Stealing from Kids, Part II

Hi Readers — I thought this was an interesting comment on the post about doing “everything” for our kids (and taking away the opportunity for them to learn how to do stuff themselves). “NT” is shorthand for “neurotypical” — i.e., a child without neurological difficulties. — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I see moms like this at my daughter’s school, where the lockers for the special-needs preschool kids are right across from the NT second-graders.

While the preschooler’s parents and TAs diligently work with our kids to
remind them of how to take off boots,  jackets, put mittens in pockets
themselves, there’s another group of moms doing all this stuff for their
much-older children while they stand there like lumps of wax, arms out
expectantly. It’s amazing to me that we have higher expectations of our
three-year-old kids with special needs (mostly autism) than many mothers of
second-graders do.

I’m hoping that one of these days, one of those mothers will glance over
towards us and maybe wonder why we’re working so hard to teach our kids to
be independent, and decide that maybe it’s time for her children to do the
same. To me, it looks like they’re working just as hard to handicap their NT
kids as we are to teach our autistic kids to learn basic skills. — Michelle

79 Responses

  1. So very true. Here’s the thing: it’s easier to teach responsibility to your kids than to handicap them. Handicapping takes WORK! It takes time and effort. And worst of all, it is keeping NT kids from becoming self-sufficient. While on the other hand, special needs kids are learning to be MORE responsible and self-sufficient.

  2. I often found when working with Special Ed kids that they were more capable than their NT peers. They could get their food, open their drinks, make sandwiches etc.

    Keep up the great work Michelle, your kids will thank you for it.

    My son is 3 and NT and WILL learn to do all those things by himself!

  3. This time two years ago I started uni and moved into an on-campus student accommodation. It was the first time I’d ever lived apart from my parents. It took me a few weeks but I adapted to living by myself and caring for myself well enough.

    I was absolutely shocked at the amount of people there who totally failed to do the same.

    I am dead serious when I say that the fire evacuation alarm went off on average about ONCE PER WEEK (and as often as five times per week) because these 17-25 year olds could not cook for themselves. Apparently they’d do things like put something on to cook and then go away or go to sleep, or microwave something with metal/foil on it.

    The first time we had a unit inspection, the lady came in and took a cursory glance around. She wasn’t particularly interested in the unit being spotlessly clean – she was looking for destroyed furniture, serious stains on the carpet, holes punched through the walls, broken windows… in other words, she was checking to see if we had completely trashed the place, because that happened often. She told us about some units that had had gouges taken out of the walls, carpets that had had drinks spilled on them or been puked on and never cleaned…

    The point I’m making is, a very significant portion of these people, who are mostly legally adults, had absolutely no idea how to take care of themselves or how to take care of a dwelling. Their parents had obviously done everything for them before they moved out and never let them learn how to take care of life for themselves. Similarly, those “kids” obviously never had to take real responsibility or consequences before, if they were prepared to treat a rental property that way…

  4. This issue deserves a part II. Gets right to the heart of the free range issue: Doing for a child what the child can (should!) be doing for himself/herself just ain’t right.

    Actually, remarking this truism is what led me to find this blog. After what I’d seen/heard, I started googling “helicopter parenting” and landed here.

    A friend with her 61/2 year old boy were visiting us. The mother and I are talking and the boy says: Mommy I have to use the potty (I think he even used the word “potty”). The mother says okay and keeps talking to me. So far so good. The boy says insistently: Mommy I have to go potty. NOW! The mother, okay okay (at this point I’m wondering why she doesn’t remind him where the bathroom is). Then the boy says in an angry voice: I have to go to the potty and I have to do a DUDIE! The mother hurries off with him to the toilet. I thought this was reaaally odd to say the least, but it occurred to me that maybe he had issues that weren’t readily apparent, and his mother hadn’t mentioned.

    Repeat the story to a friend of mine with a six year old son who I know doesn’t have any issues. He says that they (he and his wife) also wipe their boy’s butt because although he can do it himself, it’s not to the standard that they would like it to be. WTH????

    Somehow this particular subject is a great analogy for the helicopter parent: The parent is simultaneously the child’s slave and his humiliator.

  5. Children learning basic skills? In what school district does that happen? How many Christmas Ornaments and cheesy gift wraps do I have to buy to pay for it?

  6. A family I know has a daughter who is a high school senior. She has a job at a grocery store 5 minutes away from their house – that’s at a walking pace. Her father drives her to work and picks her up. He also deposits her check for her in the bank every Saturday (bank is about 5 minutes walk in the other direction).

    Right now she should be looking at colleges, but is uninterested in putting any effort into it. Her father cannot understand why. Cause and effect, maybe? The girl is very smart, and a talented artist. But without the practice in doing real things for herself, she is just as handicapped as someone on the autism spectrum.

  7. I have two daughters 10 & 5(bday next week for the 5 year old). My goal as a parent right now is to do as little as possible. My 10 yo has been making her lunch when she brings it to school for 2 years now. We have let the youngest start taking her shower all by herself lately. I mean I sit and watch TV downstairs and she goes up and does everything by herself. It is great.

    Routine homework is not reviewed on a daily basis for the 4th grader. She does it and we don’t see it until she gets it back graded from the teacher. The only help she gets is on large projects.

    The 4th grader gets herself up and makes her own breakfast. She is still learning to budget her time in the mornings, but she will learn.

    The 5 year old is able to go downstairs by herself if she wakes up before us and turn on the TV and not kill herself for a long period of time. Weekend mornings are usually peaceful if we aren’t going anywhere.

    I figure the more we teach them the less I have to do. Very soon they are going to start doing major chores around the house. They already empty the dishwasher, but I am talking cleaning bathrooms and floors.

  8. There were 5 kids in my family growing up and I always used to ehar my dad joke that the reason they had so many kids and so they (the parents) wouldn’t have to do as much work. They never did anything for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves and we were doing chores before we were old enough to know what life was like not doing chores. The way I see it, the earlier you give kids freedom and responsibility, the sooner they’ll show you just how much they’re capable of.

