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What comes to mind when you hear the term “helicopter parent”? Do you think of yourself? Or do you have friends and acquaintances that come to mind? Webster’s dictionary defines the term, helicopter parent, as “a parent who is overly involved in the life of his or her child.” Some of you might think this is a fairly new term, as it seems to be gaining more and more attention these days. According to Wikipedia, however, the term may have been first used as early as 1969 in a book titled Between Parent & Teenager, written by Dr. Haim Ginott.
As parents, we are all just trying to do the very best we can each and every day. Over the years, however, it seems that more and more parents are trying to make things absolutely perfect for their children. This could mean signing them up for every activity that comes along or taking care of everything in their daily lives for them. While these children and young adults may, without a doubt, have a great life, what is the cost? Do your children know how to problem solve and make decisions on their own? Are they able to perform basic tasks such as making their bed or cleaning their room independently? The problem is that there are many kids who do not feel capable of performing even the most basic tasks on their own because they’ve either never been asked to or have never been taught to. These things have just been taken care of for them.
It often starts as small things that we know will help make our children’s day that much better. Then before we know it, our children are preparing for college without many of the basic skills, domestic and educational, to function without us standing there at every turn. This can even continue to be a detriment to our children as they head out into the workforce, preparing for life on their own. There was an excellent article printed in the USA Today regarding this very topic. Feel free to read more about the implications of helicopter parenting in this USA Today news article.
There is an abundance of information available at our fingertips on this subject. Whether you feel strongly for this style of parenting or you are against it, here are a couple of other resources you can read to help you begin to make the choice or changes in your household:
Are your kids spending too much time playing mindless computer games? Encourage them to use their minds and write their own computer games instead. Of course, they probably won’t be cranking out a competitor to “Angry Birds” right away, but that doesn’t mean kids won’t love to write programs. Just because they can’t play basketball like Michael Jordon doesn’t stop them from loving to play basketball. Computer programming is powerful and fun, and kids don’t need to become professional programmers to learn from the activity. Computer programming teaches kids problem solving, logical (computational) thinking, and determination, and it fosters creativity. The best part is you don’t have to know anything about computer programming to get your kids started. You simply head to the Internet for the software of your choice.
Scratch (a programming language developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and supported by the National Science Foundation) is a free, fun, visual, programming language for kids from third grade on up. They can create games, interactive stories, animations, music, and art. They simply drag and drop the code blocks onto the programming area, and then they can instantly see the result. The different commands snap together. This avoids all the frustrating syntax errors of typing computer code while keeping all the mind expanding experiences of computer programming. You can view this short video to see what Scratch can do.
Kodu (sponsored by Microsoft Research FuseLabs) is another free visual programming language for kids. It has a very specific video game focus. Kids begin with their own story and develop the characters, worlds, and actions to tell their story as a video game. In Kodu, the programming code is icon based. Kodu, which is Windows based, also has an Xbox 360 version available for a fee of 400 Points (about $5).
Ladybug Mazes (part of a Utah State University collection of interactive math manipulatives) introduces the concept of computer programming to kids as young as kindergarten. Kids make a plan for the ladybug to follow by choosing step blocks and turn blocks, which appear at the bottom of the screen. When they click the play button, the ladybug follows the command blocks they have chosen. Most kindergarteners need help getting started, but they generally catch on quickly. Kids can play Ladybug Mazes online for free.
Programming software designed for kids is a great way to move your student from game player to game designer, from consumer to producer. Try one today; you will be glad you did.