Should Parents Hike or Hover?: Preparing Our Kids for Life Without Us

Parents, this week we have a guest post from my friend and parenting expert Toni Haas-Williams. Enjoy!

We all want to flyaaaaaaaaaa

… kids included. It’s long been my most wanted super-power. Whether by jet or free-falling, the sensation is amazing. More than one allure draws us to parenting with a hovering helicopter view.

On the flip side, overland travel is work. And slow.

It requires not only sweat and patience, but a map and a method. It means dirty hands and “busted” lips, but when feet make the journey, it insures both adult and child are grounded in every sense, and that each must take their steps, one at a time.

If you’re like me, despite the support of parenting books and blogs, sometimes the only blueprint we have to raise our kids is the one our parents forged with innate love, when we were the guinea pigs.

Certainly, this love is the best motivation, but not always a great guideline. Nevertheless, we all know how to hike, hand-in-hand. And parenting ground-level, side-by-side, has advantages. The tales of near-misses, even the small catastrophes, are often the best stories we bring to the campfire. 

Walking alongside our kids is extra-experiential

… because we experience sights and sounds from their perspective. Our feelings have the opportunity to be affected as our children’s are, because we deal with the same weather and navigate the same rocks.

Although the rocks will seem bigger to our kids and they might be climbing them for the first time, we do the journey’s work together—not for each other. This is unilaterally self-affirming. Better than that, it builds independence—an underrated word these days.

Eyes Really Are Windows to the Soul

The advantage of ground level parenting is that it’s eye-to-eye. When correction is needed, we are right there, reaching out and delving into the face of our young ones as they look back at us.

That’s the best key: it isn’t just about a parent’s perusal of her child. The child is just as able to look back and search out Mom or Dad—invaluable because the best correction works two ways.

And while punishment is sometimes necessary, correction is so much more than marking an “x” on the paper, isn’t it? It’s inserting the right answer plus the justification for that right answer. 

This is the only valid way to learn: the why is more important than the what.

Conversely, hovering above a child omits the “what” and “why” because it’s only about preventing Junior from experiencing any kind of inconvenience.

We’ve all been there at one time haven’t we? Times when we just prefer to do it ourselves because we’re impatient. But ‘helicoptering” simply extends our experience as parent and sadly, robs our child of theirs.

Leading side-by-side means accessibility.

It’s better for a child to cross a chasm on his own two feet with a parent within reach! This way if help is asked for or required, Mom or Dad is available.aaaa

After all, it’s okay to be ready with a hand if our fledgling is headed for a fatal fall.

However when we rush in prematurely and every time to take over the challenge, then the youngster not only can’t face-down the problem—she won’t even learn to see it coming.

The inevitable result is that the first solo blunder comes at a later age when the parent is no longer available, and worse, at an age when the world expects a seasoned problem-solver, not a socially awkward, emotional toddler in the body of an adult.

The best way to assure a child’s success is to place him in increasingly challenging situations. As a parent and teacher, my best solution was to take myself out of the equation—or more aptly—take my sons out of my equation.

When it came to summer camps, church, sports, or academic issues, what these offered was great. But even better, they created opportunities for my kids to make friends (and mistakes) without mom around, whose knee jerk instinct might be to bail them out.

Preparing our kids for life without us means we must learn to hike, not hover. To live successfully, we need to practice. And it wouldn’t be a practice without missteps. Grownup or growing, we all must take and make them. 


aaaToni Haas-Williams is a novelist and screenwriter. As a certified teacher, for over 30 years, she devoted her life to children. She founded and administered DreamTenders Academy for the gifted, the artistic, and the creatively curious. She also founded LENK (Ladies Élan and New Knights), a program where young adults immerse themselves in rigorous decision-making, problem-solving, business, service, and social graces. Toni’s protégés today flourish as entrepreneurs and recognized leaders everywhere. To learn more about Toni, go to



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