  9. When I graduated from college in the early ’80s I worked in a group home for severely and profoundly mentally retarded adolescents. The kids that I worked with had more self-help skills than the NT kids at Michelle’s daughter’s school. They could all dress themselves and take care of their basic hygeine (showering, tooth brushing), though some of the lower functioning kids needed help with shampooing and combing their hair. The higher functioning kids even had daily chores: unloading the dishwasher, putting dishes away, setting the table, sorting laundry, putting clothes into the dryer and turning it on. Even though these kids were considered uneducable, and would probably be in a group home or institutional setting for their whole lives, their teachers, aides, and group home house parents all worked together to give them as many self-help skills as possible. Working in that group home made me realize that even a person with an immesurably low IQ can learn some basic self-help skills. They just learn them much slower than an NT child would. If an autistic kid with an IQ below 20 can learn to dress himself, an NT child certainly should be able to do it.

  10. I spend a lot of time thinking about the free range issue with a special needs kid. My daughter is almost four and legally blind, with some other issues going on as well. I love the idea of doing what is right for my kid based on her responsibility level and what I feel is okay.
    When she gets up in the morning, she gets out of her room, goes and gets a juice box, bread, nutella and a butter knife and makes herself breakfast. I’m perfectly okay with her going into the drawer with the forks and kinves, she knows what she’s doing and exactly where things are. On the other hand, I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable with her outside in the yard on her own. She can’t always see things that she might hurt herself on, and I don’t need to be right on top of her, but I do like to be outside with her.

  11. Being neuro-atypical covers a lot of ground, and includes ADHD, a condition my son deals with. For him, remembering things, getting through homework, and staying on track long enough to not lose papers, hats, mittens, etc. is a major task. It blows my mind that parents with NT kids would go that extra mile to do all that stuff for their kids. I work hard to push my son to do for himself. The kids don’t have lockers at his school, but they have schoolyard assembly and many parents walk their kids to it. I just drop him off or he takes the bus. (Honestly, dropping him off works better with my schedule and gets ME to work on time.) This year he lost a hat and gloves and had to deal with the cold after that. He cannot learn unless he experiences real life consequences. Homework is a pendulum because I need to make sure he is learning the material – when you can’t pay attention in class, you don’t always understand the material and paying attention is a work in progress, not something you can just tell him to do and he can do it. But that’s the neurology talking. Like a blind person who needs to learn to use hearing more, or a paraplegic who has to figure out how to get to class, my son needs to figure out how to work around his differences. And NT kids need to learn how to deal w/ life, too.

  12. I always understood the helicopter parenting mostly as a competition amongst mothers to see who has the cleanest, most unscathed and quiet child in the room. Almost like a pet beauty contest, you know what I mean?
    My tactic is to diverge the unescaping competition to other goals, like having the most self-sufficient and helpful child. For example, at a families gathering, instead of chasing my children with their food, trying to make them eat some, I “train” my kids to go fetch ME a beer😉

  13. GPO–you arent doing as little as possible. You are doing more than is required. You are sacrificing perfection in order to help your kids learn and grow.

    The hidden truth is that in the short term it is easier to put your kid’s coat on, wipe his butt or monitor the shower. You save time and avoid major messes.

    However, it is stealing an opportunity for them to learn and an opportunity for you to do something besides being absorbed in your child’s routine. What you learn in that time might even help you to teach them more.

  14. While teaching, I had special-needs students. My job was of course to give them the help they needed, which I did. However, I can’t remember a single incident where I had to “baby” them like that. And they were 1st graders. They had various issues, but they could hold their own. I had “Mikey”. He was very low functioning, barely spoke, etc. But perhaps I should not use low functioning. He was clean. He kept his desk and folders immaculate. He was scheduled (not ridiculously so, just appropriately aware of when things were to happen). He was popular and social. He dressed himself. All he needed was help tying his shoes. He could navigate the school on his own. Again, quite low functioning, but his parents (great people) expected a lot out of him, and he rose to the standard beautifully.

    Frankly, if a special needs student is incapable of learning such things as mentioned here, they need more assistance. That’s all. The NT kids have no excuse.

  15. I just don’t get stuff like this. My incredibly stubborn and motivated 20 month old is right now trying her damndest to learn how to dress herself. I don’t always let her because I can’t deal with 20+ minutes with three meltdowns to get a shirt on, but she does in fact do a significant portion of dressing herself.

    I actually do see a lot of parents who baby their toddlers (as I only have a toddler, I only really pay attention to toddler issues). I have a friend whose almost 3 year old is just now starting to learn to use silverware because his mom never thought to just let him do it. Mine mastered the fork months ago. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

    Oh, and the parents who try to stop my daughter from doing things I’m ok with drive me nuts. Things like picking up sticks, touching snow, splashing in a puddle. Yes, I WANT her to get dirty. I’m apparently odd in that.

    Like someone upthread said, the goal now is to do as little as possible for caring for my daughter. At 20 months I of course still have to do a lot, but I don’t have to feed her, I don’t have to undress her much, I don’t have to open jars for her, I don’t have to fetch things for her, I don’t have to carry her up or down the stairs, put her or take her out of the carseat, etc. etc. etc. It’s nice not HAVING to pick up a toddler.

  16. I was thinking about the previous post just this week.

    We finally all put together the money to enroll the nieces in swimming lessons, once a week. They have GOT to learn to swim. For some reason, here we are on a city of islands, and a lot of people don’t know how to swim. *I* don’t know how to swim, certainly. I never learned.

    The girls are in different classes because they’re different ages. This is a hassle in more ways than one (specifically, in two ways, because the little kids group meets exactly half an hour after school lets out and we can’t make it there by bus on time), but it’s not an insurmountable difficulty.

    I was surprised, when I dropped Evangeline off for her first class, to find I was the only grown-up who didn’t hang out on the side of the pool to watch. Why would I want to hang out on the side of the pool breathing chlorine for half an hour? Why would THEY want to?

    I was absolutely ASTONISHED, after the class, to see the difference between how Evangeline acted and how the other kid using our locker room acted. Here she is getting herself ready to go out into the waiting room, and he’s… getting changed like a doll. And they’re the same age! Absolutely unbelievable.

