Christmas is the time of traditions, and going to a Pantomine is a firm family favourite across the land. Pantomine is not originally a British tradition or a children’s entertainment show.
Pantomine began as entertainment for adults, it can be traced back to the ancient Roman “Saturnalia” Midwinter feast, at which everything was supposed to be turned upside down. Men dressed as women, and women as men, just like the pantomime dames and principal boy leading role.
Pantomine first came to Britain in the 18th century from the ‘commedia dell’arte’, the Italian tradition of improvised theatre. The stories of the commedia dell’arte had many stock characters in them, such as clowns, jesters and a baddie. Traditional plots got mixed up with fairy stories, folk tales or tales from the Arabian Nights stories and gradually evolved into the familiar stories we now know as the pantomime repertoire.
This year our local pantomime at The Assembly Halls in Tunbridge Wells is Sleeping Beauty. We are all familiar with the story:
Long ago, a king and a queen had a beautiful baby girl after many years of their marriage. They arranged a grand party to celebrate this happy occasion. They also invited three good fairies to bless the baby-girl.
The first fairy said, “I grant you beauty.”
“I grant you sweet voice.” wished the second fairy.
The third fairy was about to bless the baby when an evil fairy entered the room. As she was not invited, so she was very angry. She cursed the baby, “On your sixteenth birthday, you will die picking your finger on a spinning wheel!”
Everyone was shocked to hear this. They wept to hear the fate of the baby-girl.
Then the third fairy said, “I can only change the curse. In place of dying, the princess will fall asleep for one hundred years. Then the kiss of a prince will break her long sleep.”
The king ordered his soldiers to burn all the spinning wheels in the country. On her sixteenth birthday, the princess happily moved around the palace. She suddenly found a secret room where an old woman was spinning some yarn. She invited the princess to learn to spin. In a hurry, she pricked her finger and at once fell asleep for one hundred years. The good fairy also made all the people present in the palace asleep. This condition prevailed there for the next one hundred years.
Many years passed by. Wild creepers and bushes covered the whole palace. Many young men tried to enter the palace. But they were not successful. They were dejected.
One day, a brave prince entered the palace. He found the sleeping princess and bent down to kiss her. At once, the princess opened her eyes and was delighted to see the prince.
The Prince married The Princess. And they happily lived for many more years.
As an NLP Practitioner I love the power of metaphor and story . Sleeping Beauty is a classic example of a style of Parenting that is currently labelled as “Helicopter” parenting. Helicopter Parenting is when parents despite good intentions, seek to control and fix everything in a child’s environment, from making important decisions for their children, solving their problems, and intervening in their conflicts
Psychology Today Magazine describes helicopter parenting as the result of “typically well-meaning but over-involved parents who engage in protective behaviors that are not appropriate for their child’s age and ability level.”
The King, despite his good intention of loving protection for Aurora, firstly denied entry to Malificent, it was this snub that set off a chain of events that he tried to control.
The King then attempted to control fate by removing all the spinning wheels. The thing he feared still happened despite his attempts to remove the danger. Life and growing up, presents risks, that no matter how hard you try to avoid them you can’t, but if we don’t expose our children those risks, they can’t develop resilience and work out their response to these challenges themselves. When parents jump in to “rescue” a child or “fix” a tough situation, the child is denied the opportunity to learn problem-solving skills and ways to fix their own problems.
There are numerous research studies by psychologists and universities whose findings cite that because helicopter parenting shields children from failure, children do not develop the resiliency skills, problem solving skills or adaptability to cope. It is in this environment in which, I believe is the breeding ground for adolescent mental health difficulties.
According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers Sofie Rousseau and Miri Scharf identified three types of people who are prone to helicopter parenting: those who are prevention-focused, promotion-focused, or regretful. Prevention-focused individuals attempt to dodge failure and disappointment because they view these things as evidence of a personal shortcoming. They, in turn, project this fear of failure onto their children. Promotion-focused individuals place a heightened emphasis on achievement and progress, which translates directly into what they value for their children. Regretful people — especially regretful women — make choices for their children because they believe they made the wrong choices for themselves as adolescents and hope to spare their kids from the same mistakes.
Although often derived from a place of love, parenting like this can be detrimental to children’s development, impacting their navigation of the real world.
A study conducted by Brigham Young University in Utah concludes that:
“ it is becoming increasingly clear that helicopter parenting a) in and of itself is not inherently warm, b) is not facilitative of emerging adults’ development, and c) represents another form of control (besides behavioural and psychological control) that is linked to maladjustment in emerging adulthood.”
Previous research has also found that the children of helicopter parents also tend to less engaged in school, and are more likely to want to delay marriage.
Stephanie O’ Leary, a clinical family psychologist, says that Helicopter parenting can lead to lowered levels of self-assurance too, which leads to anxiety. “When parents hover and micromanage, kids also begin to doubt their instincts and struggle to form their own perspectives and opinions”. Because these children’s parents have insisted upon making decisions for them, confidence in their own decisions drops, it communicates to the child that parents micromanage because they think the child isn’t capable of doing it herself. This may cause children to seek out relationships with equally as domineering people in their adulthood to fulfill the role their parents held throughout their youth.
The Weller Way Ways to avoid a Pantomine in your life:
- Find a balance: between offering caring ways to help but accepting that help might not be accepted. Offer help if it’s asked for, not if it’s not, but be around ever present, like the plant pot in the corner. This balance will result in teens and adults who feel confident enough to be independent and secure enough to know their own limits and ask for help when necessary.
- Help your child to learn how to handle increase responsibilities and freedom, through encouraging them to talk through their decisions and coaching around risk if need be. Children’s brains are not sufficiently developed to assess risk, and as the teenage brain biologically dumps dopamine in the body, teenagers seek more pleasure through exploring. By installing the idea of competency around risk, and asking them to self-evaluate, this boosts self-esteem.
- Allow more freedom as it’s requested by discussing the boundaries around it, seeking joint solutions.
- Stand back and let them make mistakes, but being there to support when they fail. This is super hard, because we care and want to keep our children safe, but by avoiding criticism, nagging or judgement, this helps our children learn from their mistakes and cope with future challenges. There is an NLP pre-supposition that is useful here…..”there is no such thing as failure…only feedback”.
- Don’t do their homework or projects for them. If they are struggling with homework consistently, this maybe more than lack of motivation and is worth investigating further.
- Let them choose their own friends, even if you don’t approve, let them make up their own minds about friendship values. Don’t attempt to “fix” friendship issues, let them work it out themselves, unless bullying is present.
- Adopt the benefits of Growth Mindset strategies. Helicopter parenting promotes a Fixed Mindset
It can help to transport yourself back to the toddler days of watching your child learn to walk. Did you support those attempts, encouraging them to get up again, no matter how many times they fell down, or did you criticise their attempts and failures, did you stand right next to them, to catch them when they fell? I very much doubt it’s the latter.
After all teens are just toddlers, but on wheels!
If this post has encouraged you to reflect on your parenting style or you would like more information on Growth Mindset please contact me here to arrange a coaching conversation: