Helicopter Parenting: Signs, Causes, Effects & Solutions

Warning Signs of Helicopter Parents and Its Effects on Children

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Harsha G Ramaiya (Counsellor)
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Some parents are so obsessed with their children that they constantly hover around them, make choices for their kids and smother them with their presence. Don’t get us wrong; it is great to care for your kid and always be there for him or her. However, there is a difference between being there when your child needs you and being there regardless of that. Let us talk about what is known as ‘helicopter parenting’ and whether you fall into that category.

Video : Helicopter Parenting and Its Negative Effects

What Is Helicopter Parenting?

The term first appeared in 1969, in the book ‘Between Parent and Teenager’ by Dr Haim Ginott. Just like a helicopter which hovers above people’s heads, a ‘helicopter parent’ is someone who is always hovering around his or her child – doing things that the child can do alone, taking care of problems the child can solve on his own and finishing the child’s chores. It means micromanaging every aspect of your child’s life and being over-involved in their lives, all in the name of love or care. Although many may argue that there is nothing wrong with that, in reality, it can have long-lasting damaging effects on your child’s life.

Examples of Overprotective Parenting

There is a certain constant pattern associated with the helicopter parenting style. Here are a few examples of helicopter parenting:

  • Akshaya’s daughter is five. However, Akshaya still selects the clothes her daughter wears every day.
  • Vishnu loves taking his 3-year-old daughter Amaya to the park. He never leaves her hand. His wife on the other hand still spoonfeeds their 5-year-old son.
  • Swetha helps her 10-year-old son complete all his school projects.
  • Yamuna’s son is going to preschool for over three months now without crying. She still waits outside his classroom the whole day so that she can immediately go in in case he starts crying.
  • Kirthana calls her daughter’s school every day and complains to the teacher about the other kids who seem to annoy her child all the time.

Signs of Helicopter Parenting

Signs of Helicopter Parenting

Are you an overprotective parent? To check whether you are or not, here are a few signs that you can ponder on and see whether you identify with:

  1. You do your child’s academic work such as assignments, projects etc.
  2. You try to train your child’s educators and tutors.
  3. Even if they are walking a short distance away, you stick with your kids.
  4. You do not let them handle their problems.
  5. You do not let them make age-appropriate choices.
  6. You finish off all your child’s chores on your own.
  7. You safeguard them from failure.
  8. You talk and negotiate for your child’s fights and conflicts.

Reasons Some Parents Become Helicopters

There are some revealing reasons why parents become helicopter parents. These are:

  • Love – Love is the basic parental feeling that urges many helicopter parents. You love your child so much that you want to protect him or her from anything even the least bit negative and ensure they are kept out of harm’s way. However, in that attempt, you end up giving excess attention to your child’s life.
  • Need for control – Even if your child is growing older, you still tend to think of him or her as your baby and think you need to control every aspect of his or her life.
  • Information explosion – Like how you are doing now, these days the Internet and other smart devices have no shortage of information on how to raise your child. You read too many of these articles that you want to make sure you get everything right every minute of every day for your child.
  • Anxiety – As a parent, if you are always anxious and second-guess every move you make, you tend to project these fears onto your child and get anxious about the child’s safety and happiness as well.
  • Overcompensation – If you were not shown affection or love from your parents when you were a child, you tend to overcompensate for that loss and smother your kids with extra attention and care.
  • Changing World – The world is constantly changing and becoming more challenging and competitive. You get nervous about your child’s future and think that without you every step of the way, they will never survive out there in the big, bad world.
  • Peer pressure – You see your friends and neighbours constantly fussing over their kids and feel the pressure to do so as well.

Negative Effects

‘What is wrong?’, you may ask. Research has shown that being a helicopter parent can have negative effects on both you and your child. Below are some of the dangers of helicopter parenting:

  • Kids get lesser exercise – If you hover over your child too much in a park or a public space, they will not be able to play as they want and as a result, get lesser physical exercise than they should.
  • Kids get frustrated – As your child grows older and sees that his friends seem to be able to do things alone while he is still being helped by you all the time, he might get extremely frustrated.
  • Kids get lesser mental exercise – If you are always helping your child to do things that he should be doing by himself, then he will never learn. Kids need to struggle while learning so that they learn well. He might even give up halfway thinking you will always be there to complete it for him.
  • Kids are becoming spoilt – Your kid might start to have a sense of entitlement and expect everything to be handed to him on a plate, which is very dangerous in the long run.
  • Kids are having under-developed life skills – If you constantly do all the chores for your child at home, he or she will never learn how to manage a house, run a family or have a personal life. He will be missing a lot of hands-on experience.
  • Kids are not having problem-solving skills – If you are always there to put out fires for your child which he or she may have even started in the first place, your child will never develop problem-solving skills to cope with such situations.
  • Kids are becoming dependent – All children need to have some flexibility to nurture their decision-making and judgment skills. You will be curbing your child’s independence and impacting his or her confidence and self-esteem by hovering around. They will end up being dependent on the parents for life.
  • You end up having negative feelings all the time – When you overthink everything for your child, you start to question your own decisions and end up feeling unhappy, anxious and worried all the time. You may start thinking you are not ‘doing enough’ for your child and get depressed.

How to Stop Being a Helicopter Parent

Now that we have discussed the dangers of being a helicopter parent, the next step is to learn how to stop being one. Remember one very important point – worry is not equal to love. The amount of worry you hold for your child is not proportional to the amount of love. So if you think that you are not a good parent if you are not worried enough, then remove that thought from your head. It is not true.
Below are a few tips to stop being a helicopter parent:

  • Get to know your child’s skills – Observe your child and write down what she can do by herself. Talk to her teacher and ask what she does by herself at school, like going to the bathroom or eating. Make a list of all what your child is capable of doing alone and make a mental note to stop helping her with those.
  • Practice playground ethics – Take your child to the playground or park when it is empty. Sit down and let your child play as he wants on the playground. Stop yourself from hovering around him and just sit back and observe. You can see how he is when you are not always holding his hand. This will give you the confidence to leave him be when he is playing from next time.
  • Let them fall and get up on their own – As a parent, you obviously have a strong instinct to shield your child from pain and struggle. However, remember you will not always be around when they fall. So let them fail, fall and get disappointed. This will prepare them better for the future and help them gain the confidence to tackle their problems head-on.
  • Plan the day well – Sometimes we become helicopter parents by chance and not a choice. For example, you are running late in the morning, and your child has difficulty buttoning her uniform by herself. In your hurry, you find it faster to do it for her rather than give her time to do it herself. However, if you plan your day, you can tell your child what tasks she has to do herself in the morning. That way, you can be at peace, and your child can learn how to be independent.
  • Be a submarine instead of a helicopter – Don’t hover over your child like a helicopter 24/7. Instead, be a submarine – out of sight for the most part but always ready at a moment’s notice when they are in danger or need help.

You need to stop obsessing over your child’s every little action and start letting them face the world, only then will they become strong adults, who are independent and capable of making the right decisions. Watch out for opportunities to take a step back from solving your kid’s problems. This will help you build a confident child.

Also Read:

Authoritarian Parenting
Permissive Parenting
Authoritative Parenting

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