  17. I’m extremely happy to see a part two on this topic. For several years now, this is an issue I’ve struggled with when it comes to my stepdaughter. Needless to say, her mother’s view of parenting is diametrically opposite of her father’s and mine. She has required help getting dressed until she was eight or so, is still unwilling to go to the bathroom on her own in public places (she’s ten now), will not walk anywhere, and cannot perform a single chore around the house. This has led to some interesting confrontations (and a now-famous one-liner from my part: if you’re old enough to wear a training bra, you’re old enough to go to find the bathroom on your own). It makes me sad as I see her totally unable to react to any new situation, and not trusting her own judgement. In comparison, our toddler is already a much more independant individual, who insists on doing things on her own and continually exceeds our expectations of what she should be able to achieve.

  18. Lol! Love it. I hope one day those mother’s will look over and see how autistic kids are coping very well on their own, while they realize that their kids are less inept. Making them feel really stupid, and confused enough to actually change their ignorant ways. Sometimes you need to “slap” someone in the face for them to snap out of their hysteria.

  19. My sister-in-law is bipolar. We’re the same age, 38. She still lives with her parents, doesn’t have a fulltime job, cannot drive and depends on her mother for just about every decision in her life. There is nothing wrong with her physically, and her bipolar has been under good control for years. She certainly isn’t mentally handicapped either. But her parents, especially my mother-in-law, has made it their life’s work to protect her against anything that might upset her, and utterly failed to push her to grow and develop as a person.

    My mother-in-law is in control of my my sister-in-law’s medication, I doubt she could tell you what pills she takes or what they’re for. Mother-in-law packs her bag when they go on holiday, makes her doctor’s appointments, gives her money in the shops to buy things like you would do with a little kid. Sister-in-law didn’t finish school, never prepares a meal, throws tantrums with no consequences, expects you to take an interest in how she cleaned her room and went to the library today and tells people that she is “child like because bipolar stole her childhood”. In fact she is immature, childish and has no self esteem and is sorely lacking in social skills.

    If nothing else my sister-in-law motivates me to make my daughter as independent and capable as I possibly can. She is the ultimate result of persistent helicopter parenting. One day I was driving my daughter to my in-laws for a visit and I said something about my sister-in-law making her a cup of tea. No said my daughter, she can’t do that, she is still a youngster. When I pointed out to her that sister-in-law is an adult, same age as me, she sat there with confusion written large on her face because clearly this was true. She treats her aunt with contempt and when we discipline her for that my sister-in-law goes “Oh don’t worry, it doesn’t matter”. It matters to me.

    Sorry, I needed to vent and it seemed semi-appropriate here.

  20. Surely our job as parents is to help our children develop their abilities as far as they can, regardless of what challenges they may have? My daughter is 8. I’ve been ill and a couple of days ago she made me a cup of tea, unprompted. I think it’s great that she can make a decent cup of tea and that she has the ability to see when someone is in need of some tlc, and provide it.

  21. When I was teaching high school, all the special ed kids passed the state writing test. Every. last. one. Because the teachers worked their tails off to teach them basic skills.

    Plenty of NT kids failed. It was assumed they’d pass easily, so no one focused on it.

  22. I was watching the movie Step Brothers this past weekend. It was about two 40 year old men acting like poorly behaved 6 year olds. I think its a good look at what is this generation of smothered children is going to look like.

    I just don’t understand this concept of helicopter parenting. If I wanted to constantly take care of something, I would get a neurotic chihuahua, not have a child.

    While the infant stage is very special and should be cherished, I very much look forward to the day when my child can be independent and my husband and I get our life back (camping, traveling and having adventures) and the child tags along for the ride (and fun!).

  23. I’m amazed that a school beyond pre-school actually allows the parents inside the school during school hours, other than for special events. In our school the kids line up outside, the teachers take them in when the bell rings, and they all come outside when the day is over. Bizarre.

  24. This topic is broader and deeper than we realize. It’s not just ‘stealing’ from your child when you do everything for them; it’s plain ol’ brain-washing, and it subverts the natural order of things and harms our whole species.

    The vast majority of kids start life with a stubborn, inborn desire to do things for themselves. Ask any 2-year-old. They see bigger people (siblings, parents, adult friends) doing things, and they want to learn them and do them. It’s baked into them. In order to get your older kid to stand still like a doll and have you dress them, or to get them to allow you to wipe their butt for them, you have to deprogram this natural desire for self-sufficiency out of them! Not only is it more work for you to do these things for them, it’s even more work to repeat the false message over and over until you overcome their natural desire to do things for themselves.

    The more I think about this abnormal behavior among parents, I begin to believe it’s an unnatural bubble of sorts in the grand scheme of human history. It’s an aberration that HAS to correct itself in some way. Millennia ago, if parents refused to teach basic life skills to their children, or did everything for them, those kids would simply die – devoured by some wild beast on the hunt, kidnapped by a neighboring tribe and enslaved, etc. The misbehavior of the bad parents corrected itself. (GIven that they were probably going to have eight or ten kids, maybe they lost a few and learned to do better for the others.)

    But what corrects this in our future? I know that some of us joke that those overprotected, helpless kids are going to be working for our kids, but I think maybe there’s more to it than that. What happens to those college-age kids who can’t make a meal or take care of a rental apartment? Will they ever own a home? Will they start businesses? Will they run for office? As the Baby Boomers age, what percentage of the work of our whole country will fall into the hands of the helpless? With fewer people in the younger generations, we should be doing MORE to train and equip them for capable lives, not less.

    What if the inevitable correction of all this bad parenting is the complete collapse of our whole society (as we know it), as the few who are capable simply can’t run everything, and the many who are incapable become impoverished masses?

  25. Not sure how to contact you other than posting a comment … just wanted to draw your attention to this lovely over-the-top piece on the dangers lurking on Facebook, courtesy of Babble.com:
    http://www.babble.com/kid/kid-health-safety/kids-facebook-safety-age-restrictions/

  26. An international group of teachers was sharing on line. The US teachers all remarked that there was a clear line of demarcation between the group that are in 6th grade in 2011 and the group that is in 5th grade in 2011. The 2011 5th graders and several years after are HELPLESS.

