tips for Parents to Help Their Children Become More Eco-Friendly

Welcome Guest Blogger; Kirsten Aadahl

As adults, we all know we should be taking care of our environment more but busy schedules and lifestyles sometimes prevent us from doing what we know is right. The time has long past, though, and as a society we need to take responsibility for the environmental situation we’re in right now. We need to start teaching children what this means so it becomes a natural part of their life. When asked what the best way is to help children learn to “go green”, my simple answer is teach by example.

Before I had my daughter 10 months ago, I was a Special Education, fifth grade teacher for 15 years. Teaching by example, or modeling, was my motto and I still stand by this belief. If you want your children to adopt a more environmentally friendly outlook, you need to show them that you have too. Make sure you present these practices in a way that your child will understand, depending on their age. Help them to see how saving resources impacts their lives and what they can do to make things better. Here are some examples:

  • Recycle: Have bins for recycling outside your home and let your child sort paper, glass and plastic. Recycle toys by asking your child if they know of any younger friends who may want them instead of throwing them in the trash. Recycle clothes by asking your child if you can both pick out items that don’t fit anymore and give them to family members. Do you live near a recycling center? If so, take your child for visit so they can see where all of their hard work goes to and what happens to it.
  • Reuse: Pack your child’s lunch in reusable BPA-free containers. Give them their juice, milk or water in a reusable BPA-free reusable water bottle and help them understand the amount of plastic water bottles the world uses each day that usually aren’t recycled. When products are purchased at a store, help your child generate ideas of how the packaging can be used again for arts and crafts or building, in the case of boxes. Reuse school supplies each year that are still in good shape.
  • Reduce: When you’re out shopping with your child, in addition to using it as a learning experience with math, help them to choose items with less packaging and ones that are more easily recyclable.
  • Use your public library or used book stores: All children should have special books of their own but they should also have a library card if you have a library in your town. Teach your child how borrowing books or buying used books saves trees and resources. Take out books on endangered species and the environment that are geared towards their age group.
  • Ride your bicycle when you can or walk with your child to run errands and explain what pollution is and why the Earth has it.
  • Line dry your washed clothes and let your child help.
  • If you have a backyard, start a compost. Let your child be “in charge” of paying attention to which scraps of food you produce that can be added to it. Plant a garden in the spring with the dirt they’ve helped to make.
  • Save energy: Keep your thermostat at a lower setting in the winter time and wear sweaters instead. Use blankets to snuggle in as you read together or play games.
Teaching your children to be “greener” doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re an active participant, these principles will become a lifestyle for them, which in turn will help their own generation and generations to come.
BIO: Kirstin is a new mother and former teacher. She can be found at her computer each day, while her Little One sleeps, as she writes on her blog, “Trying To Be Greener: Safer eco-living, one day at a time.”  She can also be found as her alter ego superhero, “The Green Mommy with Girl Wonder”, at “EcoWomen: Protectors of the Planet!”
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Thank you, Kirsten.  Please comment below or ask our guest some questions!
Photo credits:
(1) Jupiter Images
(2) Flickr photo by Chris Gin

When Role Models Fail Us: Where Does It Leave the Children?

When Police Officers, Celebrities, and the Government Fail to be Role Models

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

We all make mistakes. It’s human. But we don’t always clean up our messes. As adults—parents, educators, and mentors—we play an important role in teaching children how to cope with mistakes. It’s not always pretty—it’s not always easy—but it’s the responsible thing to do.

But what happens when our role models fail us?

Police Officers: For example, we teach our children that police officers are role models. They look out for us and keep us safe. We may know they aren’t infallible—but we often gloss over that part when we explain their roles to children. They are therefore held in high regard as the people who can do know wrong since they seemingly make what’s wrong right in the world. But after the lack of justice served for Ashley McIntosh (my niece’s 33 year old assistant teacher who was killed last February), parents and educators are still in an uproar. The courts ruled that the police officer, Amanda Perry, didn’t need to take any responsibility for crashing into a young Fairfax County citizen when traveling through a red light without her siren on during a slick, icy night. How can we teach children and teens to take responsibility for themselves and our role models refuse to take responsibility for their mistakes?

Note: Virginia Residents: Help make Ashley’s law a reality by signing this free petition. The law would mandate that emergency vehicle operators always use their lights and siren when driving through red lights, and mandate emergency vehicle operators slow their vehicles so they are able to make a controlled stop when driving through any intersection.

