Are you a helicopter parent? How it’s affecting your child

helicopter parenting blog

Being involved in your child’s life is a good thing. It can provide stability, security and emotional support. But there are times when too much involvement may do more harm than good.

Parents overly involved in their children’s lives are often called “helicopter parents.” They hover, removing physical, emotional and social obstacles to ensure their child is protected and successful. But this parenting style — no matter how well-intentioned — can interfere with a child’s development and may affect their ability to thrive later in life.

The good news is that once you identify your tendency to hover, you can take steps to put your parenting back on a healthy track.

How does helicopter parenting affect a child?

Children of helicopter parents often achieve short-term success. Their homework is done on time. They may be involved in a lot of activities. They aren’t late.

But maintaining control in your child’s life — especially when it’s not developmentally appropriate — can negatively affect your child’s ability to grow academically, psychologically and socially. Providing independence and allowing kids to experience failure helps them learn to adjust their emotional responses and behavior. They tend to develop better:

  • Academic ability
  • Behavior
  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Social relationships

The impact of helicopter parenting often becomes more apparent when children become teens and young adults. Research shows that, over time, helicoptering parenting may contribute to:

  • Heightened sense of entitlement
  • Higher use of recreational painkillers
  • Increased levels of anxiety and depression
  • Ineffective coping skills
  • Lower academic performance
  • Poor self-confidence

Signs you are a helicopter parent

Helicopter parenting doesn’t look the same in every family. In some cases, it involves parents doing tasks for their child. In others, parents may hover and pressure the child to perform well. Most over-controlling parents feel proud to be so involved in their child’s life — they don’t realize the damage they may be doing.

You may be a helicopter parent if you:

  • Complete your kid’s schoolwork so they won’t be stressed or frustrated
  • Do simple chores for your school-age child, such as clean their room and make their bed
  • Fight your child’s battles by contacting teachers, friends and coaches whenever there is conflict
  • Ignore your own activities and interests in favor of your child’s schedule
  • Never stray far, staying at drop-off birthday parties and practices (in case something happens) or driving kids when they can walk
  • Overschedule kids — by committing them to structured activities every day or to a point that they are stressed or complaining — to give them a competitive advantage

How to stop being a helicopter parent

Breaking the cycle of helicopter parenting does not mean giving up all involvement in your child’s life. But taking small steps back will give your child the space to move forward.

Try these strategies:

Follow your child’s lead

Helicopter parents tend to jump in at the first sign of distress, but it’s healthy for kids to flail as they figure things out. Wait for your child to seek your help or ask them before you get involved. Then, help them navigate the issue and find the answers. Let your kid know they can come to you with anything — they’ll be more likely to reach out when they need your guidance.

Consider yourself a librarian

A librarian is there to assist you when you need it. They make recommendations and point you in the right direction. But they don’t tell you which book to choose, read it with you or force you to interpret the text the way they would. Next time your child comes to you with an issue, guide them toward the information they need but let them make their own choices (and experience the results of those choices) for themselves.

Act like a lifeguard

As a parent, you still need to set boundaries and protect your kids — even when they’re teens. Lifeguards don’t let little kids go in the deep end or jump off the high diving board. But they allow children to swim and play however they like, getting involved only when it becomes dangerous. Your job as a parent is to let your child try things — like jumping in and swimming underwater — so they can graduate from the kiddie pool to the shallow end and eventually to deep water and diving boards.

Let your kid fail

Failure teaches essential life skills and can help your child become confident and resilient. They’ll also learn to regulate their emotions as they manage failure. Allowing your kid to fail won’t be easy. When it happens, be there to listen and allow your child to process and address the situation on their own. Remember, babies fall a lot while learning to walk, but they get up and keep going.

Take the Next Step

To learn more developmentally appropriate parenting, reach out to your child’s pediatrician.