Art of Fencing, Art of Life

The Opposite of Helicopter Parenting – How Fencing Helps Kids Break Free

The Opposite of Helicopter Parenting - How Fencing Helps Kids Break FreeHelicopter parenting has been a much buzzed about style of raising children for the last several years. For those of you who might not know, helicopter parents are overly involved in their child’s lives. They step in to solve their kid’s problems from name calling on the playground to college professors who don’t give the grades they think their kids deserve.

The problem with helicopter parenting is that kid never learn how to handle situations on their own. Life is full of problems and unpleasantries that we have to get through in order to become independent and successful. When parents step in to fix every issue, kids never become empowered to take care of problems on their own.

Fencing in particular helps kids learn to take control of situations that arise on their own.  Here’s how.

Fencing builds trust

You as a parent are allowing your child to hold a sword! What??!! Even though these swords aren’t sharp and they aren’t dangerous, that doesn’t mean that the mystique of the sword isn’t there in fencing. When mom and dad allow their kid to be responsible for a weapon, even a safe one, it makes kids feel that their parents trust them with a big thing.

Older kids are more able to understand the investment that comes with fencing equipment. Unlike a soccer ball or a basketball, fencing equipment is specialized and expensive. Fencing parents entrust their children with this equipment and allow them to have responsibility for maintaining it, and that builds confidence! Your children need to know that you can trust them so that they can do more on their own as they get older.

Fencing gives kids natural consequences

When we make mistakes, things that we don’t like happen. When we neglect our responsibility, things that we don’t like happen.

Natural consequences are those things that happen to us naturally. When kids become adults, they won’t get a time out and they won’t be grounded. Those are fantastic parenting tools, but that’s not how the world will work when mom and dad aren’t around.

In fencing, if you lose your focus and don’t pay attention on the strip, your opponent is going to get a touch on you. If you don’t take the steps to maintain your weapon, you’ll have problems on competition day. If you don’t practice your footwork then you won’t win your matches. This is a sport where what your child puts into it is what they will get out of it. Kids learn that when they focus and work hard, they get the reward. When they don’t put their effort in, then the natural consequence is that they don’t win the point or the match.

Fencing builds mentor relationships with adults

Mom and dad can’t always be there. Fencing takes kids out of the direct intervention of their parent and puts them in a position to do this challenging thing on their own. But the beauty of fencing is that kids aren’t their all on their own!

The system of fencing classes, private lessons, and tournament support allows kids to build positive mentor relationships with adults who aren’t their parents. They learn that they can forge bonds with an adult who they can trust to lead them in the right direction. That’s a powerful thing for a child! Unlike teachers in school or coaches on big team sports, the individual and specialized nature of fencing gives kids a whole different level of understanding of who they are in relation to adult mentors.

We do also want to point out that it isn’t just relationships with adults that are built through fencing. Positive peer relationships are also important for kids. In fencing we see a great deal of peer mentorship where kids learn from their fellow fencers!

Letting go of the control and encouraging kids to create healthy mentor relationships gives kids the chance to feel self confident and safe in circumstances away from their parents.

Fencing builds the belief that a child is capable

When parents turn into helicopter parents, kids can actually start to believe that they are incapable. It’s not just that they don’t do things on their own, they begin to believe that the can’t do things on their own. That’s a shame.

This is all a shift from “parents need to step in a fix everything” to “parents need to step back and let kids figure it out on their own.” If a child can do things for themselves, then they definitely should! It doesn’t make parents lazy or uninvolved, it means they’re scaffolding their child’s ability to be successful.

What makes fencing so powerful are the small victories that kids can get along the way. For instance they might not win a match at first, but it’s certain that they will get a touch somewhere along the way. Those small victories give them the first step of feeling capable.

Fencing gives kids freedom

The opposite of helicopter parenting is providing children with chances to develop a sense of self-efficacy. This bolsters their independence, teaches them responsibility, and creates a sense of confidence from the inside out. It’s mindfully stepping back, with parents allowing their kids to struggle on their own before swooping in to rescue them.

Fencing supports positive parenting for a whole host of reasons! Fencing parents learn how powerful and capable their kids can be – without their being right on top of them. Of course we want to help our children to be the best that they can be, but often that involves the very scary thing of letting them do things without us.

We leave you with this beautiful quote by Erin Hanson:

There is freedom waiting for you,

on the breezes of the sky.

And you ask ‘what if I fall?’

Oh but my darling, what if you fly?


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1 Comment

  1. R

    At practice, after an eight-year-old foilist was hit on the ankle, he started crying and wouldn’t stop until both parents led him off the strip to a chair where they consoled him for practice’s balance. As I was leaving I paraphrased from Tom Hank’s “A League of Their Own”: “There is no crying in baseball – or fencing.”

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