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Helium Parenting

How do we escape helicopter parenting? Sometimes a new practice requires a new image. For parents I have a new metaphor to aspire to --helium parenting.

We should hold on to our children as a child holds a balloon. Let them rise, float on their own, but keep a grasp on the string so that they do not float away to unknown parts. The time will come when we need to release the balloon but, in the meantime, instead of hovering from above, we should be holding lightly from below. Think of it as parental string theory.

When I was growing up my parents, who did not have cellphones or pagers, let us roam freely around the neighborhood. It never occurred to them that they were being irresponsible. They were, without benefit of the term, helium parenting. They knew where we went, whose homes we visited, which streets we used for touch football. They had hold of the tail, but we floated free.

Now we are so closely knit one to the other through the straightjacket of electronics that there is no true escape. We beep, buzz, Facebook, Skype and skulk our way around each other's space, especially that of our kids. We aren't just helicopter parents; we are helicopter parents with radar.

So often we forget that we are not trying to create "good kids," but competent, kind adults. Self-reliance is the fruit of practice, nurtured by failure, encouraged by appropriate risk. Coddle a kid and you get a coddled kid. Let them soar and you get an adult.

- Rabbi David Wolpe, Helium Parenting, The Huffington Post, 3/13/12