    I swear we had to stop their parents coming into school and FEEDING THEM in when they were in 1st and 2nd grade. I don’t bring them lunch I mean FEEDING THEM. Something my niece and nephew have been able to do since they were 18 months or so. Several grades after are also bad about this.

    It seems to start turning around with the 2011 kinder and 1st graders but the line isn’t as clear as the other one.

    All the teachers making these observations were US teachers. A British teacher point out that the 2011 5th graders were all born in 2001.

  27. The moms’ of the older kids that still do these things for them are the same moms’ that in 8-10 years will be argueing with administrators that their little angels could never do “that.”

  28. Dona: That’s really sad, and what’s more all the comments saying ‘Facebook should be for adults’ really drive home what a divided society we’ve become, and how prejudiced against children we really are.

  29. “Why would I want to hang out on the side of the pool breathing chlorine for half an hour? Why would THEY want to?”

    Because I enjoyed watching my child learn how to swim. Not every person who is watching swimming lessons is a helicopter parent. I usually stay through my child’s lessons because I enjoy watching and it’s easier to sit there and surf the internet/play games than to get in the car and drive somewhere for 15 minutes. I will sometimes walk or run errands, but mostly it’s good vegging time.

  30. Do you like using your debit card to make purchases for free? Then join the fight against the debit card interchange rule at Don’t Make Us Pay.org.

  31. @Heila — I know a woman in her mid-40s much like your sister-in-law. Her overprotective mother passed away a year ago, leaving her middle-aged daughter completely unequipped to handle real life.

    The mother’s last act of “protectiveness” was to lie about the seriousness of her illness and deny any possibility that she might die or make preparations toward thar possibility. This just made the death and its aftermath that much more traumatic for an already fragile, virtually helpless woman. She is so needy, her demands and “crises” quickly burn out nearly everyone she comes in contact with.

    It is very sad to see an adult so utterly unable to cope.

    “Stealing” just seems like too kind a word.

  32. This conversation makes me think of my husband’s stated favorite thing to do the first weekend of each year he was in college. He and a friend would go hang out in the laundromat and watch the new students do laundry. Pretty much every time there would be someone in tears because they had no idea how to do laundry.

  33. @ Hella: Right on! Keep at it. Our children rely on us for guidance. We need to keep it positive, productive, and useful to them as they grow up.

    @ Lafe: It maybe said jokingly. But we don’t jest. Those kids who don’t learn how to fend and do things for themselves, are ALWAYS left behind. Socially, mentally and emotionally. These types of people don’t get very far in life and are stuck as the “followers”. That’s just a fact of life. Those that think for themselves, plan, have the confidence to follow their dreams and ambition, tend to excel more. Sadly, unless people start to change the way they think, it will always be that way. So it becomes “survival of the fittest”. And it all starts at home from the time we are children. What kids learn today, is what they will know and use tomorrow.

    @ Dona: that’s pretty crazy. But again, it’s up to the parents to educate their kids. You can’t always be there to prevent them from doing things, but educating them, keeps you and your words in their heads. If they haven’t been spoiled or learned to be unruly (due to no discipline), they will have a bigger conscience. And think of the things they’ve been taught before acting.

  34. Wow. And here I was feeling guilty that last night I helped my 8-year-old get dressed after her swimming lesson because I was exhausted and wanted to get home a bit sooner. (We walk home — it takes about 20-25 minutes. And it was COLD here last night.) She can get out of her clothes and into her bathing suit (which she packs herself, together with her towel, goggles, and swim cap) by herself in a couple of minutes, but once she’s been in the pool for an hour and is wet and slimy, everything takes longer.

    Obviously it (which is to say, me) could be a lot worse!

    I sometimes post on a mommy message board, mostly for the purpose of playing devil’s advocate — suggesting to the semi-hysterical crowd that, for example, their 10-year-old sons are almost certainly perfectly safe going into the men’s room alone, their 8-year-olds are unlikely to be kidnapped from the school-bus stop in front of their own house, and their babies are not doomed to a lifetime of … anything, really, if they are not trained to sleep through the night by 4 months. It can be very frustrating, but every so often someone else chimes in on my side, which makes it feel worth it. So anyway this one mom posted that her 5-year-old son is wanting to dress himself in the morning, and should she let him? When had other moms let their kids start doing this? A reassuring number of responses were along the lines of “Of course, duh” and “as soon as they showed the slightest interest” — but I was astounded by the number of moms of 5-, 6-, 7-, 8 -year-olds who described how they carefully put together matching outfits before putting away the clothes in the kid’s dresser, or inspect their self-dressed kids’ outfits and suggest (or enforce) better colour matching, or lay out a week’s worth of acceptable matching outfits every Sunday night, or choose two outfits of which the kid can pick one. As the mom of an 8-year-old who has been choosing her own outfits and dressing herself, at her own insistence, since she was 2, I was like O_O. But all of a sudden I understood why there are always a few kids in DD’s class who come to school (or daycare) looking perfectly put together, coordinated and tidy. I had thought those kids must be really precocious in matters sartorial, but maybe not. These kids must have very different personalities from my kid, that’s all I can say — it’s been a long time since I’ve made the mistake of interfering with DD’s clothing choices, except to say, e.g., “no, you cannot wear that outgrown shirt/skirt that shows your pupik” or “really, you want to have your school photos taken in a hoodie with hot chocolate stains on the front?”

  35. I usually stay through my child’s lessons because I enjoy watching and it’s easier to sit there and surf the internet/play games than to get in the car and drive somewhere for 15 minutes.

    I went out to the waiting room with a good book, actually. AND the older niece, who doesn’t need more time in chlorine.

    Sylvia, I suspect your helping was very different from this woman’s helping of her kid. The kid sat there like a lump on a bump as his mom carefully did EVERYTHING for him. Sometimes I help Evangeline button up her coat (she takes the top and I take the bottom and we meet in the middle) or things like that, but Evangeline is an active participant in this.

  36. @Uly — I stay and watch DD’s swimming lessons. Not at the side of the pool, but upstairs behind glass. Her lessons are at 7pm at a location in the back of beyond, and it makes much more sense to stay and knit (or read a book, or knit while listening to an audiobook, or work) than to try and find something else to do at night in a neighbourhood where everything else is already closed. Plus, her normal lesson is only 30 minutes, which doesn’t give me much time to do anything, really — it would be different if the neighbourhood were different, I guess.