Celebrities: Our children look to celebrities for inspiration and are often crushed when things don’t go as expected. The world seemed to stop cold when Miley Cyrus posed for Vanity Fair in April. She was the real life Disney princess—the everydaughter—the everyfriend—and both parents and young girls felt blindsided by her decision to pose for Annie Leibovitz with only a sheet covering her. She didn’t take responsibility. Nobody did. How can we teach our children and teens the importance of taking responsibility when those in limelight refuse to do so?

Government: Children and teens look to local and national government officials and something to aspire to in their later years. Every child wants to be in charge, don’t they? Many dream of becoming president! But during a year of scandal and shame, in which government has been often equated with adultery, failure, partisanship, and disappointment we must wonder what our children are thinking. Who wants to aspire to be THAT ? When golden parachutes open for those who steal, lie, and cheat, can we really teach our children that it’s best to admit mistakes, take responsibility, and clean up their messes?

What is your role in teaching children to take responsibility?

Redefine role models: Teach your children that people don’t become role models because they hold a particular position—that’s just their job. An oval office or a red carpet doesn’t make a role model. From police officers to celebrities to the little old lady down the street, people become role models because of their character and what they do. And of course- don’t forget to look in the mirror to see their most important role model…you.

Show them that role models are all around us: It’s true. Role models can be found everywhere and anywhere. They may be the responsible babysitter next door who always calls if she’s running a few minutes late or the stay at home mother who volunteers at the local animal shelter twice a week. They can be the teacher who stays an hour after school to help a struggling student or the business man who spends his Saturdays being a “Big Brother” to a child in need. They are every color, every size, every age, and every shape. Find these role models and expose your child to them.

Teach them that role models are not infallible but fix their mistakes: Even those with the best character are not immune to mistakes. That’s not the point. It’s what role models do with those mistakes once they make them. A true role model, whether they’re high ranking officials or a coaches at a Powerful Words Member School program always makes full attempts to mop up their messes and leave things better than they were before they were made.

Be the role model they deserve: Children need to know that for a great role model, they don’t have to look farther than their own home or schools. Parents and teachers must hold themselves to the highest standards. No matter what’s on TV or in the movies, you are the superheroes in their worlds. So try not to make huge mistakes—but if you do—work on fixing them…fast.  Post this up in your minds– if I knew my actions were setting the precedent for the next generation of leaders, would I be doing this? If not, stop. If you already did, see tip #3.

Teach them to be the role model they desire: Children need to know that what they choose to do is important if they want to be leaders. Ask them, how would a great leader handle this problem? What choice should the leader in you make? When they see themselves as leaders and are certain that you expect and know that they can be a powerful role model, they will rise to the occasion 9 out of 10 times.

Tell them to keep their heads high and their eyes on their own plate: This advice came straight from my father while I was growing up. Children and teens need to be confident in their own decisions. They can’t worry about what everyone is doing, thinking, or saying. When we focus on our own goals, other people’s choices don’t throw us.

Talk about mistakes and ask them for their opinions: When role models make mistakes, allow your children and teens to talk about it in their own words. Ask questions. Allow them to vent. Children need to know that they can come to you and talk openly about their frustration, confusion, and concerns. When you simply make yourself “available” to talk and listen, you are teaching them to become critical thinkers and helping them to realize that they can disagree with their role models or even change their minds about them. Talking it out will help them to digest what they’ve heard, expand their minds, and make decisions.

Of course, role models will continue to make blunders. We will continue to make mistakes. But we can’t throw up our hands and say “there’s nothing I can do.” That statement is simply untrue and irresponsible. We have to do better by our children if we want them to do better—be better—think better—as they grow, develop, and lead.

Please comment below– any ideas on how to deal with the failure of role models? We want to hear what you have to say!

Happy Columbus Day-

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Stop. Think. Show a Little Character

Are You Allowing Small Ways to Show Character to Ride By?  What are We Teaching Our Children?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Friday Musings…

Adults love talking about values with children.  Show respect! Be responsible! Demonstrate some kindness!

While we talk about character all year ’round, it seems that Fall gets everyone in learning mode again.

