Helicopter parenting was first defined in 1968 by Dr. Ginott. Teenagers he spoke to described their parents ‘hovering over them.’ The parent is involved in their child’s life to an extent that it does not allow the independence to grow and learn from their own mistakes. In its’ simplest form it is packing their bags into their late teens to make sure that they don’t forget a book. It removes the learning of how to do it for themselves. For any parent seeing their child upset or fail is distressing. It may be that you had a negative childhood, feeling that you were unsupported. By being overinvested in the individual outcome, we lose sight of the growth that needs to happen to become a successful adult. Short-term unhappiness is necessary for long-term happiness.
What Does Helicopter Parenting Look Like?
At different ages, helicopter parenting can take different forms. For instance, for a toddler, it can mean not letting them go on a scooter for fear of hurting themselves or asking for nursery daily for markers as to the child’s development. At the elementary age not letting them have a say in their activities or overly protecting them from failure or disappointment. For example, if they are dropped from a team arguing with the coach to get them reinstated. Instead, they should help the child learn from the disappointment and how to remedy it. In to teenage years, it could be proofreading and correcting their assignments, and stepping in to resolve their disputes, no matter how minor.
The Negative Effects of Helicopter Parenting
In the short term helicopter parenting is beneficial. There are many short-term successes and a happy child and proud parents. There are few arguments or ‘failures’. In the long term, however, it can lead to a lack of resilience and poor self-esteem. A child who has never had to solve a problem on their own may begin to doubt their strengths as they get older. They can think their parents don’t want them to determine their judgments, and they might even start to doubt their capacity for self-management (Trevarthen, & Dunlop, 2008).
The issues become particularly more expressed as the child gets older. A 2014 study examining the effects of this parenting style on university students discovered that those who had these helicopter parents were much more likely to be taking anxiety and depression medications. Friends of mine who work in academia often see students who arrive from helicopter-parent households struggle, underachieve and even drop out. This becomes clear when the parent, who helped write the application, rings asking what they can do to support. However, the child has come to an age where they now resent this help and are enjoying independence for the first time. The book, ‘The Trophy Kids Grow Up’ by Ron Alsop looks at this further.
In general, helicopter parents take pride in their high level of parental involvement and frequently don’t perceive anything wrong with their approach to raising their children. They believe that what they are doing is a means to demonstrate their love for their child, secure their protection, and support their success.
Methods for Avoiding Helicopter Parenting
Even though it might be difficult to let go, you are still a caring, active parent. You don’t have to fix all of your child’s issues to show them that you’re there for them.
Here’s how to get away from your youngster and promote independence:
- Consider the potential long-term repercussions of helicopter parenting rather than concentrating on the here and now. Do you want your child to learn life skills or do you want them to constantly depend on you to solve things?
- Allow your children to take care of themselves if they are old enough for it, and resist the impulse to step in. This can involve even the smallest tasks, like choosing their clothes, tidying their room, or tying their shoes.
- Allow children to make age-appropriate choices on their own. Allow primary school students to select their chosen extracurriculars or hobbies, while allowing older students to select their course of study.
- When your child quarrels with a friend, coworker, or employer, stay out of the fray and avoid attempting to mediate the situation. Give them the tools they need to settle the dispute on their own.
- Give your child a chance to fail. We are aware of how challenging this is. They learn how to deal with disappointment, though, when they don’t make the team or enroll in the institution of their choice.
- Teach them interpersonal communication techniques, face-to-face contact, cooking, cleaning, washing, and other life skills.
Final Thoughts on Helicopter Parenting
Any parenting approach should be evaluated in light of how it will impact your child now as well as in the long term. It maybe that you have parental anxiety and this needs to be addressed.
Of course, all parents have occasionally gone above and beyond to make life a bit easier for their children. The issue arises when helicopter parenting has become the norm and prevents normal growth.
You might not even be aware that you’re “helicopter parenting,” but you undoubtedly want what’s best for your child. Therefore, consider the kind of person or adult you need them to develop, and then design your parenting approach around that goal. You could discover that taking a step back reduces the weight on both your and their shoulders.
Look at our post on positive parenting for more suggestions.