    Also, watching small children swimming is hilarious.

  37. The kid sat there like a lump on a bump as his mom carefully did EVERYTHING for him.

    You know what that reminds me of? The stereotypical upper-class Victorian person (child or adult) accustomed to being dressed by servants.

    I wonder if thinking of it like that would give such parents pause …

  38. When my son was in kindergarten (German preschool), he started picking out his own clothes. More often than not, his pants and shirts didn’t match. When I mentioned this to his teacher, she said that it was great that he was choosing his outfits for the day. She even said that she preferred to see kids in mismatched clothing because that meant the kids were involved in choosing their outfits. Like Sylvia Rachel, I felt that it was better for my son to choose his clothing for the day. My only part was making sure that the clothing that he chose was appropriate for the season. As parents we have to pick our battles, and the clothing issue really wasn’t worth fighting.

    We have to be careful of assuming that every time a parent is with a child out walking or at a lesson, that the parent is helicoptering. As Sylvia Rachel said, sometimes it’s more convenient to stay at a swim lesson than go home for 15 minutes then turn around and come back. There have been times when my son has asked me to accompany him to the store or library. He has gone to those places alone many times, but maybe that day he simply wanted some company or wanted to share things about his day with me.

  39. I’ve seen a *lot* of infantalizing of my 9 year old nephew by my in-laws (they’re the primary caregivers). My MIL, though she hasn’t really the time to do so, supervises every word of his homework, and my FIL, every note of his piano practice. If anyone had suggested to my parents at age 9, or whe I took my first lessons at age 7, that they sit at the piano with me the whole time I practice, they would have laughed themselves silly!

    (Now, my husband or I supervise our 4-year-old’s violin practice, but that is more the complicated nature of the instrument! And besides, my husband *is* her violin teacher.)

  40. I have 2 children. 28 and 29, girls,rather women. I had them as a teen. 17 and 18. Yeah, it happens.
    ,One is “different”. My mother “read Munchausen”
    took her to a host of doctors and specialists,,wanting to put a label on her. No such luck,,she is just “different”. She went to a very expensive,high end “special” school for the first 6 years of her education.My parents paid for this, and we all thought it was for the best…. NOT SO MUCH.
    she was pampered and had everything done for her. we all thought it for the best.
    I finally made a huge decision to put her in mainstream public school…BEST DECISION ever. she learned social and LIFE skills that helped her be the woman she is today, She started working at Ikea at 14,..and had school the other half a day. yeah, this is a “special needs” kid. i never treated her different from her sister. they both had responsibilities and chores,from a young age..read 5 or 6. single mom, 2 kids, i worked,,so did they.
    they are both productive,wage earning, solid citizens. it was never easy for us,,,,but thats how life is. life ISNT EASY,,teach your kids,
    . It sickens,,yes,,,SICKENS,..me to see how some parents coddle their children in this day and age.
    WHY does it concern me????? these are the future,. our future,..these spoiled, rotten, brats that
    cant tie their shoes, or eat with a knife and fork at the age of 10. OUR FUTURE,,,YOUR future.
    the end,,…
    wow,,,its windy up here on my giant soapbox….
    grain of salt ppl. grain of salt

  41. Sylvia, these folks weren’t reading, or knitting, or even chatting with one another. That’s what made me 0.o about it.

    I will say that it may have been simply because it was the first day. I was surprised, but not appalled. Not that I really wanted to hang around anyway. Kid’s in school already. She doesn’t need me hanging around her while she flounders.

  42. Uly – But you are making the assumption that somehow kids can’t mature and still have parents interested in watching their activities. Watching my kid go from afraid to put her face in the water to swimming on her own in 7 days was enjoyable. I didn’t need a book or knitting because I enjoyed watching. I didn’t think that she couldn’t be without for a minute nor was I afraid to leave her. I simply wanted to watch. Now I watch gymnastics while reading a magazine. I could go into the lobby but why? The seats are perfectly comfortable in the gym and I can occasionally look up and watch for a few minutes – not because I’m fearful but because I’m interested in watching.

    I always wonder about those nicely put together preschoolers. They are apparently very different from mine. My 5 year old is currently wearing white tights with many colored polka dots, a bathing suit cover up skirt and a shirt with butterflies. She looks ridiculous but clearly dressed herself. I do usually mention that she doesn’t match (she rarely does) but if she doesn’t care, I don’t care.

  43. When my kids were in swimming lessons at the Y, I used to obey the signs that were posted everywhere asking parents to please leave during lessons, and go sit in the lounge area with a book.

    Well, our Y doesn’t (or I should say didn’t; it’s been remodeled but we’re no longer members) have the roomiest, most comfortable lounge area, and there’s always a TV playing annoying cartoons to boot. If everyone actually obeyed that sign, there wouldn’t be anywhere to put everyone. And since the clock in the pool area never seemed to be synced with the clock in the lounge, I would inevitably find myself coming back to the pool area (gasp) a minute or two late, to the dirty looks of the instructors who wouldn’t let the kids go without a parent and didn’t want to wait an extra couple of minutes. All in all, it became a tedious hassle, AND I appeared to be about the only parent who ever actually left, so it didn’t seem to make any difference.

    So eventually, I would just sit in the pool area on the bleachers like everyone else. The upside was that the bleachers were always separated from the part of the pools where lessons were held by a couple dozen feet of roped off “family free swim” area, so you really couldn’t interfere or even be close enough to distract a child. But I always wondered why they didn’t just close up the bleachers, if they didn’t want parents staying. That would have discouraged the practice right quick!

  44. Wiping their butts at age 6? Unless they are missing arms and hands, I don’t think so! THAT is what baths are for!

    This whole discussion reminds me of one of my kid’s favorite movies. “Walle”

    Today, we bought some fabric for a dress for my 11 year old daughter. She doesn’t know it yet, but tomorrow, she gets to start sewing her dress. Honestly, I feel that she is somewhat coddled – I learned to sew on a treadle sewing machine. While I have a couple, they are not set up to work so the electric machine it is. She will make a beautiful dress, and will look something like Alice in Wonderland without the white apron when it is is done. She is going to love wearing it out with the other kids. She is the only girl she knows that can wear dressy dresses to play in. (Because we get them second hand, and no one else lets their kid wear them more than a couple times, then they outgrow them.)

