Contirbuted by Bessie Hebar, Registered Psychologist
Helicopter parenting: What it is; its consequences; how to avoid it and what to do instead.
As a parent, it is a very natural response to want to protect your children, supervise them, guide them and help them with chores, homework and other activities in order to keep them safe and avoid the hardship of disappointment and failure, but to a which degree this protectiveness can be detrimental to the wellbeing of your child.
What is “helicopter parenting”?
The term “helicopter parenting” refers to a type of parent who’s “hovering” over their children, trying to monitor and control their every move. While this behaviour is expected for babies and toddlers, helicopter parents maintain this behaviour as their children age.
Despite parents’ best intentions to help their children, helicopter parents tend to remove all obstacles for their children, overbearing, overprotecting and smothering them, harming their wellbeing and development.
As children of helicopter parents become older, they struggle to manage their behaviours and emotions, which leads to negative performance in school, work and relationships.
Signs of Helicopter Parents
Most helicopter parents experience parental anxiety leading them to overly engage with their children’s daily activities, such as homework, extracurricular activities and playtime.
Below are listed some common signs of helicopter parenting:
- Excessive anxiety about children getting hurt
- Being overly involved in a child’s life, activities and friendships
- Making decisions on behalf of children
- Constantly correcting or solving issues rather than letting them make mistakes
- Protecting children from disappointment or failure
Consequences of Helicopter Parenting
As any parent, helicopter parents often have the best intentions, but their approach fosters negative effects on children. By being overly protective and involved in their children’s lives, these children are withheld from learning how to deal with disappointment, failure and frustration.
In addition, there could be more consequences of this parenting style on children, including;
- Increased anxiety
- Substance use
- Decrease autonomy
- Increased depression
- Fear of failure
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of self-advocacy
- Poor coping skills
- Poor parent-child relationship
How to avoid being a “helicopter parent” and what to do instead
Change can be challenging, but there are ways in which you can minimize your “helicopter parenting” techniques into more assertive ones for you and your child.
- Gradually give your children space
Paying attention to your children is necessary, but providing some freedom will allow them to develop autonomy and self-esteem.
- Offer choices
Rather than controlling everything your child does, offer some choices. Suggest some activities to try.
- Help your children make their own decisions
Instead of making decisions for your child, offer some guidance. Teach them how to make a pro and con list and promote problem-solving skills by brainstorming consequences and setbacks and how to overcome them.
- Allow your children to make mistakes
In order to learn, one must make mistakes. It’s natural that as a parent you want to avoid seeing your child in distress, but as mistakes happen your child will learn how to solve these challenges and develop resilience.
- Teach them how to handle problems
When the urge to jump in and solve your child’s problems, stop and alternatively offer guidance. Help them find solutions to the problem and let them deal with them.
- Assign chores
Allowing your child to take an active role in everyday activities such as making their bed, or taking out the garbage, provides them with a sense of responsibility and contribution to the household. Just make sure that these chores are appropriate to their age.
- Offer help
One of the main roles of a parent is to provide guidance and support, rather than manage their children, when your child is having a hard time, offer some help while allowing them to solve the problem on their own.
- Open communication
The key to a healthy relationship is communication. Having open and honest conversations with your children where you are actively listening and without judgment creates the opportunity for your children to share their thoughts and emotions making them feel heard, loved and supported.
Every parenting style offers some pros and cons, and as some children will consider a “helicopter parent” overly intrusive and controlling, other children might perceive these traits as protective and caring.
Nevertheless, having a balanced parenting style is key in raising your children. Offer guidance and protection, while still allowing your children to make mistakes and learn from them as you continue to support them. This creates a prosperous environment for healthy development.
Saltz, G., MD, & Saltz, G., MD. (2023). What’s Wrong With Helicopter Parenting? Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/whats-wrong-with-helicopter-parenting/
Choosing Therapy. (2023). Helicopter Parents: Definition, Signs, & Effects. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/helicopter-parenting/
Team, C. H. (2023, January 12). Could your ‘Helicopter parenting’ actually be detrimental to your child’s development? Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/could-your-helicopter-parenting-actually-be-detrimental-to-your-childs-development/