Helicopter Parenting

By Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE

After teaching a lot of parenting classes over the last 20 years, I can tell you with certainty that most parents have great intentions when it comes to raising their children.

I usually ask parents to begin with the end in mind and think forward to when it’s time for their children to leave the nest. I ask them, “What do you want for your children?” Inevitably people will say, “I want my child to be happy and healthy.” The big question is: what produces happy and healthy young adults? Is it parents who are ready to swoop in and do whatever it takes to help their child succeed? Or is it parents who allow their child to struggle a bit to find their way?

Research indicates that overprotective parents who take an excessive interest in their child’s life – also known as “helicopter parents” – actually raise children who are more likely to be depressed and anxious. This is very different from parents who are engaged in the lives of their children, but aren’t afraid to let them fail.

You might be a helicopter parent if you

  • feel the need to jump in and take over your child’s class project because you think they aren’t doing a good enough job.
  • are afraid to let them rough-and-tumble play because they might get hurt.
  • intervene when they misbehave, and then take responsibility for their behavior instead of letting them deal with the consequences.
  • see their success or failure as a direct reflection upon you as their parent.
  • problem-solve and make decisions for them instead of teaching them how to figure it out.

Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE President and CEO, First Things First chattanooga

Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE President and CEO, First Things First


When parents jump in at every turn to pave the road for their children, it can not only create anxiety in children, but it also sends the message that their parents don’t believe they have what it takes to navigate life.”

What’s the harm?

Overly involved parents rob their kids of the opportunity to learn necessary life skills for success on their own. When parents jump in at every turn to pave the road for their children, it can not only create anxiety in children, but it also sends the message that their parents don’t believe they have what it takes to navigate life. It strips their self-confidence and creates dependence on parents.

Raising Healthy Young Adults

If we are going to raise healthy young adults, it’s important to remember what children need to learn while their parents guide them in a beneficial way.

They need to learn how to
  • assess risk without a parent’s help.
  • deal with failure and keep going.
  • problem-solve and make healthy choices.
  • answer to authority and abide by
    the rules.
  • take responsibility for their own behavior.
  • assess how they are feeling on their own.    

Hal Runkel, author of ScreamFree Parenting, asserts that parents are responsible to their children, not for them. Parents who allow their children the freedom to aquire the previous list of skills are preparing them for the real world. There is a huge difference between being a helicopter parent and advocating for your child as they grow and learn.

Any parent knows that watching your child mature can be painful. They make choices we wish they hadn’t. But, giving them age-appropriate space to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes helps them develop self-confidence and resilience for succeeding in life.

 

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