Helicopter Parenting - Are You Crowding Your Child?

Helicopter Parenting Are You Crowding Your Child

With the many dangers in today's society, many parents feel they must take an active part in monitoring and intervening in their children's lives on a minute-by-minute basis. This intense parenting style is often called "helicopter parenting" and it can have a detrimental effect on children's development.

The term "helicopter parenting" came into popularity recently, but the idea goes back to the 1960s. It was teenagers who first coined the phrase to describe parents that seemed to spend too much time "hovering" over them to ensure that they did well, did what they were supposed to do and otherwise fulfilled expectations of perfection. The term has been further expanded to include over-monitoring of children younger than teen age, whose emotional and experiential growth is being stifled by too much supervision.

Symptoms of Helicopter Parenting

If you suspect you might fit the definition of a helicopter parent, check yourself against these common symptoms:

  • In the toddler years, the parent hovers over the child, directing activities and reactions and never leaving the child alone to interact with the world or his or her own terms.
  • In elementary school, the parent must be involved in choosing teachers for school activities, coaches for sports activities and friends for social activities. Every action must be "approved" by the parent.
  • In the teen years, the child is given very strict limits and boundaries beyond which they must never go. Independent thought is discouraged, and the parent remains deeply involved in the child's choice of classes, career aspirations, friends, college choices and social activities.

What Causes Helicopter Parenting?

Usually, parents aren't aware that they are overdoing their monitoring of their children's actions and behaviors. Internally, it feels like they are being "good parents," but it ends up being too much of a good thing. Reasons why parents are driven to over-monitor their children are:

  • Fear of disastrous consequences - the fear that if they don't keep a close eye on everything, things will go terribly wrong
  • Free-floating anxiety - A deep-seated anxiety about physical safety, performance or life in general can cause helicoptering of children
  • Overcompensation - some parents are compensating for their own childhoods, which may have felt too "hands off," with absentee parents, workaholic fathers or divorced households.
  • Peer pressure - pressure to keep up with other parents can drive helicoptering behavior.

What Are The Consequences?

Helicopter parents monitor so closely because they believe that's the best way to look after their children, but many studies show that helicoptering can have a negative effect on children's emotional and psychological development and can lead to:

  • A feeling of entitlement - a sense that all things revolve around their well-being, which quickly becomes deflated when faced with the real world.
  • Decreased confidence and self-esteem - with a parent always making the decisions for them, these children grow up to doubt their own ability to make their own decisions and feel inadequate to the task.
  • Heightened anxiety - sheltered from consequences and protected from negative outcomes, they often feel overwhelmed with anxiety by life events.
  • Undeveloped life skills - having had a parent always doing things for them, these children often find themselves at loose ends when they must do simple tasks for themselves.
  • Stunted coping skills - having been sheltered from the ups and downs of life, the children often have few ways to cope with failure, unhappiness and rejection.

If you suspect you are a helicoptering parent and would like to change, monitor the frequency of times you feel the urge to "take over" decisions for your child. Learn to stand back and watch to protect your child's safety, while understanding that not every situation needs your control and input. Allow your child to be disappointed, sad and uncertain. These experiences are needed for healthy development into a functioning adult.

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