Finding the sweet spot between ‘helicopter parenting’ and ‘free range parenting’ has been a goal of mine for many years. As a mum of four boys aged 16 to 23, I have instinctively wanted to wrap my kids in cotton wool on so many occasions, despite knowing they’d absolutely thrive with more freedom.
Parents of teenagers: translated. Post continues below.
Finding the balance is tough. We intuitively want to love and dote on our offspring – to keep them safe and protected. But, if we strip back the emotion and channel our inner scientist – our precise mission (over the span of approximately 18 years) is to create independent, self-sufficient humans that don’t need us anymore. Heartbreaking stuff, really.
As a mum of four digital natives, the process of creating functioning humans really involved me drip-feeding independence to my boys over the years – particularly when it came to the online world. But, like all first-generation digital parents, I absolutely made mistakes.
Here are the three most important lessons I have learnt:
1. Gaming can get out of control. Fast.
My boys (including my husband) have always loved the Xbox. And I have too, because over the years the lure of that wonderful machine has helped me ensure bedrooms are tidied and homework is done and, for that – I am very grateful.
But without strict boundaries, gaming can easily take over. Online games have been cleverly designed to ensure players receive dopamine boosts at key moments to encourage them to keep playing.
When my boys were younger, I would give them an allocated Xbox time – with thanks to the oven timer. Turns out there’s nothing like a loud, irritating sound to get one’s attention. But as my hours at work increased and I wasn’t around to manage their gaming (and the oven timer), things quickly got out of hand.