Is Helicopter Parenting As Bad As Everyone Thinks?

Last Updated on May 12, 2021 by Michele Tripple

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Are you constantly worry about your kid’s happiness? Are you afraid to see your kids fail that you constantly are following behind them trying to help? You may be practicing helicopter parenting

Helicopter Parenting

As a mom, I can think of almost nothing less pleasant than having to watch my kids struggle. Whether they struggle in school or with friends, I hate seeing my kids experience negative emotions when all I want is for them to be happy. Depending on your parenting style, you may feel the same way!

Thankfully there are so many resources and tips out there for implementing parenting styles like conscious parenting and gentle parenting that make it easier for parents to help their kids handle big emotions. Even with this information available, I still sometimes find myself moving into the role of the helicopter parent.

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What is Helicopter Parenting?

Helicopter parenting is a style of parenting that puts the sole focus on the kids. These parents are overly concerned about their kids’ emotional wellbeing and not as concerned about creating independent and capable kids.

Parents who practice this parenting style care about their kids a lot. They don’t want to see their kids unhappy and they don’t want to see their kids fail. For this reason, they step in before their kids have the chance to struggle.

Helicopter parents look different based on the age of their kids. For the parent of a toddler, this is the parent who spends every waking moment with their kid. They may literally “hover” over their kid to keep them from hurting themselves or making a mistake. When building a tower they may warn them that it is going to fall before it actually does!

For teenagers, this might be the parent who stays up until 3 a.m. helping their teenager finish a school project that their kid has known about for a month.

But helicopter parenting does not necessarily stop when their kid moves out of the house. These parents are the ones who call their college-age kid’s professor because they don’t approve of the grade their kid is getting in the class or have trackers on their kid’s phone constantly checking in on them. I am not going to lie, with my high school kids I do make them turn it on just in case if they will be far away or out late with friends. 

The bottom line: helicopter parents tend to help their kids with tasks that they are capable of doing on their own.

Key Points of Helicopter Parenting

So why do parents sometimes hover over their kid’s every action? Is it simply out of an overabundance of love and caution? Is it the result of stress? Here are some key characteristics of helicopter parenting that can help us understand this parenting style.

  • Helicopter parents generally have a fear of negative consequences. What is known as a “negative” consequence differs from parent to parent. For some, it could be as simple as their kid failing a test at school. For others, it could be as extreme as something life-threatening. Either way, helicopter parents are plagued with the need to do all that they can to prevent their kids from ever experiencing negative consequences.
  • Parents who hover and practice helicopter parenting strive to protect their kids. In protecting them from some of the realities of the world, they believe they are doing their kids a favor. 
  • Another factor for some helicopter parents is that they themselves felt unloved or ignored when they were a kid. Because of this, they may feel a need to overcompensate and make sure their kids know they are always there for them… literally.
  • Helicopter parents may get some of their tendencies from watching other parents. Guilt can play a huge role in someone’s tendency to become a helicopter parent. Somehow, we as parents can feel that if we are not completely immersed in whatever our kids are doing (like we see some parents doing), then we are not a good parent.

Pros of Helicopter Parenting

While there may be many negatives about helicopter parenting, there are a few positive things that are worth mentioning.

  • Kids who are raised by helicopter parents are unlikely to ever go hungry or have any physical needs unmet during their childhood. Because their parents are hyper-aware of all things that keep their kids safe, they will be sure that all physical necessities are provided for.
  • Helicopter parents are likely to show excessive amounts of warmth toward their kids and so their kids may feel very loved by their parents. 

Cons of Helicopter Parenting

Even though helicopter parenting is focused a lot on protecting kids, there are some downsides you want to consider. 

  • Kids who are raised by helicopter parents usually have lower levels of self-confidence. Because these kids have been rescued from every failure in their lives, they have not learned how to overcome hard things. This can lead them to believe that they actually can’t do hard things.
  • Because helicopter parents try to protect their kids from any harm, kids usually are unable to develop effective coping skills. They have not learned how to solve problems on their own or how to cope with negative emotions.
  • Another downside to helicopter parenting is that kids can become entitled. When parents intervene in every aspect of their kids’ lives, these kids may come to expect that everything will just always go their way.
  • Helicopter parents carry out tasks for their kids that their kids are able to do on their own. Because of this, their kids usually have many life skills that have gone undeveloped. It isn’t that they couldn’t physically perform certain tasks. But because they have never had to, they will not know how and may be unwilling to learn.

How To Avoid Helicopter Parenting

Do you ever worry that you’re becoming too much of a helicopter parent? I know I have worried about this at times and sometimes it is hard to know how to change that. Remember that it is never too late to implement some new parenting practices!

  • Allow your kids to fail! This is one of the most challenging things for a lot of parents. But allowing your kids to fail and then teaching them how to pick themselves up again helps them gain confidence in themselves. It also helps them recognize that failure is not something that should be feared.
  • Help your kids understand that negative emotions are a normal, healthy part of life. We cannot expect to be happy all the time (and as parents, we shouldn’t want our kids to be happy ALL the time). Kids should understand that every emotion (positive or negative) is appropriate.
  • Understand what your kids are capable of mentally and physically and allow them to do those things. Whether it’s housework or homework, understand where your kids’ skills are and where they could improve. Give them opportunities to practice those things they struggle with.
  • Don’t save your kids from every problem. When your kid is faced with a challenge, try asking them, “What do you think you should do?” or “Would you like a suggestion on how to handle that?” As you talk them through the process, they will understand that you are there to help, but that you have confidence that they can handle it on their own.

Have you ever been a helicopter parent? What else do you think parents can do to avoid being helicopter parents? Tell us in the comments below!

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