Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter Parenting
  —Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Owen Kimbrel.

As parents we always strive to do what's best for our children. They have been under our care for the past 17+ years and letting go can be difficult. We want to make their transition to U.S. Marine as painless and comfortable as possible, but we must remind ourselves that becoming a Marine is neither painless, nor comfortable and it's not supposed to be. Furthermore, hovering as a parent will not alter the fact that boot camp is challenging and the intensity is necessary.

Marine training is an intense thirteen-week experience. It's assuring to know that, if your Marine is in a combat situation sometime during the next four years, your child and the buddies to his left and right have been trained by the best to be the best. You want to know that all Marines have been tested in fire, overcame, adapted and survived their rigorous boot camp training. Trust that the hardships they face now might someday save their life or the life of that buddy on their left or right.

So we trust. We let go. We have faith that our child is strong, ready, succeeding and being trained to be one of The Few, The Proud...a Marine. When you meet your son or daughter's Drill Instructor you will realize that this person did care for your child much as you have these past years...there was discipline, consequences, praise and rewards. Was it touchy-feely? No. But it was fair and it created an adult that is self-sufficient, has enormous self-esteem, has respect and has the pride, honor and courage to wear the coveted Eagle Globe and Anchor.

These thirteen weeks are a journey for you too. Your adult son or daughter will continue to seek your advice and share his or her stories with you. You will always be the parents, the mother or the father, but your job of parenting is all but finished now. Your soon-to-be-Marine is becoming an adult with adult responsibilities in an adult job and he does not want or need you to hold his hand. Simply put, helicopter parenting is no longer allowed. So mom and dad, no more hovering; take a step back. This is your time to learn how to let go a little bit more each day.

Here is some great advice from GySgt. Kohler, Charlie Company, Follow Series Gunnery Sergeant at Parris Island:

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have been a nation at war for almost eight years; most of your sons were in elementary school during the September 11th attacks. With that being said, I commend you as parents for supporting your son's decision to become a United States Marine.

But, after all, it is HIS decision that brought him here. As parents, the "support" you give is often counterproductive to your recruit. Recruit training is an institution with rules, structure, and discipline. COMMITMENT is what it takes to complete recruit training. Intestinal fortitude. Drive. And focus.

Letters are the best way to show support for your recruit. Not junk food, not birthday presents, not gag gifts. But in those letters please ensure you convey the right message: You support his decision, he CAN and WILL get through it, and, as a man, must accomplish his goal of becoming a United States Marine.

Do NOT emphasize that "you always has a home to come back to" or "we'll still love you even if you don't make it" because failure is NOT an option. Am I saying to kick them out of house and home if they don't succeed? No. I'm saying redirection is a better support tool than empathy.

The focus of your letters should be about his training, his challenges, the friends he's made, his goals in training, etc. Do NOT ramble on about everything he's missing. It will only make him miss it more. Do NOT dwell on the "hardship" he's going through. Focus on the quantifiable aspects of recruit training. You can pick those up in his letters.

Emotions will run high. He will have his ups and downs. Simply take note, redirect, and carry on smartly.

Your sons are the next generation of war fighters VOLUNTEERING to defend our nation, and others, in this age of terrorism and oppression across the world. They will become tougher, both in body and mind, as training progresses. Expect it. Welcome it. Revel in it.

Marines are Marines because we are ALL basic rifleman, regardless of our contracts, religious beliefs, or upbringing, capable of fighting in every clime and place where we can take a gun. It's our legacy as warriors first that separates us from every other branch of service in the world.

Make no mistake about it; your sons are the future of this nation. Treat every letter you write like communist propaganda. Think very carefully what you WANT to convey, then proof read to make sure it's the message you ARE conveying.

Semper Fi!

GySgt JW Kohler

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