  45. But I also agree with Donna. Taking an interest can and should be separated from hovering or the kid “needing” you to be there.

  46. “neurotypical”? What ever happened to “normal”? Are we so afraid of stigmatizing kids with disabilities that we now have to begin labeling everyone else?

  47. Probably because “neurotypical” describes the way kids who are not neurologically challenged actually differ from the challenged kids.

    For example, is a one-legged neurotypical kid “normal?” Not really. So it doesn’t make sense to talk about “autistic” kids and “normal” kids, as though there’s only one way not to be be normal.

  48. My 17 mth old daughter is completely self-sufficient at eating: I sit her the chair, snap on a bib, plunk down her food and drink (in a “real person” cup, not a sippy) and she has at it, utensils and all. It is AWESOME. I can get futz with makeup, answer emails, * eat my own dinner *. I’ve easily gained 1.5 hrs in my day since this most awesome of milestones. OMG Spoon-feeding is mind numbingly boring. What is wrong with people that they would still want to be doing it when it’s no longer necessary? Don’t they have anything better to do?

  49. ] Why would I want to hang out on the side of the pool breathing chlorine for half an hour? Why would THEY want to?”

    In my case, I do because the rec center requires me to. For the little kid classes (ages 3-6), they require a parent on deck, so they can quickly hand the kid off to you if s/he says s/he has to go to the bathroom, and you can escort them. They don’t want that responsibility of just throwing a young kid up and hoping he goes without a mess and finds his way back without detour. I understand the concern and requirement from an instructor’s perspective.

  50. I am currently working with a woman who has a daughter tha is a senior in high school. Mom runs out of work at 2:20 everyday to pick her up and drive her home then comes back to work and then has to run out at 430 so she can drive her back to school for colorgaurd practice. if she is late the girl starts calling non stop. I’m only 25 but by the time i was 14 my mom stopped driving me anywhere. and i waited around school until band practice at 5 and i went to a much much tougher school than what shes at. When i asked her if her daughter had any friends that could pick her up or drive her home her response was … “we don’t let her do that” and then goes on to tell me about how her daughter wants to go away to college…I’d love to see that… Since the girl doesn’t drive and is not allowed to ride in cars with friends.

  51. @ Pentamom

    “Probably because “neurotypical” describes the way kids who are not neurologically challenged actually differ from the challenged kids.”

    Given that the “NT” kids are presumably the larger group, I would look at it this way:

    “”Neurologically challenged” describes the way kids who are not typical actually differ from the unchallenged kids.”

    Since we are only referring to them in terms of neurology the one-legged child doesn’t come into the argument. Again, “NT” is simply a way to label the kids in a politically correct way.

  52. I love this, sooo true! It kills me to see parents talking down their kids when I try so hard to raise responsible adults. One with special needs and one without.

  53. Two of my kids have facebook accounts. They wanted to play the facebook games and we wanted to get them to stop playing and playing and playing them on our accounts (and messing up what we were doing). They have essentially a “net cop” as one of their friends, someone we have known for over a decade, watching out after them, at least an aunt and an uncle and a couple of other family members friended.

    Then we get to the restrictions we’ve put on the accounts and their ability to use them. Basically, these accounts are under lockdown till they are old enough. That “no user under 13” age restriction should be changed to “without parental permission.” So long as we monitor what our kids are doing – which is our right until they are of legal majority – facebook is a fine place for them to play.

  54. @bmj2k – Seriously, drop this line of argument, and quickly.

    Take it from someone who’s been forum-stomped a few times, it is really important to be as politically correct as humanly possible around any issue relating to disability.

  55. So, I started looking all confused at the six year old not being able to wipe themselves. A 20yo male saw my puzzled look and asked what was up. I explained.

    After some *headpalms* he asked
    ‘So, if they can’t do it right at six, why should the be any better at eight if they aren’t allowed to practice? Or eighteen? What happens when their parents die? Who will wipe them then?’

    So, is he a very astute 20yo? Or does he just have some common sense?

  56. @Emily – that’s it, the neediness. I fear for what will happen when my in-laws can no longer look after their daughter because then she will become my husband’s responsibility. If she had to come and live in our house I’m not sure our marriage will survive. We’re raising our child to become a self sufficient adult, I have no desire to spend the rest of my life in close proximity with someone else’s perpetual adolescent.

    I also watched my daughter’s swimming lessons because it wasn’t worth going off and doing something else in that half hour, I liked watching her progress and she liked showing off to me. It was never because I thought she was unsafe at the pool, and she would not behave better (or worse!) if I wasn’t there.

  57. baby-paramedic — the answer to your question is “yes.” He’s astute to make the connection about something that’s probably pretty far out of his range of recent experience, but his conclusion is just common sense.🙂

  58. BMJ, NT is four letters shorter than “normal”. (And normal *is* a label as well, and not a particularly helpful one at that.)

    When describing two groups of kids, it’s helpful to have an easy way to talk about each group. It’s really that simple… and it’s none of your business either.

  59. @Donna — I bet she looks adorable😀

    DD went through a phase where she considered that anything with stripes automatically matched anything else with stripes. She frequently went to daycare looking *hilarious*. If she wanted to wear shorts in the middle of winter, or something like that, then that might be a battle I’d pick. We’ve had a few talks about the appropriateness of certain outfits; at one point I had to institute a rule that she couldn’t wear a skirt unless she wore shorts or leggings under it, because this is a child who is always climbing things and hanging upside down. But I love seeing what she comes up with, and because we both know she’s in charge of getting herself dressed, we very rarely have any friction over clothing. In that message-board thread I mentioned, what most astonished me was the importance some of these parents apparently ascribed to their kids’ appearance. I mean, yeah, you don’t want your kid going to school looking appallingly neglected, but how can it possibly make any difference to anyone, anywhere, whether or not their clothes match?!o_O

    There was another thread that I found much more encouraging: the OP was frustrated because she and her DD were always fighting — the example she gave was fighting over clothing choices — and she felt like she had to win or she would end up with a rebellious teenager one day, and nearly all the responses were along the lines of “Dude, chill out. Let her decide what to wear.”

