The Not So Good and Worst of Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter Parenting. A term that we used quite a bit several years ago. Although its usage might have waned, the habit continues. Well, prior to the pandemic.

Parents generally want a better life for their children than they had.  Some take this desire to a different level and hover over their children, earning themselves the title “Helicopter Parents.”

Parents’ Role In Children’s Lives

helicopter parentingThen there are those who live vicariously through their children. Others make their children’s decisions in hopes of ensuring their success.

A parent’s role is irreplaceable in the lives of their children. There are no known substitutes or scientific fix to replace the vital role in children’s lives.  Studies have shown that:

  • Children who have parental support are likely to have better health as adults.
  • Students with involved parents tend to earn higher grades, have better social skills and are more likely to do extremely well in school.
  • Children are more likely to be socially competent and have better communication skills when they have parents who are sensitive to their needs and emotions.
  • Children who are supported and monitored by their parents have the tendency to keep on the straight and narrow; at least for a while into their adult lives.

The relationship that parents share with their children impacts the trajectory of the younger one’s life. I can attest to this fact in my own life.  I constantly use my parents’ guidance as a point of reference to this day.

Helicopter or Hovering Parents

Being called a ‘Helicopter” or “hovering ” parent says that the parent lacks the ability to let go. This is true, even as the child grows up and ventures, supposedly, into the world on his/her own.  There is a major downside to this type of parenting. Children of these types of parents seem to be least equipped to independently face the world. They are denied the “trial and error” experiences known to be crucial for strong character formation. That places these children at a disadvantage as they do not know how to handle life’s critical issues.

Admittedly, I do have some “helicopter/hovering” traits. On the other hand, my son’s father is an avid advocate of balance. He sees his role as equipping our son, Jared, for the big world. His expectation is that our son does chores and takes care of our pet dog. Sometimes, he takes him to the office and Son-Son is given duties there as well, including sales.  If Jared is successful in closing a sale, he is paid his full commission – an amount which is lodged to his bank account.


Thin Line

My issue is not with active parenting. Rather, it is with the refusal to allow children to grow beyond a parent’s ‘cloying grasp’.  A parent’s love transcends nationality, race, class and culture. However, we must also place some value on necessary ‘hovering’ but at the appropriate time and with the required level of balance.

I am the product of parents who did not feel the need to monitor my homework.  It was understood that I would do it properly and hand it in on time. To me, that never equated to being loved any less than a child whose mother sits at the table (as I do), lovingly watching every pen stroke. Ensuring the work is neat and tidy, the penmanship is acceptable and checked over for accuracy are all good. Hovering is not.

While it could be debated that in today’s world it is a necessary practice to increase academic success, there is a thin line between being a supportive parent and being one who hovers or cossets.

So if your child fails to write the homework and is reprimanded, frankly, so be it.  It is a lesson learnt.  It certainly is not the end of the world.  Our job is to teach not only responsibility but also resilience.

Hovering Leads To Conflicting Responses

parentingHaving hovering or helicopter parents lead to conflicting responses in children. On one hand, there is a feeling of being cherished and protected. On the other hand, there is often resentment accompanied by an unwillingness or inability to solve problems on their  own, knowing that Mom or Pop are only the press of a button away and will only too happily swoop down to “fight their battles.”

One of the most rewarding and perhaps flattering signs of successful parenting is when a parent’s counsel is sought long after the child is an adult.  It is a sign of respect and trust. However, seeking such advice should be a part of the decision-making process and not the process in its entirety.

In the same way, it is important for our children to lead their own lives, it is also of paramount importance that we have interests outside of our children that bring us great joy and satisfaction.  We cannot protect our children from hurt and pain all the time.  What we can do is to prepare them to face challenges on their own armed with the knowledge that we love and support them.

Are you willing to let go when the time comes?

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2 Responses to The Not So Good and Worst of Helicopter Parenting

  1. Bev says:

    The information in this article is well-intention with the purpose of bringing self awareness and understanding to a negative side of parenting that can have long term adverse effects.
    However, my concern is for the very ones who can identify that this is their parenting style and worse yet is very well aware of the damage they have done and currently still creating. Results : a weight of guilt, shame and regret. For those who are in the midst of this situation and are not equipped with the skills for immediate transformation this message has the high potential of leaving an even heavier burden of failure, futility, frustration and feelings of being trapped or hopeless. The article did a great job describing the wrongs of this style of parenting but done very little in providing tools, resources, tips and solutions for transformation and change. Dysfunctional parents do not wake up in the morning and intentionally decides at an early age to be dysfunctional and create pain in their children’s lives. I ask that the author be proactive in presenting a redemptive plan , to stretch a helping hand to the families who have and are experiencing the unsettling unrest from this pattern of thinking and behavior. You asked the question:Are you willing to let go when the time comes? I ask you the question: Are you willing to show them how, show them the way, the truth and life giving alternative? Many are in that dark valley of decision. How are we being the change agent ? Part 2 of this article.

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