Since the Powerful Word for September’s Powerful Word was Respect, and October’s Powerful Word is Responsibility, I’ve been hyper-focused on those words.  It’s a good thing.  It challenges me to find ways to be more respectful and responsible. But it also makes me see the glaring ways we all fall down on the job– the job of actually showing children that we exhibit character ourselves NOT just tell them to do it.

A few weeks ago I was leaving for to see some of our favorite local teens from Randolph High in a summer production of the musical, Grease. It was 7pm. Rush hour. My husband and I sat in my car at the end of the street for about 7 minutes before some kind soul stopped and let me merge onto the main road. Thank goodness. Otherwise I might be still sitting there now.  I’d like to send out a public “thank-you” to the person who actually took the extra 3 seconds to let me in!  Thank-you, wherever you are!

There are daily opportunities to put our character into active motion. As parents, we must recognize them and make the choice to take them. These two steps are crucial to not only making the world a better place but also showing children that we actually do in fact “walk the talk.”

I say “recognize” because (and correct me if you disagree) some people just don’t see the opportunity to show character even if it hits them square between the eyes. Know anyone like this?

For example, my husband Jason and I were enjoying some quality time at the Dog Park with our fabulous furry friend, Casey.  We saw a mother walking with her son (maybe around 9 years old), when their dog squatted and did his “doggie business.”  Instead of bagging it up like everyone else, the mother and son just walked on by as if the rules of the dog park (and common decency) didn’t apply to them.

It makes me want to find more ways to show character– even in small ways.  I mean, look around!  You’ve got to stop and think! For example, it was about 9am on Monday morning. I had just finished at the gym and stopped at the local “Stop N’ Shop” to pick up my weekly groceries. I was rushing around…as we all tend to do. An elderly woman who had parked next to me was loading her groceries into her trunk when she stopped and asked me, “will you be needing a cart?” I said, “Sure. I’d be happy to take that for you.” She smiled gratefully and sighed, “that would be really helpful.” You know, it made me feel good.

I have to tell you that my initial thought when she asked me if I needed a cart was “yes, I’ll get one inside the store.” I mean, that’s what we’re programmed to do, isn’t it? We rush around and sometimes don’t even see the opportunities to put our character into active motion. We want our children to keep their eyes open for ways they can use their Powerful Character but sometimes forget that we have to slow down every once in a while to recognize the opportunities to use the lessons ourselves!

Funny, I walked away thinking; “That lady had a good idea. And it’s such an easy concept!” That small exchange would keep carts from hitting parked cars and store workers from having to chase carts in every conceivable place in the parking lot. We all know that most people do not return the carts to the assigned parking spot anyway.

So I figured, I’d try the same thing when I left the store. This must be “the lesson” I was supposed to get from this brief exchange! What goes around comes around right? Yes, I recognize that this is a very unscientific study– but it was worth a try.

There was a guy walking towards the store with his son (probably about 8 years old) when I had finished loading the groceries into my trunk. I turned to the father and asked, “Will you be needing a cart?” I had to smile to myself since I sounded just like the women who spoke to me a half hour before.

Well, guess what happened? The man looked at me with a quick side glance and said, “Nah, we’re only getting a few things,” and walked on by. I’m totally serious. He didn’t take the cart even though he was walking inside the store right past the cart retrieval area. His son just shrugged as he looked up at his Dad and they just kept walking.

I was a bit stunned. Should I have been? That wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen! What was this guy teaching his son? It made me wonder if I might have missed this opportunity before– how many of us do? I shook my head.

Stop. Think. Put character in active motion. So I figured that I could still do my part.  I mean, do we really need to leave our carts by the front of our cars and back out?  Why not show some responsibility? So I wheeled my cart across the parking lot to the cart return. It was a beautiful day. It wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t even very far.

I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But I think about these things because, as parents and as educators, we’re not just teaching character. That would be going only half way. We are teaching our children to act. If we don’t recognize the opportunities ourselves, are we just full of it? And if we don’t put our own character in active motion, even in these small ways, are we leading by example?

Would love to hear your take on the topic.  Please comment below.

Have a Powerful Weekend- I’m in Oklahoma City for a few days!

Warm regards,

October’s Powerful Word of the Month – Responsibility

Ashley McIntosh: Denied Justice for Deadly Car Crash with Police?

