Earlier this summer, my husband and I and our two kids were at our community pool when my two-year-old son befriended a little boy.
We’d brought a small plastic boat with us for my son and daughter to play with in the toddler pool and the other little boy really liked it. He was about four. For awhile, my son played with the boat until his new friend decided it was his turn. He took the boat and splashed around as my toddler watched.
Eventually, my son went up to the boy. Though I couldn’t hear him, it was clear he wanted his boat back, but the four-year-old wasn’t budging.
My husband and I watched the interaction from a few feet away. Knowing that my son’s language skills at this point were very limited and really only make sense to us, I decided to step in. I waded through the toddler pool and asked the little boy if my son could have a turn with the boat. I didn’t want to be pushy but thought it was our boat and our son should be allowed to play with it.
As I made my way back to the side of the pool, my husband immediately started to jokingly give me a hard time.
“You’re a helicopter parent,” he said. “You should’ve let them work it out for themselves.”
Was he right? In this day and age of parents swooping in to fix every little problem and woe for their children — giving kids little room to do their own problem-solving and think for themselves — I’m acutely aware of the dangers of the helicopter parenting. I want my children to learn to negotiate and solve their own problems. And they’re never going to develop those skills if I step in to solve every problem.
But at one point do you intervene? If someone is getting hurt, you obviously jump in right away. But what if language is a barrier? And is two too young to start working on problem-solving skills? Besides, two-year-olds are just beginning to learn the concept of sharing.
Instead I chose to intervene. I wasn’t mean about it or over the top. Still, my husband’s comments made me wonder if I should’ve let my son and his friend work out how to share the boat on their own. As with everyone else in parenting, I’m sure there’s more than one right answer.