  60. I was chatting recently with a woman who works for low wages serving coffee about her two kids, both in high school. She mentioned that the boy does travel hockey, and the girl is a serious equestrian rider/competitor.

    Wow, I said, two very pricey kid activities; how nice for them!

    She replied, Well, I justify the time and expense by remembering it’s so much cheaper than becoming drug addicts or going to jail!

    Hmm…

    I didn’t know what to say, and we went on to another topic.

    More and more kids seem to be viewed as either potential victims, ticking time bombs, or just plain incompetent.

    Sad.

    The wonderful novelist Marge Piercy writes of a futuristic world where twelve year olds are completely emancipated. Try that one on for size!

  61. “My incredibly stubborn and motivated 20 month old is right now trying her damndest to learn how to dress herself. I don’t always let her because I can’t deal with 20+ minutes with three meltdowns to get a shirt on, but she does in fact do a significant portion of dressing herself.”

    You don’t get it because you have ONE kid. You don’t have their kids. At 20 months, most children want to do everything themselves.

    Please check this post again when your child is three. My child was sooooo independent, suuuuchhhhh a great eater, sooooo calm during the first half of that second year.

    And then she turned three. And that is why I own five parenting books. (None of them worked.)

    BMJ–I think that “neurotypical” was actually coined by people who are autistic and have Asperger’s to describe people whom they feel are not normal in every way, but who are simply not autistic. So, for example, someone with a 95 IQ who was not autistic, but still saw the world in that typical way… hard to explain if you aren’t autistic, but you know, making all these assumptions all the time about emotions, about motives, able to lie easily, etc… would still be “NT” although not normal, per se, because the person would be slower than average. Likewise you could have an NT genius, who is obviously not “normal”, and an autistic genius.

    It is about the way they see the world, instead of whether or not they are able to function in it.

  62. “If she wanted to wear shorts in the middle of winter, or something like that, then that might be a battle I’d pick.”

    I swear, how come my kids always choose the worst battles? Shorts in winter, running into the middle of the street, refusing to hang coat up just, you know, to make me look bad… Why can’t I get a kid that just wants to wear stripes on stripes? WHY?

    She wouldn’t even wear leggings under the shorts because (reasonably) she thought that defeated the purpose. It was 0 C.

  63. I always hated when my kids wanted to dress themselves – not because I was dying to do it but because I would have to defend myself against the “bad mommy” accusation from the other preschool parents. One day, I decided I had had enough and made up “I dressed myself today!” stickers and rewarded my little guys for doing it on their own. Pretty soon, all the little preschoolers wanted stickers too so everyone began to dress themselves as well. I stopped being embarrassed by the independence of my children and began to embrace it. It can be hard to be the mom who doesn’t do it all for the kids, parents feel peer pressure too!

  64. Got to be careful with this one. I did the ‘kids’ independence at all reasonable cost’ route. It can be highly over rated if the child’s emotional needs are not taken care of (when the child is not listened to). A 3.5 year old should be able to lean and let us know when they are ready to push off and go by themselves. If this is about the child, why are we still having to take the call on when they should be independent? How about it being a joint process where the child also has a voice with parents listening especially when it is a contrary opinion? Am finding out how important attachment and internal security are to a child and how the lack of that is much more of an issue than precocious independence. I never cooked when I was home and when I had to, I learned, making mistakes that I might have made at home.

  65. On the surface it seems that parents are wanting to protect their children from all danger (on another message board a mother stated she will not let her 12 year old daughter go a public toilet alone) but really is it not a case of not wanting their children to be independant? I have noticed the way that people talk about their children and how over invested in their lives parents are I believe that many of these helecoper parents are living their lives through their children and are too scared to let them go because they will have nothing to do after they are gone, and with this overprotecting they are going to push their children from them.

  66. I believe that many of these helecoper parents are living their lives through their children and are too scared to let them go because they will have nothing to do after they are gone

    I would say that it also contains an element of the parent wanting a child in the same way that one would want a pet – they want a dependent creature, and not an independent adult family member. Therefore, they keep treating the child as a child (the same way that you never train your dog or your cat to become independent and not need feeding etc.) and not let it grow up…

  67. Sangitha, you make a great point.

    I also think it’s easy when you have an independent-minded child to judge others who have velcro-babies. No, they did not all make their children into barnacle-children-from-hell. They might have encouraged independence from day one and the child was just born with a clingy personality. It has been known to happen.

    Of course, at the age of six, it is a different story. Children who still can’t take off their jackets and put away their things are probably unable because they are not given the opportunity, at least on average.

  68. sangitha,
    I don’t know where you are learning about attachment, but if it’s from the likes of Dr Sears and other AP advocates, please realize that they make their claims with zero, dubious, or very exaggerated scientific proof. The whole “attachment” thing has been WAY overblown- it started with studying severely neglected children in orphanages, and those findings were then applied to normally parented children.

    Unless you routinely ignore, neglect or emotionallly abuse your children, instead of loving them, there won’t be attachment issues. Normal parenting is fine, attaching your babe to you 24/7 doesn’t mean they will be better off. There is NO proof that normal methods harm babies, and no proof that “attachment” is rare, fragile or even all that important.

    However, there IS proof that children need life skills and independence. I’ve never seen anyone here advocate or approve of pushing anything on kids that aren’t ready for it.

  69. “Why would I want to hang out on the side of the pool breathing chlorine for half an hour?”

    I’m a dump-and-dash kind of mom, and refuse to hang around while my kids are in choir, Beavers, etc. But I NEVER leave during swimming, because one of my children almost drowned in a lesson when he was 3.

    The teacher turned her back on the class while she worked with 1 student, and my 3-year-old fell off the ledge in the pool and sank like a stone. The instructor and the two life guards didn’t notice him thrashing in the water, his hands over his head in the classic “I’m drowning” pose until I started screaming from the poolside.

    The only reason I was sitting there that day was because my baby wanted to nurse ASAP and wouldn’t wait for the coffee shop.

