4 Reasons You Helicopter Parent and the Impact on Your Kids
My son forgets his homework and I drop everything run it over to his school. Helicopter Parent.
I notice my daughter left to a friends without doing her chores. I tell myself she deserves to be a kid and quickly do the chore for her. Helicopter Parent.
My 1st grader gets put into a class with a teacher that rumor has it isn’t the greatest. I immediately call the school and request a transfer. Helicopter Parent.
Or, the kids in the neighborhood aren’t being very nice to my son, leaving him out and sometimes calling him names. I immediately go to the offending kids parents and demand that their child play with and be nice to mine. 100% Helicopter Parent.
What is Helicopter Parenting?
Ann Dunnewold, Ph. D., a licensed psychologist and author of Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box, calls it “overparenting.” “It means being involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and overperfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting,” Dr. Dunnewold explains.
Helicopter parenting is when we do things for our kids that they are able to do themselves, and really should do themselves. Things like micromanaging their friend relationships to make sure everybody likes them, getting involved to make sure they get the ‘right’ school teacher or coach, helping with homework to the point that the parent is really the one doing it (we’ve all seen the science fair projects that are actually done by the parents not the kids!), and not even allowing them to take on simple tasks like shoe tying for smaller kids to making a bed for a bit older children because we can do it better and faster.
I Can Do it Myself!
When toddlers are first learning to do things independently, the universal comment parents hear
is,” I can do it myself!”.
And it might take 4 times longer, but usually kids are able to figure out how to do it ‘myself’. Maybe not at the perfection level we like, but the job is completed.
At what point did we as parents decide it was such a great idea to take over? To take away their ability to achieve and succeed ‘by myself’?
Have you ever watched the finish line at a marathon or other big athletic event? When those athletes come across the line they are exhausted, spent physically and mentally and often emotionally a wreck. But guess what you also see? The triumph, the raised arms, the joyful smiles and hugs and the pride that they did it ‘by myself’.
When we take away the struggle by helicopter parenting our kids, we also take away the triumph. Without the 26.2 miles of pain, the finish line holds no appeal.
And we wonder why the rising generation are unable to function as adults, why so many continue to live with their parents well into their late 20’s and why they find it so hard to take responsibility for their own lives.
We have stolen their confidence and independence by not letting them do it ‘by myself’.
Why are We Helicopter Parenting?
1.Fear of failure. We are so worried that our kids will fail at life, so we take away any opportunity for failure by swooping in at the first moment of possible error and saving the day. But most of the ‘failures’ we are saving them from are vital parts of developing tenacity and strength. A bad grade, not making the team, being excluded from a birthday party–these are not life threatening events needing intervention. Maybe a hug and a ‘That’s so sad’ from us, but that’s it.
2. Worry about their future. The world is a difficult place and when we worry and have anxiety over our kids futures we tend to overdo trying to set them up for success. We start to believe if we are involved enough we can prevent our kids from sadness or pain. Not so-pain and sadness are an essential part of life and it’s ok for our kids to be sad sometimes. And guess what? They will still experience pain and sadness no matter how involved we are. Take a step back and let it be.
3. Looking good to others or guilt. When I see the other moms in my circle over involving themselves in their kids lives, it almost acts like a guilt trigger and I start thinking that is what I am supposed to be doing. I have to very deliberately remind myself that my kids are fine, they are learning and growing and that it’s ok to not follow the helicopter trend.
4. Lack of direction in our own lives. I will speak only for myself here, but I know that when I don’t feel purpose or direction in my life I tend to over parent. Like I make up for my own lack of personal identity by tying myself strongly to my kids identities. That’s when I get into taking it personally when they are slighted by others or not asked to the dance. I literally lose the emotional separation between me and the kids.
What is the Impact on our Kids?
1.Loss of confidence. Our kids start to believe they really can’t do anything on their own. When we constantly swoop in and save them, they lose their confidence and become afraid to try new things or go outside their comfort zone.
2. They can’t cope with problems. Have you ever seen a pre-teen have a total meltdown over something small? When we step in and solve their problems all the time, they lose the ability to handle their own problems. Even small things can send them into a downward spiral.
3. Entitlement. Kids start to feel it is their due to have others manage their problems and their life for them. And they also start to think they ‘deserve’ that reward, grade, job, praise despite a lack of effort or hard work on their end. How many teenage kids refuse to take minimum wage jobs because it is beneath them? Or they think they should be paid for every little household chore? Entitlement!
4. Loss of self-reliance. They are unable to make their own decisions and stand on their own two feet. Basically they are as dependent on us and others as they were as young kids-hence why so many kids experience failure to launch, or need mom to call their college professor to negotiate a better grade. They don’t have self-reliance.
So now that we all feel pretty hopeless and maybe guilty because of our helicopter parenting (me included), what can be done?
Before we come up with a solution, here is your assignment this week.
- Pay attention to your feelings and behavior. Notice when you experience feelings that encourage you to helicopter parent. Are you feeling fear of your child failing or feeling pain, are you worrying excessively about their future, and do you have an overly active role in their lives without direction in your own?
2. Pay attention to your kids behavior. Your other assignment is to notice if your kids are showing any signs of the impact of helicopter parenting. Watch them and see when they have meltdowns and what caused them. Notice if they act entitled, and if they seem unable to function solo.
The fact is that all of us helicopter as some time or another. We aren’t doing it with intent to damage our harm our kids, but out of love and a sense of protection.
But we must first identify the problem before jumping right into the solution. So get writing and noticing-be a detective this week and you just might have some major insights.
Watch for Helicopter Parent Beware Part 2 for the solution to this growing parenting struggle.