From Helicopter to Velcro parents

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From Helicopter to Velcro parents

Parrots are known for their ability to mimic human speech, but they also mimic our tendency to coddle our children.

While other birds have their offspring live independently as soon as they learn to fly, parrots let their young stay under their wings for months.

A baby parrot will lie on its back just like a human baby and eat the food provided by its parents. Three to four months after birth, it will grow as big as its parents, but sometimes the young bird refuses to leave the comfortable nest its parents have built. In that case, the parent halves the amount of food given to the young bird to encourage it to find its own food. Then it moves the young bird out of the nest to teach it to fly. However, even if it learns to find food on its own, the young bird often behaves like a baby, returning to its parents’ nest and asking to be fed. The parents are sensitive and affectionate and do not turn the young bird away. Some parents will even feed their young until they are four years old.

Of course, humans cannot be compared to parrots when it comes to spoiling their children. It takes years to raise a child to maturity, and some children depend on their parents for their entire lives. Ernest Hemingway was a great writer, but when he was young his mother, Grace, worried about his immature behavior. When Hemingway was 21, Grace wrote him a letter saying that every child is born “with a large and prosperous bank account, seemingly inexhaustible.” She went on to note, however, that her son’s withdrawals had drained his account. Although she would continue to offer her love and care, she reminded young Ernest that it was time for him to fill the account by himself. “Unless, in other words, you come into your manhood, there is nothing before you but bankruptcy. You have overdrawn,” she wrote.

Nowadays, some parents are so overly protective of their children that they don’t let them live their own lives. They monitor everything their grown-up sons and daughters say and do. There are names for parents like these. Those who constantly hover over their children are “helicopter parents.” “Velcro parents,” meanwhile, are the more obsessive types who cannot keep themselves away from their children.

Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, who resigned over allegations of nepotism for having his daughter hired for a ministry post, must have been a Velcro parent for keeping his daughter so close. His wife must also be a Velcro parent. There are rumors that she called the ministry on her daughter’s behalf to inform them when the daughter was going to be absent.

We need to think more seriously about how to raise our children. The lines of an insightful poem by Jeong Chae-bong may provide some guidance: “The child you send into the wilderness becomes a bean tree, but the child you keep in the greenhouse becomes a bean sprout.”

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Shin Ye-ri
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