8 Vitals Signs Of Helicopter Parenting And Its Effects

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Helicopter parenting is a type of parenting in which the child’s parents are overly invested in their child’s lives to protect them from harm, disappointment, and success.

You are all-invested in your child’s life, and you follow them everywhere. You do their homework. You decide their friends. You micromanage everything in their life. But are you helping your child, or are you making it difficult for them to adjust to the world by themselves?

It has been shown that the children who have their parents do everything for them, including making decisions for them and deciding the course of their life, usually lack self-confidence and decision-making skills. This may make things difficult for the child as they grow older and face several of life’s challenges alone.

Read on to know more about helicopter parenting, its benefits, disadvantages, and ways by which it affects your child’s development.

In This Article

What Is Helicopter Parenting?

This term may often be applied to parents of college or high school students who interfere and help their children more than what is necessary. They feel that they are nurturing and supportive but this may not always be the case. It can be calling a lecturer to talk about poor performance, managing exercise habits, or deciding on the child’s hobbies.

The phrase ‘helicopter parent’ first appeared in 1969 in the book Between Parent & Teenager by Dr. Haim Ginott (1).

The term entered the dictionary in the year 2011. It is also known by the terms cosseting parent, lawnmower parent or bulldoze parent (2).
Psychologist Ann Dunnewold calls it over parenting, which means over controlling, over protecting and over perfecting a child’s life.

Who Is A Helicopter Parent?

Parents who interfere and help their children more than what is necessary.

Image: Shutterstock

This term may often be applied to parents of college or high school students who interfere and help their children more than what is necessary. It can be calling a lecturer to talk about poor performance, managing exercise habits or deciding on the child’s hobbies.

Helicopter parenting applies to any age. During toddlerhood, the parent steers the child’s behavior and does not give the kid a chance to learn through her experiences.
In elementary school, the parent selects the child’s coach, her friends, and activities.

Ringing a bell? If you want to make sure you are not a helicopter parent, analyze your parenting style and check for some signs.

8 Warning Signs You Might Be A Helicopter Parent

If you are nodding to most of these practices, then you might want to move away from your helicopter parenting style.

  1. You negotiate for your child’s conflicts.
  2. You do their academic works.
  3. You train your child’s trainers.
  4. You stick with your kids even if it is a short walk away.
  5. You hold the responsibility for all your child’s house chores.
  6. You shield them from failure and aim to make them a perfectionist.
  7. You don’t allow them to tackle their problems.
  8. You don’t allow them to make age appropriate choices.

Why Do Parents Hover?

Your anxiety can make you take over control of the child.

Image: IStock

You may be following the helicopter style knowingly or unknowingly out of sheer love and concern for your child. Subconsciously, you might be having more than one reason for doing so. Here are four reasons why parents develop helicopter parenting:

1. Fear of terrible outcomes:

You worry about your child’s possible failures. You believe that your involvement and being overbearing can help your child avoid a low grade in school or disappointment in life. However, when the parent directs the child’s behavior and does not give any alone time, it could lead to low self-esteem, stress, lack of coping skills, unhappiness, and struggle in children. Also, you might turn to become authoritarian with time.

2. Anxiety about the world:

Your anxiety about the economy and the world in general can make you take over control of the child in an attempt to overprotect them. According to Dr. Daitch, “Worry can drive parents to take control of their children to keep them from being disappointed or hurt” (3)

3. Overcompensation:

Parents who were neglected, ignored, and unloved or whose parents were not attentive during their childhood try to be over-careful and domineering. They pay excessive attention and monitoring to make sure that their children do not feel the way they did in their childhood.

4. Influence of other parents:

Parents might sometimes get influenced by other micromanaging and smothering parents. According to Dr. Daitch, when we observe others overparenting, it pressurizes us to be like them. It also makes us feel that we are bad parents. Guilt is, of course, a large component working.

protip_icon Point to consider
Some parents find meaning or self-worth in their children’s accomplishments. This can harm the bond between parents and children and contribute to helicopter parenting.

