Red Light Issues
These are issues that will cause a life altering or life ending event. When our kids are just learning to walk, it is quite literal. We need to physically stop them when they start wandering toward the street. As our kids grow, the issue might be drug use or entering into a relationship with somebody who is abusive. When these types of things happen, we must immediately step in, take control, and stop what is happening.
Yellow Light Issues
These are issues that will cause some hardship or inconvenience to your child. It might be not completing an important project and getting a bad grade as a result. It might be failing to save money and not being able to go to a special event. In these cases your job is to talk with your child about what could happen in advance. Ask questions like, "What are your choices? What will happen if you do that? What are the risks?" Coach your child through the decision making process, but then allow your child to make the decision. Then, if your child makes a decision that causes a problem down the road, talk again. Ask, "What do you think you might do the next time?" Encourage reflection and then coach again the next time there is a yellow light issue.
Green Light Issues
These are the issues in which you just let your child go. You want natural consequences to take hold and allow your child to learn from mistakes. These might be things like not doing homework and losing recess. It might be procrastinating on doing laundry (most kids should do their own as soon as they can reach the washer) and not having anything to wear. Your job in these cases is to say nothing. If your child is upset about the consequences, then ask, "What do you think you could do differently to keep this from happening again?"
Helicopters Keep Hovering into Adulthood
Helicopter parents who do not stop this behavior will continue well into adulthood. Employers routinely get calls from PARENTS of employees asking to adjust work schedules. College professors deal with PARENTS when students don't like their grades. I know more than a few moms who routinely give their college kids daily wake-up calls and go to their dorms to do laundry! If you want to have an empty nest someday, and the ability to enjoy it, you need to stop hovering and use the traffic light strategy to evaluate the level of intervention needed for your child.
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