Parenting Styles May Be Changing Due to Distance Learning

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


It’s always a bit tough to walk the parenting line between guidance and support and encouraging independence.

This is especially difficult when our children are entering a new phase or learning a new skill – we sometimes hover and critique and help way too much instead of letting them figure things out for themselves.

Perhaps the best example most parents can think of these days comes from this unprecedented year, as we work to find our place in the process of distance learning.

No matter how or where your child receives their education, one thing is clear – we usually know our role as parents in their education.

Homeschooling parents know that they are more than supervising – they are parent, teacher, and principal.

Parents of children in public and private school know they need to stay involved, but also that they are trusting someone else to be the main educator of their children.

But no one really planned for what has happened this year, a year in which we are sitting on the fence between homeschooling and public/private schooling.

Our children are home, but if they are distance learning with their school of typical attendance, they still have a teacher and curriculum to be followed.

It’s hard for us to separate ourselves from our child’s education when we are home with them.  We’re not sure what our place in the whole process should be.

But many teachers and parents this year have found that they’re becoming a kind of parent they didn’t intend on being.

It’s a new kind of “helicopter” parenting.  We’re often hovering and correcting, telling them what to do and when to do it — helping a little too much because we see our kids may be struggling with this new learning style.

Parents of young children, especially, are finding themselves sitting next to their child for classes, encouraging their participation, running to the rescue when technological problems arise — even telling their child what to say, when to talk, or even asking the teacher a question or two themselves.

We’re just trying to help our child succeed with something new, we tell ourselves, just like when we sat with them as they learned to feed themselves or build a block tower or potty train.

And today’s distance learning technology allows for parents to be emailed or texted any time an assignment is due or a class is ready to begin, making it even harder to hand the responsibility over to our child to be accountable.

Even if a parent is not home with their child while learning virtually, they are often able to log in and monitor their classes.

The whole situation is turning parents into a fleet of helicopters, perhaps even vultures, as we circle the room waiting to jump in.

Sure, we needed to be present right alongside them the first couple of weeks in case they couldn’t connect or log in or figure out how to participate in their virtual classroom.

And, of course, we have a duty and right to be readily available at any time if our child needs our help during this strange time.

But we aren’t doing our children any favors if we insist on being in the room the entire day, ready to pounce if they can’t figure things out.

Even veteran homeschool parents give their children space to work independently, and the same thing occurs in a traditional classroom.

Our kids need to learn by doing, learn by experimenting, learn by making mistakes – especially by making mistakes.

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And as hard as it may be, it is our job to let them make mistakes, to give them the space they deserve to figure some of these things out on their own.

Doing so fosters their independence and builds confidence and problem-solving skills.

And it also helps our teachers to do their jobs well.  If we put ourselves in their shoes, we may see that they are uncomfortable with a group of parents “sitting” in their classroom when they are used to working with children.

After all, if our kids were physically present in the classroom this fall, odds are we wouldn’t be sitting at the desk next to them every day.

It’s always important to follow your instincts and be present and supportive when it comes to your child’s schoolwork…

…but it’s also vital to step back and let them work through things on their own once they are comfortable with the process and instructions in regard to this new learning platform.

As with everything when it comes to parenting, it’s all about the balance.

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