What Are The Effects Of Overprotective Parenting?

It leads to lack of self-esteem in kids

Image: Shutterstock

Helicopter parents start being overprotective with a genuine intention. But in the process of engaging with kids and their lives, they lose the actual perspective of what they want. Though this parenting has some advantages for the child like building self-confidence, increased emotions of love and acceptance and opportunities to excel, it has got its downsides:

1. Low self-esteem and confidence:

Helicopter parenting backfires. Over-involvement and coddling makes the child believe that their parents will not trust them if they do something independently. The child loses trust in themselves as the parents do not trust them. It, therefore, leads to a lack of self-esteem and confidence.

E.A. Wickham, a mom blogger and a former helicopter mom, shares how her overprotectiveness affected her firstborn’s personality. She says, “My two kids are so different, I question if I parented them differently. I feel like I helicoptered my firstborn and was more laid back with the second. The result is one more dependent and one independent… I have one child that now calls whenever there is a problem. His face pops up on my phone, and I automatically ask, ‘What’s wrong?’ A broken computer, a fender bender, a parking ticket. It’s always something (i).”

2. Immature coping skills:

When the parent is always there to prevent the problem at first sight or clean up the mess, the child can never learn through failure, disappointment or loss. Studies also reveal that hover parents can make their kids less competent in dealing with tensions and pressures of life.

3. Overanxious:

Helicopter parenting increases a child’s depression and anxiety levels. They can adapt similar anxiety from the parent if the parents are anxious. For example, if the parent is anxious about the child walking down the street alone, the latter might develop the same fear and get intrusive thoughts.

protip_icon Do remember
Talking about your emotions and your behaviors will help your child develop emotional self-control. Teach them relaxation practices, such as yoga, deep breathing, meditation, music, and coloring when they are stressed.

4. Sense of entitlement complex:

When parents involve in their child’s academic, social and athletic lives, children get accustomed to always having their parents to fulfill their needs. This makes them demanding as they feel that it is their right to have what they want.

5. Underdeveloped life skills:

Children refuse to learn basic life skills such as packing lunches, tying shoe lace, cleaning the mess, laundering clothes and cooking a meal. They won’t develop good coping skills either. Sometimes, by failing in life/experiencing adversities, children naturally learn coping skills on their own. If the parents consistently attempt to protect children from adverse life experiences, they won’t have the opportunity to develop coping skills for when they become adults, or when the parents aren’t there to protect them from pain/hurt.

6. Low self advocacy skills

Helicopter parenting significantly impacts a child’s ability to develop self-advocacy skills. This parenting approach often leads to micromanaging every aspect of a child’s life, from schoolwork to social interactions. As a result, children may struggle to develop independence and problem-solving skills, essential components of self-advocacy. They become reliant on their parents to navigate challenges. They may also find it difficult to make decisions and may always reach out to their parents for advice. This may hinder their capacity to understand and articulate their needs and interests. Consequently, these children may need help in environments like school or the workplace, where self-advocacy is crucial.

How To Avoid Helicopter Parenting?

Give your child a chance to explore.

Image: IStock

Make a conscious effort to avoid or stop practising certain things. This will go a long way in bringing up an independent child:

1. Stop hovering over your child:

Do not make a habit to dress your child or tie their shoes when they can do by themselves. Avoid holding them back from doing things that suit their age. It is not a good idea to get too involved in the child’s activities, like answering questions on her behalf or talking to teachers incessantly about your child’s performance.

If she is not able to make decisions, try not to bounce over her. Instead, give time and let her reason for herself. Let her feel the pain and discomfort as it is a part of the child’s growing up. Do not protect her from hardships or struggles. Being too caring is not always good. Children cannot learn if parents do for them always.

2. Do not take your worries over your child.

Do not focus on how your child throughout the day and imagine the worst consequences. Let go of all those negative thoughts such as: “What would she become when she grows up?” “Is her shyness because of lack of confidence?” Also, avoid interrogating her when you are anxious by asking: “Are you fine?” “Is it looking awkward?” “Are you sure?” “Can you handle it?”

