How to Avoid Becoming a Helicopter Parent
Posted on September 14, 2017 by CHS
There are many different styles of parenting. Childhood experiences, your relationship with your child, and the knowledge received from books, family, friends, and teachers all work together to guide you in parenting your child.
It is important to develop a close and loving relationship with your child. As your child grows, he will develop the skills he needs to take care of himself. Sometimes it can be difficult to let children develop their independence. Some parents become so concerned about their child’s safety or success that they end up hovering like a helicopter over their child’s every move.
In the article “What is Helicopter Parenting?” published by Parents®, Dr. Carolyn Daitch states that helicopter parenting refers to "a style of parents who are over focused on their children… It means being involved in a child's life in a way that is over controlling, over protecting, and over perfecting.”
Although it can happen at any age, helicopter parenting is most often associated with a young adult’s transition from high school to college or a career. In fact, because universities, colleges, and career experts noticed a significant increase in parental involvement, Brigham Young University conducted a study released in 2012 regarding the helicopter parenting of young adults entering college. It revealed that parents are in contact with young adults several times a day every day via text or phone calls, completing college applications on their child’s behalf, making decisions for their child, and even attending job interviews with their child.
While the intentions of helicopter parents are to keep their children safe, happy, and successful, the nonverbal message their children receive is “I do not think you are capable of handling this.” The result is that children end up lacking confidence and motivation and struggling with healthy social emotional development, finding it difficult to make decisions, solve problems, handle stress, and deal with disappointment.
There will come a day when children have to fend for themselves as adults and the most helpful thing parents can do to prepare children is guide them lovingly towards their own independence.
How can I take care of my child, but also allow him to develop independence?
Here are some tips for supporting your child’s growing independence and avoiding helicopter parenting:
- Avoid doing things for your child that he can do himself. Watch him for indications that he is ready to try something by himself. He might say, “Let me do it,” or perform a routine task without being asked. Allow him the opportunity to try it on his own. If he needs help, then assist him, but avoid doing the task for him.
- Create opportunities for practice. When you notice your child is close to mastering a skill, give him a chance to work on it. For example, if you see he has an interest in using scissors, but doesn’t seem really comfortable with them yet, plan for some art projects that involve cutting.
- Allow him to make choices. Choosing what clothes to wear, what meals he wants for lunch, what activities he wants to do, or who will be his friend will help him learn to be comfortable with making decisions.
- Teach responsibility. As your child develops, give him appropriate responsibilities to help give him a sense of purpose and develop his confidence. This can range from picking up his toys, to taking care of a plant or pet, or setting the table for meals.
- Allow him to fail. Help him develop resilience by seeing mistakes as opportunities to try again. For example, “Sometimes we have to try more than one time to get it done.” Talk your child through challenges and only intervene when absolutely necessary. This will help him learn how to solve problems on his own. For example, if your child is working a puzzle and he cannot make one of the pieces fit, do not show him where it goes. Instead, give him an opportunity to solve it by asking, “I wonder what would happen if you tried turning that piece around.”
- Teach him to deal with tough emotions like disappointment and stress. No parent wants to see their child hurt or disappointed, but helping your child learn to deal with strong feelings while he has your support will help him develop the coping skills he needs to be resilient later. There will be times when he is not invited to a party, or he works hard on a project that breaks. Help him verbalize how he feels and teach him that if he is angry, stressed, or disappointed it can help to take a break and regroup before returning to the problem.
As your child grows, continue to slowly increase his responsibilities, allow him to make choices for himself whenever it is safe or appropriate, pull back when you see he is able to do something on his own, and be available to offer support or advice when he asks for it. Remember to give him the time and space he needs to figure things out and ask for help, rather than immediately rushing in to save him. If you start fostering independence in your child at a young age, then he will grow into a self-sufficient adult when it is time to go to college or choose a career. For more information, please view the resources below.
References and Resources
- “Are You a Helicopter Parent? Ten Tell-Tale Signs” by Education.com: https://www.education.com/slideshow/helicopter-parenting/
- “Former Stanford Dean Explains Why Helicopter Parenting is Ruining a Generation of Children” by the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2015/10/16/former-stanford-dean-explains-why-helicopter-parenting-is-ruining-a-generation-of-children/?utm_term=.372e7eadc7b0
- “Helicopter Parenting Backfires, Study Shows” by Brigham Young University https://news.byu.edu/news/helicopter-parenting-backfires-study-shows
- “Helicopter Parenting, It’s Worse Than You Think” by Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/nation-wimps/201401/helicopter-parenting-its-worse-you-think
- “What Is Helicopter Parenting” by Parents® http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/what-is-helicopter-parenting/
- “When Helping Hurts” by the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/opinion/sunday/too-much-helicopter-parenting.html
- Series of Articles about Helicopter Parents by HuffPost: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/topic/helicopter-parents