Do you suffer from parenting dilemmas? You’re not alone.Having written several parenting tips for clients just recently, I’ve come across the term, “helicopter parenting,” After reflecting on indirect parenting conflicts we’ve had with one of my son’s classmate’s mom, I was able to detach myself from despising how this parent has been jumping on every opportunity, it seemed, to include herself in my son’s and her son’s affairs. Instead of indulging myself at pinpointing her every bad motive, I actually ended up asking myself, “Am I a helicopter parent too?”
What is helicopter parenting?
Based on an account offered by Kate Bayless on parents.com, “The term ‘helicopter parent’ was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter; the term became popular enough to become a dictionary entry in 2011.”
Helicopter parenting is when parents leave very little room for their child to experience the world on their own. Helicopter parents have made it their business to tell their child what to do and how to do things.
According to Bayless, one of the factors that drive helicopter parenting is when parents see other parents become overly involved with their respective children. “Peer pressure from other parents” is how Bayless terms this. Where my children are schooled, I’ve noticed too many parents become overly involved in children’s plays, science projects, and field trips. You know you’re a helicopter parent when your child is 10 years old and he or she is celebrating birthday in school with you present or, worse, you’re celebrating it outside of school with other over involved parents like yourself. Hmmmm…
In “The Effects of ‘Helicopter Parenting” by Joel Young, MD, published in psychologytoday.com, several studies that demonstrate the disadvantages of helicopter parenting to children were cited, among which was developing anxiety and depression. A study of 377 emerging adults aged 17 to 30 years old, published in the SAGE journals concluded that, “HP (Helicopter Parenting) was also associated with poorer functioning in emotional functioning, decision making, and academic functioning.”
“(Helicopter parents are) not allowing their child to become independent or learn problem-solving on their own, nor to test out and develop effective coping strategies,” says Naomi Ekas, the co-author of a study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies in 2017.
Helicopter parents can hurt other children too
I couldn’t find any study about how helicopter parents could be hurting other peoples’ kids. However, in my personal encounter with helicopter parents, I realized that here’s how helicopter parents can harm your child:
- They can hurt your child’s self-esteem. Helicopter parents get themselves involved in group projects (seriously!), overthrow the leader who could be your son or daughter, and dominate the discussion to benefit their child (who suddenly becomes the group leader). This undermines your child’s leadership capabilities and it can hurt your child’s ego so much more when it’s his or her first experience to lead a team. Can you imagine how traumatic this could be to your child?
- They can hurt your child’s feelings. Parents hate. I’ve heard how the same group of parents have gossiped about another boy, a class bully allegedly. While we’ve been teaching our son to make friends with this boy because he may be acting out for being left alone, these parents are telling their kids to stay away. It’s a pity how grown ups can act more like children than children, really.
- They can hurt your child’s future. Helicopter parents brand children they dislike. Watch out, because they even brand the parents. They gossip about a child’s gender, parents who get plastic surgery, and families that are ‘dysfunctional’. They spread the malicious news around, destroying your child’s and, possibly, your family’s reputation.
- They can hurt your child physically. I see a lot of close physical encounters between parents and children, and between different sets of parents in public play areas. Stay around to watch your kids but, don’t hover.
- They can endanger your child’s safety. We’ve experienced how parents who are desperate to make their children get noticed in school mindlessly endanger our child’s safety and security. Our son has been repeatedly asked to go out of school premises — without our permission — to meet with parents over some school project. We feel thankful that our son has been wise enough not to join them.
What’s the motivation? Helicopter parents want to become the “World’s Best Mom” or, the “World’s Best Dad”. Funny? Not at all. They do these things to show their love and support for their child, at the expense of another — possibly your own. In fact, I couldn’t care less if they like hanging around their child, fighting their battles on their child’s behalf but only as long as they keep my children out of it.
How do you deal with helicopter parents?
- Be vigilant. My son didn’t let us know that parents were becoming involved in school projects. That’s not because he doesn’t trust us but, because he thought he could handle it on his own. Our fault was that we didn’t think such parents existed and we weren’t able to prep him. When we learned about it for the first time, I made it clear that the next time parents got involved, it stops being his arena but, ours.
- Be straightforward. Helicopter parents in my son’s school called a group meeting with us, parents — four children out of seven in the group. I saw that as an opportunity to make myself clear. I said, “They’re 10 and perfectly capable of handling their discussions on their own.”
- Think before you react. When parents fail to get to your child the first time, they will take your child personally. Don’t be confrontational but, make sure to inform people on need-to-know basis, that includes teachers if you encounter helicopter parents in school or, operators if you encounter one at a child park. You should refrain from reacting over harmless situations involving your child and another for as long as parents are not involved. If you overreact, you lose your credibility.
I can confidently say that my children are growing up to be smarter, more mature, and more independent. I can also honestly claim that my son, who has become the victim of helicopter parents, has learned more than hurt about the experience. For that, I am thankful.
How we’re raising our kids
All good parents want only the best for their child. Sometimes, it’s never enough but, sometimes, too much parenting can also injure your child’s character, personality, future potential, and, worse, also damage another child’s spirits.
After reading Malinda Carlson’s “10 Warning Signs That You Might Be a Helicopter Parent (And How to Stop)” on afineparent.com, I sighed with relief. I am not a helicopter mom after all. How did you fare with Carlson’s 10 criteria?
I’m a parenting junkie. I guess every mom and dad is. After two years of making the big shift from being an absentee parent to becoming a work-at-home mom, this past Holy Week came at a good time for me to reflect on the kind of parent that I’ve become. So far, I’m happy that we’re raising good, little people in our home without having to fight their battles for them.
How do I say we’re on the right track?
- Our children regularly share their day’s highlights with us. With or without us prompting them, our kids feel free to tell us how their day went. It lets us know that they feel free to communicate with us and to share what’s going on in their lives with us. The quality of communication always provides a good gauge of the quality of our relationship with our kids. When my son shared his frustration over parents meddling with school projects, that was how I learned we were dealing with difficult parents.
- They take initiative. Our children are very independent. They get into their PJ’s by themselves, eat on their own (the youngest occasionally ask to be spoon-fed but she’s only 4), and pack their own bags when they’re scheduled for a sleepover at their grandparents’ home. This shows us that they are taking responsibility.
- They make decisions. We allow our children to make decisions at a certain level based on their readiness. Just this morning, my husband and the kids played basketball. Our youngest wore a plain shirt, denim shorts, and long, colorful socks. Rather than getting into a dead-end argument with her, my husband tagged her along. She wore her sneakers and her attire didn’t really pose any safety risk.
- They to do their homework alone. Our youngest, of course, requires more guidance but, we never do her homework for her. As for our eldest, we expect more. Even though I’m almost always at home and pick him up after school, I never made it my habit to peep into his notebooks. Instead, I ask him, “Do you have any homework?” or, “Is there anything you need to complete your projects?” Sometimes, he forgets things but, I’m not after him getting high grades only but, more importantly, I want him to start training to take responsibility for his own actions. When he asks for my help, that’s the only time I step in.
- They help with household chores. They make the bed. We make our eldest take on more responsibilities now. We even let him handle the thermos with supervision.
- They have honest-to-goodness fun. We refrain from hand-holding our kids at play. After all, it’s one of the few times that they are able to mingle with other kids from outside of school. We like exposing our kids to different kids — kids who have a lot, just right, and those who hardly have anything that they can call their own. It’s one of the best ways that we’re teaching them to respect people from all walks of life.
In short, don’t turn your children into oversized babies.
Are you a helicopter parent? Could this be your wakeup call?