We love our kids to the moon and back! And it’s out of this immense love that we start protecting and helping them at every step, without realising that we are gradually transforming into helicopter parents.
What does helicopter parenting mean?
‘Helicopter parent’ refers to parents who keep “hovering over” their children like a helicopter and constantly stay involved in their day-to-day affairs. The term came into mention in the late 60s, in the book ‘Between Parent And Child’, by the famous author, Haim Ginott.
The term helicopter parenting is more commonly associated with the Asian parenting style where parents micromanage their children and handhold them at every step of their development.
Signs of being a helicopter parent
Most mums and dads never realise that they are helicopter parents, as for them it is simply taking care of their children and fulfilling their physical and emotional needs, without letting the child make any effort.
You are a helicopter parent if you –
– Make choices of food, clothes, toys, books, and even hobbies to pursue on their behalf
– Constantly keep contacting your child and check their whereabouts
– Intervene in solving your kids’ fights with their friends or other social issues
– Stay in constant contact with the school or teacher to discuss issues
– Feel guilty when children don’t perform well in studies or other fields
– Stop kids from engaging in activities that you feel are too adventurous
– Push kids to achieve the best grades
– Push kids to be competitive
What makes us helicopter parents?
– Becoming a helicopter parent is not intentional. It stems from the parent’s desire for the child to achieve the best in life in various aspects – be it education, mannerisms, or personality. As observed in Asian countries like Korea, Japan, China and India, parents stay deeply involved with the academic development of children and want them to be ahead in various fields.
– Helicopter parenting is also associated with parents’ instincts of saving children from physical and emotional harm. When we become too much concerned about their physical and social well-being we start policing them and being too involved in their relationships with the rest of the world. We also start monitoring them closely to see that they are physically fit and cut down their appetite for adventure.
How does helicopter parenting affect kids?
Parental support is no doubt crucial for the healthy growth of children, but excessive of everything is bad, and so is parental control.
Research suggests that helicopter parenting cuts down the abilities of children and hinders their full emotional, mental and physical growth.
Some of the ways helicopter parenting can be damaging are:
The child’s decision-making capabilities diminish as he or she is not used to making decisions independently. From choosing clothes to hobby classes and subjects at school, their actions are all guided and influenced by their parents. As a result, their abilities to judge a situation and make good decisions are curtailed.
Children of helicopter parents lack confidence as they have never decided things for themselves. So, when they are adults and on their own, they feel lost and less confident when they have to choose between solutions. Many of them develop low self-esteem and stop being assertive about their ideas in the workplace or among friends. It can also go to the extent of being submissive and misused.
Since helicopter parenting translates into being over-involved with kids, it is seen that such children gradually get detached from their parents as they move towards adulthood. Such children might become isolated or withdrawn from their parents as they feel over-controlled.
Anxiety is another negative trait that helicopter parents can transfer to their kids. Since helicopter parents are constantly anxious about the well-being of their children, they pass on the tendency to be anxious to kids.
Due to all the shadowing and forcing kids to follow their parents’ choices, such kids suffer from a lack of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Their capability to find creative solutions stays limited as their mind is not trained to think beyond the regula
How to not be a helicopter parent?
Helicopter parenting can backfire in multiple ways if not practised in a controlled way. This means parents should draw a line between being highly involved in their kids and leaving them independent unless they need or ask for support.
Here are a few suggested ways to control the adverse effects of helicopter parenting:
Let children fail and learn from their mistakes
Encourage them to trial and error
Give them autonomy to make small decisions
Set the right examples instead of setting rules
Set guidelines but not rules
Discuss their choices and preferences
Allow them more alone time to independently explore things
Allow them to cross boundaries (safely) and overcome fear
All said and done, it’s not easy for parents to choose a parenting style that has no control over the kids. The best option is to sit down and make a list of the areas where you can give autonomy to kids and offer guidance without killing their independence.
In simple words, we need to practise parenting that is ‘developmentally appropriate’ and does not hamper the natural growth of children.
Want to read more tips on parenting? Check out our article on ‘How to handle toddler tantrums’.