As a mom or dad, you may adopt the helicopter parenting style without realising it. How can you not swoop in when your child is in trouble?
However, that instinct to protect can easily lead to coddling your children. Without meaning to, you can hurt their emotional development, affecting how they regulate emotions, build resilience, and cope with problems.
Reining in your overprotective tendencies will take a lot of patience, restraint, and courage. What can help is catching yourself when you hover.
What Is Helicopter Parenting?
In helicopter parenting, the desire to protect becomes about monitoring and controlling every aspect of a child’s life. Parents who use this approach intervene when their child struggles or might make a mistake.
Signs of a Helicopter Parent
What is considered helicopter parenting? Here are some examples that can manifest during a child’s early years:
- Refusing to let a child dress themselves
- Packing school bags, even when the child can do it
- Answering homework or completing a school project
- Buying many toys to curtail boredom
- Deciding who the child befriends
Overparenting often crystalises when kids start high school through young adulthood. Society still considers academic achievement as a step to success, pushing some parents to become excessively involved in schoolwork. What are these micromanaging behaviours?
Participants (age ranges from 17 to 30 years old) of a study published in the Assessment journal reveal their parents still:
- Rewrites school papers
- Calls to make sure they are awake in the morning
- Give reminders about tasks and deadlines (school or work)
- Clean their homes regularly
- Wash their clothes even when they are not home
- Intervenes on their behalf with roommates, friends, romantic partners, co-workers, or boss
- Asks for an update on their daily schedules
- Wants to know the “behind the scenes” information about their social lives
The Impact of Parents Who Hover
Are helicopter parents toxic? They can be. Excessively sheltering a child from discomfort or obstacles can undermine their ability to develop critical thinking and life skills. After all, adversities help kids develop lifelong resilience and mental toughness. In addition, this hovering behaviour may leave kids afraid or overly dependent on their parents.
Other consequences of helicopter parenting on kids can look like the following:
Inability to manage emotions
A study published in Developmental Psychology suggests overcontrolling parents can unintentionally hinder a toddler’s ability to regulate emotions and behaviour.
“When [a child] needs to control their emotions/behaviour and share a toy, they may not develop the skills to navigate that situation in socially appropriate ways when a parent is not present.”
Increased sense of entitlement
Kids of helicopter parents are used to having their every need met. In the context of schoolwork, for instance, they feel entitled to have their parents or authority figures like professors help them, a Psychological Science study points out. As a result, they procrastinate, put in less effort, and rely even more on those who help them.
Entitled kids also become less motivated “to work for academic goals on their own”, which can negatively affect academic performance.
Low sense of self-efficacy
Helicopter parents don’t often realise they demand perfection when they iron out every wrinkle. As a result, they can unknowingly set high standards that their kids don’t feel capable of attaining independently.
A review published in Frontiers in Psychology points out that feelings of inadequacy give kids “little reason to persevere” in the face of challenges. Subsequently, they feel they need more confidence in handling stressful situations or may even see efforts to overcome problems as futile.
The same research also showed that constant vigilance could lead to heightened fear and anxiety in children. The same can be said of parents, creating a stressful and unhealthy family dynamic.
How to Curb Helicopter Parenting Tendencies
Parenting requires a balancing act. On the one hand, kids need parental guidance to help them learn responsibility and figure out right from wrong. But children need autonomy to develop competence, self-sufficiency, and confidence. How do you supply just the right amount of instruction and control?
1. Allow your child to fail and learn from their mistakes
Kids miss out on life skills when spared from the consequences of their actions. So let them set alarm clocks, do their homework, and avoid coming to their rescue when issues arise. Instead, you can support them by preparing their breakfast and helping them study. Recognise achievements but praise their efforts to instil a growth mindset.
2. Encourage independence and responsibility
You foster independence when you allow children to make their own decisions. Offer them choices when they’re young, which can be as simple as letting them choose what to wear or what snack to eat. But don’t stop there – let them tie their shoelaces, prepare their snack, and perform age-appropriate tasks under your guidance.
As they grow up, give them more responsibilities and make them accountable. If your teenager is bothered by their crooked teeth, you can consult with an orthodontist or dentist as soon as possible to determine if clear aligners like ClearCorrect could help them improve their smile and boost their confidence. Just remind them that compliance and persistent use will yield successful results.
3. Build confidence
Children are more likely to feel confident when they clearly understand their strengths and abilities. Encourage your child to pursue their interests and hobbies, and celebrate their progress, no matter how small they may seem.
However, societal pressure often pushes kids to tie their self-esteem to peers and physical appearance, especially among teenagers. If your teen misses out on opportunities where they can flourish, it may be worth asking your dentist for orthodontic treatments to help boost their confidence.
Model Self-Care and Resilience
You can help your child develop a positive self-image by exemplifying self-care. That means being kinder to yourself the next time you see signs of overparenting. It’s only natural to want to shield your child from pain and disappointment. What’s vital is what you do the next time. Take a step back and reflect on the adjustments you need to make to your parenting style.
The next time you catch yourself in helicopter parenting mode, breathe and return to when your baby took their first steps and fell. Remember how time stood still as you watched your baby process what happened? Then, as your baby laughed, cried or both, you encouraged them to get up and do it again. You stayed close but stopped yourself from picking him up. That’s brave parenting right there.
Bayless, K. (2022). What Is Helicopter Parenting? Parents.
How to ground a helicopter parent. (n.d.). Bond University.
Luebbe, A. M., Mancini, K. J., Kiel, E. J., Spangler, B. B., Semlak, J. L., & Fussner, L. M. (2018). Dimensionality of Helicopter Parenting and Relations to Emotional, Decision-Making, and Academic Functioning in Emerging Adults. Assessment, 25(7), 841–857.
Perry, N. B., Dollar, J. M., Calkins, S. D., Keane, S. P., & Shanahan, L. (2018). Childhood self-regulation as a mechanism through which early overcontrolling parenting is associated with adjustment in preadolescence. Developmental Psychology, 54(8), 1542–1554.
Schiffrin, H. H. (n.d.). The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on Academic Motivation. Eagle Scholar.
Vigdal, J. S., & Brønnick, K. (2022). A Systematic Review of “Helicopter Parenting” and Its Relationship With Anxiety and Depression. Frontiers in Psychology, 13.