More schools shoot down 'helicopter parenting'

Delivering forgotten items may hinder kids from learning to be independent, they say

In recent years, at least nine other schools, like Radin Mas Primary, have blown the whistle against "helicopter parenting". PHOTO: ST FILE

When his Primary 2 son told him he had forgotten to take a robotics coursebook to an enrichment class, Mr Alvyn Lim gave up part of his lunch break to deliver the book to the boy at his student care centre.

"He told me that he couldn't continue with the lesson if he didn't have the book, and my workplace in Alexandra was quite close by," said Mr Lim, 36, whose son studies at Radin Mas Primary School.

But if the same thing happened during school hours, Mr Lim, a senior manager, will no longer be allowed to drop the book off at school.

In recent years, at least nine other schools, like Radin Mas, have blown the whistle against this example of classic "helicopter parenting" - parents who hover unnecessarily over their children at the expense of nurturing their child's independence.

The New Paper reported in March that Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School had put up signs urging parents to "turn around and leave" if they were delivering forgotten items to their children.

The Straits Times found that others, like Rosyth School, Bukit Timah Primary, Coral Primary and CHIJ Primary (Toa Payoh), have also done the same.

In a letter to parents in March last year, Bukit Timah Primary said that in a single term, it had more than 60 requests from parents to pass forgotten items like homework or money to pupils. It told parents that it will no longer interrupt classes to hand over items to children.

"We believe that children can be taught to be responsible for their belongings and their actions," said the school.


Likewise, CHIJ Primary (Toa Payoh) principal, Mrs Margaret Tan, told parents in February last year that the school has seen a spike in such incidents, and urged parents to teach their children to resolve the problem independently.

"If the (pupil) has forgotten to bring the item to school, we ask that the (pupil) has the courage to inform the teacher. She will be showing traits of integrity when she owns up to the oversight," said Mrs Tan in the letter.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) appears to be making a similar push to weed out such excessive parenting practices. Earlier this month, it put up a Facebook post highlighting examples of helicopter parenting, such as debating with a teacher to get one more mark, or taking homework to school for a child when he forgets to take it along with him.

"You want to help," wrote MOE in the post that has since amassed more than 2,000 shares. "But do you know that (helicopter parenting) may hinder your child from being independent, savvy and street-smart?"

There is no specific MOE directive on the issue of delivering items to children, but an MOE spokesman said schools are free to decide how to work with parents to support students' holistic development.

An example of what the MOE has done to encourage independence in students is the move to make daily cleaning compulsory in all schools here since the end of last year.

In most cases, schools which have imposed guidelines against delivery of forgotten items make exceptions for necessities. Coral and Radin Mas Primary, for instance, said they allow the delivery of essential items like medicine or spectacles.

Schools may also provide resources for pupils who need them.

Bukit Timah Primary, for example, said the school can lend pupils money for recess or lunch, while Rosyth School's general office has school uniforms for borrowing.

Psychologist and parenting coach Anita Shankar said the move by schools to discourage helicopter parenting was a "timely and important" change.

As for Mr Lim, he accepts the guidelines, saying he does not think that they are excessive. "I may be guilty of being a helicopter parent at times, but it has dawned on me that it's important to teach my son that he has to bear the consequences if he forgets to take an item to school."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2017, with the headline More schools shoot down 'helicopter parenting'. Subscribe