Dr. Larry Larsen
---- — Dear Doctor,
We are at the end of our rope with our oldest, a high school boy, now in his junior year. He is flunking about everything and I have just about done everything I can to help him. We have hired tutors, and he has been to counseling.
He is very smart, too much for his own good. He claims he is bored with school and would much more like to play video games and hang out with his friends. If we take this away, he is miserable around the house. Any suggestions?
Unless I miss my guess, and I have been known to do that, you might fit into the category of “helicopter mom.”
It has been your loving and doting posture to do everything for your son. You have rescued him over and over again. The key phrase is “just about done everything I can to help him.” I assure you he knows that and depends on you to be a codependent, rescuing mother.
Let him flunk. That’s right. Let him flunk. Stop intervening on his behalf, making excuses for him. Don’t buy the video games or the hardware. Let him get a job and man up.
At this point he has already missed his shot at Harvard. Don’t worry about that. His need, at this point, is to find out he is not Mr. Rogers “special” but will have to pay his dues like the rest of us. That means a decision. It is one you cannot and should not make for him.
This is tough for any parent to do with our children whom we love and want to protect. It requires keeping your mouth shut, non editorializing, and avoiding long speeches.
When he complains and whines, and he will, let him own it: “That must be difficult for you. I am sure you will work something out,” is the kind of response that turns the choice back to him.
When he does man up, support him but in a non-rescuing and doting way. Good luck and park your helicopter!