Kronenberger's radio show, parental role overlap
August 16, 2012
Advocacy vs. “helicopter parenting”
Kronenberger believes the term “helicopter parenting” is derogatory and a little out of date.
Ten years ago, there was more of a trend of parents thinking they needed to “swoop in” to solve their children’s problems, she said, but now parents seem to be trying to swing the pendulum the other way.
“If we do everything for our kids, obviously they’re never going to learn to do anything for themselves. “I want my kid to be safe. I want my kid to be accepted, and I think about that in a different way than lots of other people do. But, after that, my kids need to stand up for themselves. My kid needs to learn that you can’t win everything.
“My kids need to be able to talk to a teacher and say ‘I don’t agree with this grade because…’ on their own and not have me call to fix it for them.
“Advocating is something that your child can’t necessarily do for themselves. My middle child is very gifted, and I feel like I’ve had to advocate for him almost more than my child with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). I have to advocate to get him the services he needs, to get him challenged.
“I think it’s 'scaffolding parents' vs. helicopter. I want to help build the structure necessary for him to be able to say ‘This is what I can do and maybe I need a little bit of your support to help me get there,’ versus me saying ‘I’m just going to come right in, hover over you, take care of it and lift you out of the situation.’ I’d rather he figure it out.
“You have to help them get the skills. They’re not born with the skills.”
Anna Kronenberger probably thinks about parenthood more than most people do, and not only because she is the mother of three children. She also regularly devotes many hours to researching parenting topics and talking to experts for her weekly radio show The Parent Trip.
Kronenberger is organizer, scheduler, producer and host of the WVIK program, heard at noon on Saturdays and 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. After 70 shows, she's not worried about running out of topics.
"I know when I started, a couple of people, especially people who didn't have kids, weren't sure I was going to be able to make a whole show on parenting," she said. "But I thought, 'Everything in life goes back to this.'"
She's produced shows on everything from bringing home a new baby to applying to college. Some topics are universal - bullying, sex, nutrition - while others are tailored for the Quad Cities audience, such as local services or places to take children for fun.
Kronenberger grew up in St. Joseph, Mich., and earned a degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. She and her husband, Paul Croll, lived in Minneapolis for 12 years, and she got a master's in education from the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul.
They moved to Bettendorf in 2008 when Croll took a position as assistant professor of sociology at Augustana College. Their children are Ethan, 11, Logan, (almost 9), and Miranda, 7.
"I chose to stay home," Kronenberger said. "Because what we wanted to do was raise our kids and- three kids in four years - that's pretty fast, and so it was kind of a necessity. And then to exacerbate that, our oldest son is on the autism spectrum. He was diagnosed when he was 4.
"Community-wise, it's fabulous and a great place to raise children. It's safe; it's a relatively well-educated population and very nice people. I love the fact that my kids can walk around the neighborhood and I don't worry about them."
With plenty of source material right at home, Kronenberger's personal life and professional work cannot help but overlap.
"Recently I interviewed some mothers with kids on the autism spectrum and because my oldest is on the spectrum that interview was important for me and I enjoyed talking to parents about it. But I rarely give a lot of personal information about my family because the show isn't about them. It's about parenting."
Interviews with impact
She said her most challenging interview — and also most rewarding — was with Traci Maynard, whose 4-year-old daughter died after a heart transplant in 2006. Maynard and her husband now run the Erika Kate Foundation to provide short-term assistance to families in the midst of a medical crisis.
Kronenberger said she struggled to get through the interview without tears.
"I'm listening to Erika Kate's mother — what it was like, how her daughter had gone through all these surgeries and had had a heart transplant. They took her out East for the transplant and it didn't work. And how they had to drive home without her because they lost her there.
"I was trying to imagine being in the car with my husband on a 17-hour drive and not having my kid in the car and knowing I was never going to see her again. And how they came to a conclusion on that drive that they're going to start a foundation.
"Listen to this woman. This woman is incredible. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all have that strength of character?" (Hear interview)
Another interview that made an impact on her was "Talking to your kids about sex" with two women educators. Kronenberger, who said that writing the script was a bit nerve-wracking, said they made it clear that "hang-ups" about sex education belong to parents, not to kids.
"At that point we hadn't really talked to any of our kids about it," Kronenberger said. "But after talking to them I said, 'You know what? We have to start these conversations.' At this point all my kids know the basics. So that show had a big impact on me."
Most shows call on one or more experts in a given field, but Kronenberger believes parents are the real experts.
"I think being a parent is making you an expert when you're the one running the kid to the appointments; you're the one trying, day in and day out, to find ways to make something work better."
After all these hours considering the topic of parenting, she does have some advice:
Be patient. "I have always tried to be a pretty informed parent. I think the show makes me try to be a more patient parent. Take a breath. Step back."
Listen to your child and be present.
Be your child's advocate because you know your child the best.
Take care of yourself. "You matter, too. And it's so so easy to just fall into doing everything for them. For a lot of us, that's what you've been raised to believe. For a lot of us it's the guilt. If I go out tonight with my girlfriends, then I'm not spending time with my kids.
"We put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect and there's no such thing. You have to make time for you because when you do, you come back more patient, with more energy."
Kronenberger is comfortable in the studio, partly because she had already spent many hours there before The Parent Trip. Her father was in radio and she did radio commercials as a child. She also worked in radio news in college and as a correspondent.
As it turns out, her children are comfortable in radio, too. At last summer's open house at WVIK, news editor Michelle O'Neill interviewed the three children about what they liked on Public Radio.
"And out of nowhere they gave her a pitch-perfect pledge drive ad," Kronenberger exclaimed. 'I did not ask them to do this. I did not tell them to do this. I had no idea what they were going to say. They loved being on."
Anna Kronenberger’s quick list of places her family likes to go and things they like to do
Public libraries and programming for children
"Rocket Park" (McManus Park) in Bettendorf
Freight House Farmer's Market: honey sticks (25 cents each) and the playground
Channel Cat Water Taxi
ReUsable Usables in LeClaire, Iowa
Municipal playground programs
Free (or very low-cost) family movies at local theaters
Free bowling for kids
Free days (Mondays) through Aug. 13.at the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Quad City Botanical Center in Rock Island, Family Museum in Bettendorf, and Riverside Aquatic Center (from 5-8 p.m.) in Moline.