Do not search for evidence to confirm your worries about your kid.

3. Refrain from obliging.

Do not be very emotional with your child. If you are too obliging to her, she will take undue advantage of it.

4. Stop labeling your child.

Be it positive or negative, do not label your child. Do not keep telling her that she is the “funny one” or “pretty one” or “lazy one” or “the one who turns out to be just like dad”. Also avoid saying them, “You always…” or “You never…”. Words have power, therefore do not make any negative assumptions about your child’s behavior.

5. Do not get offended if your child chooses a different path.

If you try getting into your child’s head, she will not be able to perceive her dreams and thoughts. If you feel she is thinking differently from you, do not argue about it. Instead, give her a chance to explore. Do not stop her when she is giving out the opinions which are far different from what you have. Realize that your child is not a version of yourself but they are their own person with their own goals, feelings, thoughts, values, hopes and dreams.

6. Don’t shift your entire focus on the child and forget your hardships.

This can be tough for the parents. Do not get so engrossed in your child’s life that you neglect your life. Do not worry about her so much that you stop thinking about your work, interests and relationships.

If you are still wavering about your need to change, then we bring you some effal data to support our argument.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Statistical studies show kids who walked or biked on their own to school dropped from 48% to 13% from the year 1969 to 2009.
  • The US Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) has found in a survey that 40% of parents collected information on company websites, 31% submitted resumes on behalf of their student, 26% promoted their student for a position, 12% made interview arrangements, and 4% attended their student’s job interview (4)
  • Another helicopter parenting statistics show that – out of 100,000 college going students – 84% were overwhelmed with responsibilities, 60.5% were sad, 57% were lonely, 51% were anxious and 4% committed suicide.
  • Girls (13%) are typically hovered more than boys (5%), with moms being the principal helicoptering parent.
  • Helicopter parenting is associated with over engagement in risky behaviors such as smoking and drinking.

Real-life Examples Of Helicopter Parenting

Picked from a Reddit thread, here are some real-life examples which will help you understand what overprotective parenting is all about.

1. A psychopathic mom who did not give space to her daughter.

There was a 14-year-old girl who took a long time to finish her bath. Her mother stood outside the door for so long and finally yells, “What is taking you too long, did you wrap the toilet paper as I have shown you, or you want me to come and show you again? Why have you locked the door? Open it!”

Not surprisingly, the entire family who was having a Thanksgiving dinner, stared at the mother in shock. They could hear the girl cry in the bathroom.

2. Mother fills out the application.

Mom filled out an application for the daughter to go to her alma mater. She also writes a personal statement along with an essay to receive the acceptance letter.

3. A mom who brings lunch for her kid.

There was an Italian family. The mother would go to the school every day to give him pasta for lunch. She would even make him sit along with her and not leave until he finishes the food.

4. The parents who shielded their son from every petty thing.

There is this guy who cannot hang out with his friends past seven o’ clock. His parents would not allow him to use a phone and worst of all, he is jobless until he turned 21. He is afraid of talking with others. They refuse to allow him to drive that he failed his driving test.

5. Communication through a walkie-talkie.

A mother gives her eight-year-old son a walkie-talkie when he goes to his friend’s house for playing. The mother then sits in the front portico and checks in now and then.

6. Parents guilt trip their son for not calling them over the phone.

One guy of 32 years old used to call his parents every day and describe all about his day. One day, he could not call his parents because of network issues, and when he calls them the next day, they guilt trip him saying how irresponsible he was and his mother also turned sick.

There is no doubt that you would want the best for your child. But you cannot become so obsessive that you take over the life-steering from her hands. Be there for your child, she needs your help. But do not be her shadow, she would not want that. Allow your kids to face consequences, make their mistakes and solve their problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are helicopter parents toxic?