Ashley McIntosh: Justice Denied?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Bad weather, No Siren, Red Light: A case of an Officer given preferential treatment? You Make the Call

As many of you know, my niece Evie and her schoolmates lost their beloved teaching assistant, Ashley McIntosh (affectionately known as Miss Mac), last February when a police officer, Amanda Perry, crashed into her Toyota sedan. The Fairfax County police officer, as witnessed by several onlookers, had driven through a red light with her emergency lights on but without a siren. Upon impact, Ashley was tragically ejected from the vehicle.

Although the officer had been charged with reckless driving in May, she was found not guilty last week to the shock of Ashley’s family and friends.

“Taking the totality of the circumstances I don’t find the evidence rises to a level that the driving was reckless.” — General District Judge Sarah L. Deneke

Witnesses all voiced that police officer Perry was driving at a speed close to 50 mph and spend through the intersection. Virginia law states that officers are actually not required to sound their sirens when they’re running red lights. (Clearly, this law needs to be amended as the practice resulted in a preventable deadly crash). Perry stated that she was indeed trying to turn on her siren while making herself aware of the traffic ahead of her but despite her efforts, “it did not come on.”

A video from officer Perry’s dashboard, which showed that the officer hit the brakes and turned on her emergency lights, was the key piece of evidence that prompted the not guilty verdict. Perry had perceived that the intersection was clear. For several seconds before the crash, the officer did not use her brakes or swerve. The light had been red for about 5 seconds prior to the crash. Perhaps not surprisingly, she claimed that McIntosh’s car “came out of nowhere.” Perry was going between 38-44 mph, according to crash experts, when the crash occurred. Perry was not seriously hurt but Ashley suffered fatal injuries that led to her death the following day.

“The judge saw the video and heard all the testimony and the judge found that that did not rise to the level of a conscious disregard for life, limb or property,” Ed Nuttall, defense attorney

Ashley McIntosh had her whole life ahead of her. She was loved by the children at Clermont Elementary School. She was engaged to the love of her life. She was young and contagiously happy.

Ashley’s supporters, many of whom signed the petition that begged for justice to be served despite the fact that an officer was involved which appeared to be delaying and swaying the process, are in shock. She has yet to apologize to the family. Perry has taken no responsibility whatsoever. Supporter recently commented on our blog about the outrage concerning the lack of outrage and the fact that Amanda Perry was allowed to leave the courtroom through a special entrance, without statement.

It is obvious that the reckless driving charge was a set up. It was a charge designed to placate Fx Co residents but it is a charge the Commonwealth’s Attorney knew could, and would, be defeated. A charge of running a red light was indisputable and would have certainly resulted in a conviction and would have paved the way for a wrongful death suit. Where is the outrage? Other than the Washington Post, I have not connected with any of the outrage this case deserves. –RT Greenwood

Now that the officer has been found “not guilty” of the absurdly low level charge DESPITE traversing the intersection at 45 mph with NO SIREN activated (to investigate shoplifting?), will you be following through to demand some independent oversight for the Fairfax County police, required to attain no more than a high school diploma in a county and state with NO independent Ethics Commission/No Inspector General and led (as “chiefs” of police) by a revolving door of insider males? Should the defendent have been allowed to leave the courtroom through a side door used by deputies? –C Green

Cindy Colasanto, Ashley’s grieving mother, read a statement prepared in the event of an unexpected acquittal.

“It’s beyond any understanding I have to think that an officer of the law, sworn to protect and defend us, is not held responsible for the irresponsible decision she made, responding to a call and resulting in the violent death of my daughter. Her misdeed has caused my family lifelong grief and a pain that we’ll never forget.”

The attorney for Officer Perry argued that the crash was the fault of Ashley. Ashley’s car was going about 22 to 26 mph through her green light.

“It’s clear from the video, Ms. McIntosh’s vehicle is not taking a left-hand turn. . . . The way in which Ms. McIntosh’s vehicle was driven was unforeseeable [to Officer Perry] and therefore the reason that this impact occurred.” –Edward Nuttall

NOTE: While Ashley’s light was definitely green and Officer Perry’s light was certainly red, police officers are exempt from the red light/green light law if their “speed is sufficiently reduced.” Of course, considering that they have due regard to the safety of persons and property.” However, the law states that the officers must have both their lights and their siren on, which was not the case here.

My deepest condolences to Ashley’s family and loved ones.

Do you think the officer was given the same treatment and verdict as a common citizen would be given? Voice your opinion.