Hard Lesson Learned from a Broken Hearted Helicopter Parent

For kids, employees, colleagues, etc…We can’t want it more for them than they want it for themselves. We see potential outcomes so clearly and try to get them to do things, but ultimately they have to want it and see it for themselves. I’m reminded of this daily at work as I try to motivate, cajole, whatever colleagues to do certain things. At the end of the day, they are either going to sink or swim. They determine their own outcomes. I generally find people resort back to their natural state when all the cajoling stops.

With kids, all we can really do is make sure they know the consequences of their actions (don’t do your homework = fail the class = bad grade = low gpa = fewer college options = potentially different career trajectory = different life). Ultimately they have to find that out for themselves. As a parent it’s really hard to sit quietly and not prompt them because we know what they should be doing but we really need to.

Thank you for sharing your story! Good luck to you and your son!

Thank you for the update. I honestly think you are the exact right parents for your son. Has he ever been evaluated for learning disorders? Not every 18 year old has the same executive function capabilities. Some brains mature slower than others. He may not have graduated high school without extra supports. Some brains struggle with some tasks more than others. It sounds like you were doing the best you could with the kid you were given and the tools you had available. If he would benefit from services at the school, I think that is great and you should take advantage of that. Congrats on the great update!

Also this OP’s son could certainly go back around on college. On my block alone we have 5 college drop outs, and three suicides, not the same kids, all boys. One went back, and now getting a CPA and a masters in accounting. He is age 30. There is no reason to rule out college. Its the boys choice. He may or may not do that. Parents need to let go and not judge. Be ready to be surprised, perhaps this kid will get a PhD once he is left alone to figure it out. Kids need time. Some Kids need some Fs. Its best not to look at report cards at all, as its not our grades, let them own the grades and just love them no matter what they choose and what they do.
The less parents focus on so called "learning disabilities " the better. No job tests for that. So we must cope with the brains we have. There might be therapies, but in the end not all brains are created equal and we need to figure out how to cope with what we have. Brains age too, and that takes coping skills.

Labeling a child learning disabled does nothing at all for the child. If we left them alone, did not test them, and just let them struggle, some will rise. Some will settle, thats the way of the world.
I was lucky that I had a teacher who told us "something is wrong but “do not test” She was an old fashioned teacher. I know my son would not take extra time on the SAT for his “bad brain” but I am pretty sure he has some learning differences. However, it seems to not matter to him, as we never dwelled on it, or labeled it any which way. Its just my son, who he is.

Everyone has to eventually cope without much help. Help, therapies, extra time, and all the crutches may really be a wasted effort. Drugs typically don’t change organizational skills that much , learning a system might help though. Better yet, the child devising his own system, might work the best of all. Just doing the best one can, is really the best kids can do!

I will second that emphatically about testing pre high school. It is a travesty that we do it at all and tends to label kids with negative connotations. Never allow your kid to be tested prior to high school! It is NOT helpful.

Wait, what? So-called learning disabilities? Wow. I disagree 100% with the previous two posts. If I hadn’t had my son tested regularly throughout his school years, he wouldn’t have been able to read and write! He can do those things now because he was tested and got the right intervention. I’d rather have my kid think of himself as learning disabled than illiterate. Yet I know people who don’t want their kid tested so that their kid doesn’t have a “label.” Testing exists so that kids can get the help they need, not so they can be labeled by society.

I’d love to see someone tell my son that he’s “less” because of his learning disabilities.

Huh? @Coloradomama with all due respect, your post has to be one of the more insensitive ones I have read on CC. You say “help, therapies, extra time and all of the “crutches” are wasted effort”? Where is your authoritative source for this statement?

Do you realize that even within each learning disability, there are many levels of severity, such that what works or does not work for one learning disabled child, may not work for another? Luckily for you, your child managed his teacher-suspected, non-diagnosed “learning differences” as you term it. Not everyone’s learning disabled child is able to effectively manage his/her learning disabilities without intervention and support. At the very minimum, knowing that one has a learning disability, regardless of whether one decides to receive help or intervention, can help the person prepare a course of action to better help him/her navigate the world.

I have a sibling who has what he now knows is dyslexia. He was never tested as a child and grew up thinking he was stupid and illiterate because he could not read well or spell, etc. He had no support and has had a rough time of it throughout his life–it has severely affected his self-esteem, confidence level, and relationships with others. I know that his life would have been much better had he at least understood that he was learning disabled and not illiterate (which is what he believed himself to be). He would have benefited greatly from formal diagnosis and intervention.

You say your child had “something wrong” as unofficially diagnosed by his teacher, and he did not receive any testing or intervention for his “bad brain” (your words). And from that you conclude that it is best we not test or “label” or otherwise diagnose and treat all learning disabled children?


Actually, the way of the natural world is survival of the fittest. We’re all born with different abilities to fight illness too, but we have interventions such as immunizations, insulin, and antibiotics to help. Yet some have systems strong enough to make it through without them. Should we ditch those interventions too?

You seem to be making the assumption that people born with learning disorders aren’t as intelligent as those who aren’t. You should really make an effort to educate yourself. The world is full of doctors, writers, scientists, etc. who were able to become successful after their learning issues were discovered and treated.

You realize that learning disorders have a genetic component, right? Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your kid just isn’t as smart as other people. You’re doing him a great disservice and it won’t be helpful for your grandchildren either. Educate yourself so you recognize the signs. And if your son picked up his learning disorder from you or your spouse you should know there’s help available for you too.

Yeah, how about all those researchers and educators who figured out ways to help those poor learning-disabled kids rise to the top? The more I read posts #63 and #64, the more offensive they are. It’s a real shame that modern education has enabled learning disabled kids to cope with their disabilities. What a travesty that there a LOT of people who were able to compensate for their disabilities and become very successful.