Yes. Helicopter parenting has a negative impact on children’s lives that outweighs its positive impact. As the child with helicopter parents grows into an adult, they could have psychological distress, narcissism, poor adjustment, and alcohol and drug use, among other behavioral issues (5).

2. What is worse than a helicopter mom?

A lawnmower parenting style is worse than helicopter parenting. The focus of lawnmower parents is always on keeping their kids happy, which interferes with their lives even after becoming adults. These parents are a step ahead as they are motivated to remove any potential obstacle that comes their child’s way (6).

3. How do high schools deal with helicopter parents?

The school staff, particularly teachers, must understand that most helicopter parents have good intentions and hover because they are concerned for their children. So, listen to their concerns, reassure them, and keep in contact; because these parents want to be involved in their children’s education, provide them with opportunities, and collaborate with them to find practical solutions for their anxiety (3).

4. Can helicopter parenting affect the social development of kids?

Yes. Since helicopter parents do not allow their children to face challenges and problems on their own, these children lack the experiences and practice needed to develop skills necessary for social interactions as adults and success in careers (4).

The helicopter parenting style and their strict and disciplinarian nature may result in low self-esteem, low confidence, and increased anxiety levels among children. If your parenting style is leaning towards helicopter parenting, you may try to work on showing an appropriate amount of care for your child. Although it is a challenging task, it is beneficial for your child in the long run. Start to retract from their lives by helping them make a few minor decisions. Eventually, you may start to leave the big decisions to them. If letting them take control of their lives is more challenging than you anticipated, do not hesitate to seek the help of a professional.

Infographic: How Is Helicopter Parenting Different From Free-Range Parenting?

Helicopter parenting involves control to the extent that it adversely affects children. Let’s check out the differences between helicopter and free-range parenting. The latter is a new parenting style that is a win-win for parents and children.

difference between helicopter parenting and free-range parenting (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Helicopter parenting involves excessive involvement in a child’s life, including solving their problems, shielding them from failure, and not allowing age-appropriate choices.
  • The term is often applied to parents of college or high school students who interfere and help their children more than what is necessary.
  • Reasons why parents develop helicopter parenting include fear of terrible outcomes, anxiety about the world, overcompensation, and influence of other parents.
  • Helicopter parenting may result in a lack of self-esteem, lack of coping skills, stress, unhappiness, and struggle in chi
Helicopter Parenting_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Are helicopter parents ruining a generation? Find out in this video as we explore the effects of over-parenting on today’s youth.

Personal Experience: Source

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Living in contradiction: Helicopter parenting and what it means for educators today
    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2015/11/25/living-in-contradiction-helicopter-parenting-and-what-it-means-for-educators-today/
  2. Are You A Helicopter Parent?
    https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows/0_vemm0lmo
  3. What Is Helicopter Parenting?
    https://ohanapreschool.edu.vn/what-is-helicopter-parenting
  4. Kyle Cassling et al.; (2013); Helicopter Parenting?: Parental Involvement In the Workplace.
    https://wp.stolaf.edu/sociology/files/2013/06/Helicopter-Parenting.pdf
  5. Perfectionists May be More Prone to Helicopter Parenting Study Finds.
    https://news.arizona.edu/story/perfectionists-may-be-more-prone-helicopter-parenting-study-finds
  6. These modern parenting styles can harm your children – but there’s a solution.
    https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/08/these-modern-parenting-styles-can-harm-your-children-but-theres-a-solution-239e455b-647e-4432-bca3-eb1560135bf0
  7. Teacher Tips to Ground Helicopter Parents.
    https://www.wgu.edu/heyteach/article/teacher-tips-ground-helicopter-parents2003.html
  8. Helicopter parenting negatively influences children.
    https://universe.byu.edu/2015/06/30/helicopter-parenting-negatively-influences-children11/
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Aika Marchant is a marriage and family therapist, licensed in Texas and California. She has six years of experience and specializes in trauma, couple therapy, and multicultural counseling. Her mother is a Japanese immigrant and her father is a white American. She grew up in Japan and moved to America when she was nine years old. Aika came from a...read full bio