Have your friends, family members, partner, or children accused you of being a helicopter parent? Do you catch yourself hovering over your child or teenager? Do you ever wonder whether you might be too involved in your child’s life? Helicopter parenting is a hot topic in parenting circles. What really qualifies as helicopter parenting? How do you know if you’re doing it? And can it really harm your child? Take a look at what you need to know about helicopter parenting – why it’s a problem, how to recognize when you’re doing it, and how to stop.
How Helicopter Parenting Affects Children
“What’s so wrong with being a protective parent?” a helicopter parent might ask. From your perspective, you see yourself as a parent who protects your child from harm, who is active and involved in their life, and who ensures that they have whatever they need to excel. If those all sound like admirable qualities in a parent, it’s because they are! But helicopter parenting usually starts with the best of intentions. It’s when parents take their good intentions for their child too far that problems occur. Here are some of the effects of helicopter parents.
Children who are overprotected can fail to develop the coping skills that they’ll need to handle the pressures that ordinary life with throw at them. The ordinary disappointments, losses, and failures of childhood are valuable. Learning to navigate them gives them the tools to navigate more serious situations as an adult. Helicopter parenting can also make your child lose confidence in themselves and their own abilities. If they see that you always step in to prevent them from dealing with anything difficult, they begin to believe that they must not be capable of handling those difficulties themselves. After all, your child believes that you know best, so if you don’t seem to believe in their abilities, why should they?
Helicopter parenting can increase fear and anxiety in children. Even if you never tell them that they should be afraid, children who believe that their parents are always afraid for them learn to always be afraid themselves. Helicopter parenting can also produce a sense of entitlement. Children who are always catered to at home learn to expect it in other areas of life as well.
Signs of a Helicopter Parent
Like almost anything in the realm of raising children, helicopter parenting can look different in different families – and even with different children in the same family. Every child is different, and some children really do need more support than others in certain areas. But some common signs of helicopter parenting include:
- Doing your child’s schoolwork – You don’t necessarily have to be writing your child’s essays for them to be doing too much of the work. If you’re giving them the thesis statement for their paper or the hypothesis for their science project, you’re probably doing too much.
- Fighting your child’s battles – You may not be duking it out on the playground with a middle schooler, but you’re not letting your child work out the kinks in their friendships either. You’re quick to call another child’s mother to insist that they direct their child to work things out with your child.
- Instructing teachers on how to teach your child – Every teacher has their own teaching style and system for classroom management. But if you think a teacher’s methods aren’t working for your child, you’re quick to tell them how they should change for your child’s benefit.
- You do all the cleaning at home – Your child is busy with school and play, and you don’t want to interrupt with housework. Maybe you think they’re too young to be of much help, or maybe you think the only way to get things done the way you want them is to do them yourself. Whatever the reason, you’re the unpaid maid in your home, and your children never have to deal with their messes.
- You never let your child take risks – If they’d let you, you’d wrap your children up in bubble wrap and never let them past the front yard. Maybe you don’t go that far, but you’ve told your eight-year-old that tree-climbing is off-limits, and your teenager has a curfew of 7 pm.
- You can’t bear to let your child fail – You know that present your child is trying to wrap for their sibling’s birthday is going to look messy, so you step in and take over for them. Your child got distracted after putting bread in the toaster oven, so you watch it and take it out before it burns. You know it’s no fun to feel like you’ve made a mistake, so you make sure that your child never has to have that feeling at all.
All of these helicopter parenting symptoms stem from a sincere desire to help your child, but that doesn’t mean that they’re good for your child.
Think you might be a helicopter parent? Take this helicopter parent quiz.
How to Stop Helicopter Parenting
If you’ve determined that you’re a helicopter parent, don’t despair. You’re not the only parent to figure out that you’ve been over-parenting your child, and you can achieve a more balanced type of parenting. Helicopter parenting can be detrimental, but your instinct to support your child is good. Look for opportunities to support your child while encouraging independence and self-reliance.
For example, if your child has an argument with a friend, you can definitely be there with a hug and a sympathetic ear. But instead of calling the friend’s mother or trying to handle it for your child, ask your child to think of ways they can work things out with their friend.
When your child comes home with a difficult assignment, fight the urge to step in. Instead, praise their hard work as they try to work it out for themselves. And remember, making mistakes is part of the learning process. It’s fine to let your child go to school with an incorrect answer on their homework assignment. Their teacher’s feedback will help them understand where they went wrong, and the lower grade will motivate them to do better next time.
Talk to friends or family members with similarly-aged children about what chores their kids do at this age, how old is old enough to walk home from school alone, or what time the average teen’s curfew is. Get an idea of where you’ve been too protective or overbearing, and adjust accordingly. You can overcome helicopter parenting, and your child will be better off for the chance to stretch their wings, explore their boundaries, and make mistakes and find ways to fix them without so much intervention from you.