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Raising children? Have to deal with someone else's? Considering a family?Let's talk kids!Claudia Quigg hosts this weekly reflection on best practices, experiences, and research related to child rearing and parenting. Thursdays at 12:50 PM and 7:50 PM

Let's Talk Kids: "Hummingbird Parents"

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NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Refilling my red feeder with sugar water, I chuckled to be reminded of the new parental stereotype in the blogosphere.  “Hummingbird Parents” are now on the scene.

Judgment has been heaped on “Helicopter Parents” recently—those parents who control and interfere. They’re afraid of allowing their children to fail, feeling such responsibility for their kids’ futures.  And they fear the judgment of a society that has come to be pretty hard on parents.

But Hummingbird Parents bring a refreshing breeze to this controversy with the very fluttering of their wings. Hummingbird Parents offer a sensible pattern for raising kids that I see in young parents in a way that seems completely natural, after all.

Author Richard Louv, best known for his book Last Child in the Woods, wrote these words:  

“I am a Hummingbird Parent.  
I hover nearby, but not over my kids.
I remain distant enough to let them explore
And learn to solve problems.
I teach them skills, mainly by example.
I zoom in only when their survival is threatened.
My goal for them isn’t a risk-free childhood,
But a resilient life.”

As children emerge out of their preschool years, they long for some separation and independence from grown-ups.  Hummingbird Parents learn to give kids space and autonomy to take risks, hanging out on the periphery sipping nectar, ready to zoom in only when necessary.  

The results are grand if parents can learn to hold back just a bit, watching from the sidelines as their child solves a problem or makes a good decision on her own.  Parents feel such relief when they see their years of teaching pay off, recognizing that their child is far more competent than they thought.

Hummingbird Parents care as deeply as Helicopter Parents, but they seem to have more confidence in their kids.  They’re committed to supporting their child’s journey to learning independence, watching but not interfering from an arm’s distance.

But on any given day, anyone of them might revert to a moment of helicoptering.  Parents know their own children best, and they may need to shorten the space between them for a while.

I can’t help but notice that on my own deck, even a hummingbird might hover for a short time.

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