    He is, to this day, terrified of water over his head, even though he still takes lessons.

    So, for any other lesson, I agree. My kids ain’t gonna drown in skating lessons. But swimming is different. Sitting poolside that day saved Isaac’s life. And although I know it’s rare, once it’s happened to one of your kids, it makes you wary.

  70. When my younger son was about 2 or 2 1/2, he would go to the refrigerator and get yogurt for himself for breakfast, eat it with a spoon, and throw away his trash. Unfortunately, he also threw away a number of my good spoons with the yogurt containers, but it was worth it for him to be independent.
    He’s 24 now and sometimes has to learn things the hard way, but he is a competent adult with a college degree. I wish we had given him even MORE responsibility than we did while he was growing up!

  71. I think one reason parents “handicap” their kids is because they want them to be handicapped. I know that sounds like a harsh thing to say, but I think subconsciously many parents fear becoming irrelevant to their children. They want to be the absolute center of their children’s universe, forever, and cannot handle not being #1 in their kids’ lives. Doing everything for their kids ensures that they will always be important enough.
    I love my kids as much as any parent does. They have been the biggest source of joy that I have ever experienced. But I respect them too much as individuals to short-change them. I figure that my entire goal as a mother is to work myself out of a job. Of course I dread the day when I won’t be needed as intensely. But how selfish that would be to impede their growth as people just for my own sake.

  72. I think I’m missing something here. Now, granted, I am 32 and my daughter is 3, so it has been awhile since I was in an actual school building … but I simply do not remember mothers coming into my school in the morning. We rode the bus (or walked) to school, got off the bus, and went to our classrooms. Where we very capably took off our coats, mittens, and other sundry clothing items. When did moms start taking their kids to school and walking them into the building in the first place? I certainly hope this is not the norm because I have no intention of driving my kid to school every day. That was a special treat when I was growing up – reserved for birthdays and such – let’s keep it that way.

  73. I am an adoptive parent, so attachment is a big deal to my child and how we parent. We have to follow some methods of therapeutic parenting and can see it working positively in him. It does require being flexible and going with the child – if he wants me to give him a bath even though he is completely capable of taking one independently (and has been), I now know to listen and flex.

    My point though is that the child has to be trusted to tell us when they want to cling a bit. And push off from us when they are ready…not when we are ready. So long as they are not being handicapped, I think it’s okay to not be so hung up on milestones. So they wipe their butts 6 – 12 months later, it’s not the end of the world, no?

  74. Mary, I’m 45 and it was unheard of in my generation, as well. When my kids started school and I learned that people actually did this, I was pretty mystified. I think with my son in K it was pretty much expected that we walk them in, but I pretty much literally walked him to the door of the classroom, turned around, and walked out. (With younger kids in the car I had an excuse, but still, I couldn’t imagine why my then-five-year-old would have needed help taking off a coat and hanging it on a low hook.) I think I didn’t even stick around long enough to know whether other parents were “helping” their kids, or not. I only had one kid go to school before high school, all my other kids were homeschooled and so was he, later, until high school, so I’m somewhat out of touch with it still.

    I, too, wonder when and how it started. How did a generation of kids who were not walked into the classroom by their parents, decide they needed to do it with their own kids?

  75. And you’re right, if he’d been going to school locally, it would have been kick out the door and fend for himself all along. If I remember correctly, when I was in K, my mom arranged for two or three older girls from the neighborhood to walk to school with me, and when I was a little older, I did the same for another little girl in the neighborhood when she started. By second grade, I walked alone, or as the “older kid” walking a younger kid to school. I was never driven unless the weather was really bad (and only sometimes then — I had a portable weather protection system known as an “umbrella”), or it was a special occasion, or my mom had to go downtown at the same time anyway (which almost never happened that early in the morning.) The only reason I drove my son was that we opted for a private school across town.

    So this having to drive kids everywhere is another thing that, besides the fact that many of us would like it to change, I wonder how it came about that it even became normal to do it n the first place?

  76. I would encourage you to think of kids w/autism not as kids with “difficulties” but instead w/ “differences”. While I agree that it is imperative for kids to do for themselves what they can and should do, please realize that all kids have different abilities so these parents may be doing for their kids what they have not let mastered themselves.

  77. When my daughter began kinder, they didn’t tell the parents, but assumed that all the parents would come to school with the child the first day. And this was for all grades. I don’t know what parents with three or more kids did, because that is too many even if Dad comes!

    In my family, there was a photo of the first day of kinder for all of us kids – getting on the school bus. My mom did take us all in a day or two before school to meet the teacher and see the room, but that was it. If I hadn’t done the same thing with my daughter, I never would have known it was expected. Total waste of my and my child’s time…but then it set off the pattern for the whole year.

  78. “So they wipe their butts 6 – 12 months later, it’s not the end of the world, no?”

    Actually, if you are a kindergarten teacher, it is.

    I have no problem with delayed children entering school later. I think formal schooling starts very early in the US. But I don’t think that the rest of us who put our kids in there really need them to be waiting outside in the hall while the kindergarten teacher wipes fifteen butts!

    And yes, that is a REAL GRIPE from two kindergarten teachers I know. They are shocked that parents would ask them to do this (even bringing in wet wipes… the kid is five!).

    @KSB: “When my younger son was about 2 or 2 1/2, he would go to the refrigerator and get yogurt for himself for breakfast, eat it with a spoon, and throw away his trash. Unfortunately, he also threw away a number of my good spoons with the yogurt containers, but it was worth it for him to be independent.”
    😛 I seriously have two spoons left and I check my trash before throwing it out. It really sucks. She better be out of the house at 18 years, five months (she will graduate from high school two years after her 18th birthday unless she changes grades for some reason) or I’m having her buy me a new set of flatware.

  79. One of the things I love about my daughter’s school is that the parents of JK and SK kids drop them off in the kinder playground (replete with big trees, grass and a big play structure) and the kids start their half-day with 20 minutes of outdoor play. When the kids go inside the parents are already gone and they take off their own stuff, often helping each other out, and put it in their own cubbies.

    I love that she gets that independence and I can hear the pride in the SK’s voices when they tell their parents how they helped one of the smaller kids.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: