You’ve heard the term “helicopter parenting”?

It refers to micro-management of children far beyond basic concerns. It robs children of the opportunity to solve their own problems, to experience the consequences of their actions and to grow into independent, self-reliant adults.

If you are a helicopter parent—or best friends to one—you’ll probably be nodding your head about now, especially if you’re still tucking a young adult under your wing. Helicopter parents are usually exhausted from flying low. They’re hovering, nagging, cajoling, bribing and doing whatever is in their power to get their “almost adult” children to launch.

As the mother of two adult sons, I can go on for maybe 10,000 words telling you what I’d do differently. That said, I am very proud of the young men my husband and I raised. I have to give credit where credit is due. Much of their success comes from the responsibilities associated with camping.

So how does an 8 year old develop a sense of purpose?

  • When he’s asked to make a list of all the things he’ll need when he camps—including bug spray– he gets practice organizing his belongings.
  • When he’s asked by mom to take the trash from the RV to the dumpster, he learns the importance of not leaving food where wildlife can scatter it.
  • When he helps dad build a campfire, he learns how to gather kindling , not to mention the consequences of leaving a fire unattended.
  • When he helps pitch the tent first, before scrubbing the potatoes that will be cooked on the campfire, he learns the value of teamwork and how to set priorities.
  • And when he sits down at the end of the night, perhaps tasting the first fish he ever caught, he learns that there are great rewards when you are with family in the woods. He learns that there’s a life beyond Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. He learns how to engage with the people directly in front of him.

In a world in which kids are drawn to international recruitment efforts, even terrorist “communities” and “brotherhoods”,  parents are understandably scared. They do not need to be.  Instead they need to understand that every child wants to be loved, accepted and have a sense of purpose. Back when all of us worked on the farm, perhaps even with extended family, we knew we were needed.  That sense of purpose and belonging has been whittled away in the past century, but it doesn’t mean we can’t create opportunities for our children to know their contributions matter.

Park the helicopter and instead camp with your kids. Both of you will enjoy it!

Karen Brucoli Anesi