The “helicopter parent” might be a new phrase, but it is not a new phenomenon. A helicopter parent is just as the visual suggests. They hover over their children, monitoring them, and wait for any opportunity to swoop in and fix things. Although it is your job, as a parent, to watch over your children, keep them safe from harm, and try to mold them into the adults you want them to be, behaving like a helicopter might not be the best road to take.
How do you Know you are a Helicopter Parent?
The signs of a helicopter parent are usually noticeable to everyone besides them. They are the parents who are so afraid that their child will fail, they never let them try. Do you see any of these characteristics in your parenting skills?
You Look Through Their Things Continually
Trust is something that must be earned, yes. But in the same respect, if you never give your child a chance to earn your trust and continually look through their things for signs of trouble, you are saying “I don’t trust you”. If your child doesn’t feel that you trust them, then there is no reason for them to do the right thing.
If you always assume that they are doing something that needs to be monitored and watched, then you are probably creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Much like a person who is accused of doing something will eventually be tempted to do it, your child has no incentive to do the right thing because you are expecting the worst anyway.
People live up to the expectations that others have for them. So looking through their things without cause, might get you exactly what you are looking for in a negative way.
You Don’t Have to Check Their Homework Because you Pretty Much did it for Them
As a parent, you are supposed to be there to help your children when they are having a hard time. But helicopter parents take it one step more; they do it for them. If you find that you are doing the majority of your child’s homework, they might be getting good grades, yes. But the reality is that they are not getting good grades, you are.
And when the time comes that you are no longer there, you are setting your child up for failure. Providing assistance is okay, but doing everything for them is limiting their success. And it is ensuring that they are going to have a lifetime full of hurdles. They will never learn the skills to figure things out on their own. So even if they get into Harvard, they won’t be staying there very long.
You Fight Their Battles for Them
Children need advice and modeling from their parents to learn successful social skills. But not always getting along with people is the only way for them to learn conflict resolution skills. If you step into every fight and fight it for them, they are never going to learn conflict resolution.
If they are being bullied or have tried to resolve something on their own without success, then it is okay to help them navigate the situation. But fighting all of their battles for them is not healthy.
Learning to deal with difficult people and situations is a part of the learning process to becoming an emotionally mature adult. If you don’t allow them to figure it out on their own, they won’t ever know how to stand up for themselves. And they won’t ever learn to handle situations that get a little heated.
Your Child is Never Wrong
It is natural to want to defend your child and support them. But if there is never a point where your child is in the wrong, then that is a huge problem! Children need to learn that they have to respect authority even if they don’t agree with it all the time. And even if they don’t like what an authority figure has to say.
As adults, there will be all sorts of situations where you have to s do what someone of authority says. If your child thinks that the rules don’t apply to them, or that they don’t have to listen or obey rules, then they aren’t going to have the tenacity that it takes to get ahead in the corporate world. And it will also predispose them to rule breaking, which can lead to a whole lot of trouble.
You Follow Them Wherever They go
If you get bouts of anxiety just thinking about your child walking next door to borrow an egg unattended, then you are probably a helicopter parent. It is a natural instinct for parents to be protective and to limit those things that can be dangerous.
But if you are carrying it too far and never letting them do anything independently, then you are not letting them develop autonomy. Being away from your parents is a necessary step to figuring out who you are as a person. But if your parents are always there to shadow you and hold your hand, that becomes nearly impossible to do.
The only way for your child to learn how to make good decisions and to have the forethought to protect themselves from cautious situations is by allowing them to be in some uncomfortable positions and have to figure the way out alone.
You do Everything for Them, Like Everything
If you think that cooking on the stove is too dangerous for them. Or, that cleaning their room is a little too much responsibility to put on your child, then you are probably a helicopter parent. Children used to participate in all aspects of family life. And they had jobs to do that helped them develop a sense of responsibility.
If you don’t ask for their help, then they aren’t going to be learning basic life skills like boiling water. And things, like cleaning their room and mowing the lawn, allows them to build a sense of value. Work is something that is not only good, as an adult; it is necessary.
If you don’t teach them work ethic, they will have a hard time finding gainful employment. Or if they do, that they will find satisfaction from a hard day’s work. And if that is the case, then they will live an adult life of feeling as if work is punishing. And they will find no value in it or what they achieve.
They are Never Hurt Because you Don’t let Them Try
The way that human beings learn is not through their successes but through their failures. It is what encourages them to do better next time, try something new, and develop problem-solving skills. But if your child never fails, because you never let them try on their own, then you are stunting their higher order learning.
If you look at something and think “that’s too high” or “too dangerous” because you see all the potential things that can go wrong and don’t let them participate, you aren’t letting them achieve success. You have to be realistic about what can happen if you let your child try something.
Thinking worst case scenario and trying to protect them from everything is limiting their ability to do new things. And it is also limiting them from learning from their mistakes. You have to let them fail, be disappointed, and get upset; they are all experiences that motivate children.
Why you Have to Stop
A study released in 2013, by the National Institutes of Health, found that helicopter parenting reduces a child’s ability to achieve three basic needs:
- The need for autonomy
- The need to have confidence in your accomplishments and skills
- And the need to feel cared for and loved
And a 2019 study released in the New York Times found that college students who had helicopter parents had a higher degree of anxiety and depression when compared to cohorts who did not.
“Furthermore, when parents solve problems for their children, then children may not develop the confidence and competence to solve their own problems.”
Another study from 2015, published in Social Development, found that toddlers who were allowed more room to interact and explore on their own had a better relationship with their parents or caregivers. When left to be on their own, the toddles more often sought out their mothers when given freedom than when the toddlers were restricted.
So although it is your job as a parent to keep your child safe, it is also your job to teach them how to be adults. And if you never allow them to make their own decisions, have to find their way out of a problem, or you fight all of their battles for them, you aren’t allowing them to grow.
As hard as it is to let your children fail; it is a necessary part of success. Tough love is often the best kind of love rethe is. It tells your child that you have faith in them, you trust them to make the right decision, and that you respect who they are outside of you.
So if your helicopter blades are working overtime, it is time to hop out of the helicopter and let your children fly solo. If you are having a hard time navigating parenting, you are not alone. Kids don’t come with a manual. And sometimes it is necessary to get the help of a professional to sort through things.