What is Helicopter Parenting?

helicopter parents

We all want the best for our children. As parents, we want them to have the best life possible. But what happens when your efforts to create a comfortable life for your child verge on being unhealthy? You and your spouse may become guilty of being helicopter parents. 

Who are Helicopter Parents?

Also known as cosseting, helicopter parents are parents who essentially mow down an obstacle or struggle that your child comes to in order to protect them from any negative feelings. In a more scientific sense, it’s a hyper-involvement in your child’s life. It’s simply an over-active effort to keep your child from feeling hurt, pain, or disappointment. 

So, what’s the problem? Isn’t that a normal desire?

Yes, but with helicopter parents, that desire to protect your child takes on a different form. It might look like:

  • Trying to keep them from experiencing age-appropriate stumbles.
  • Never let your child or toddler play by themselves.
  • Choosing your child’s friends for them when they are old enough to do it themselves.
  • Completing school work for them. 
  • Intervening when they have a conflict with friends, coworkers, or an employer. 
  • Not allowing them to make age-appropriate decisions.

While helicopter parenting has regained criticism in recent years, it’s not a new concept. It was first used in the 1969 book “Between Parent and Teenager” by Dr. Haim Ginoit. The fact that it was first identified decades ago tells us this is an easy parenting style to fall into. 

helicopter parents

Why Parents Do It?

As pure as the desire to protect your child is, helicopter parenting involves other issues going on with the parent. It might be a fear of the future, or the idea that every little decision could be the catalyst that leads to your child succeeding or failing in life. In reality, deciding whether your child has crackers or cereal as a snack won’t make that much of a difference. 

A related cause of becoming helicopter parents is a general anxiety about how you’re parenting your child. You want to do everything right and you want your child happy and healthy. But when those desires turn into a dysfunctional parenting style, there’s a problem.

Other parents allow themselves to become so wrapped up in their children’s lives that they lose themselves. As their own identity begins to fade, they focus more and more intently on their child, leading to helicopter parenting. 

For some, helicopter parenting is an overcompensation for a neglectful childhood they experienced themselves. With these parents, they may have promised themselves they would never make their child feel how they did when they were young. The problem comes when you go overboard in the effort to break the cycle of neglect and become a helicopter parent. 

We also can’t discount peer pressure. Just like you might have adjusted your style and personality to conform to your peers in high school, you will adjust your parenting style to match the parents whose opinion you care about. If you are surrounded by other helicopter parents, you will likely start to fall into helicopter parenting behavior. 

Impact of Helicopter Parenting

While most parenting styles have some benefit to the child, helicopter parents really only benefit themselves. Studies have shown that parents who are more involved in their child’s life will report greater happiness and more meaning in life. But as great as it is to be involved, the over-involvement characteristic of helicopter parenting can actually have a negative impact on your child’s life. 

The consequences to your children from helicopter parenting include:

  • Low confidence
  • Low self-esteem
  • Doubt about their abilities
  • Feeling a lack of trust from their parent
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Entitlement
  • Acting out
  • Hostility
  • Poor coping skills
 kid issues- helicopter parents

Fundamentally, helicopter parents rob their child’s important learning moments that help them develop the skills to handle rejection or trials. Without these coping skills, they will come to a stumbling block and fall rather than push past it. 

Avoiding Helicopter Parenting

If you feel like you might be falling into the helicopter parenting trap, don’t worry! There are things you can start doing today that will improve your relationship with your child and help them in the long run:

  • Think about how being helicopter parents might affect your child in the long-term. 
  • Fight the urge to intervene when your child approaches an age-appropriate struggle. 
  • Let your child make age-appropriate decisions
  • Let your child try to resolve their conflicts on their own. 
  • Allow your child to fail and use that as a teaching moment. 
  • Teach them life skills, like cooking, cleaning, and self-care. 

As you adjust your approach with your child, you’ll find them growing into happy, healthy, productive members of society. In turn, you can regain your individuality and breathe a little easier. 

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