How to Avoid Being a Helicopter Parent

No one thinks they are being a helicopter parent. That is because parents want the best for their children and think that swooping in and taking control is helping. The problem is that constantly hovering over your children keeps them from learning how to manage and handle their own lives. The good news is that there are a few easy ways to avoid being a helicopter parent. 

What Exactly is a Helicopter Parent? 

Most people have heard the term “helicopter parent.” It is a term that has been around for longer than you might think. “Helicopter parent” emerged in 1969 in a book by Dr. Haim Ginott titled Between Parent & Teenager when teens describe their parents as hovering like a helicopter over them. A helicopter parent is someone who over-parents their children. They are very involved in every little part of their children’s lives, not allowing their children to take any ownership over their choices or their lives. They are overprotective and controlling. They tend to swoop in at the first sign of difficulty without giving their child the chance to figure things out on their own.

Parents with children of any age can be helicopter parents, but the term is usually used to refer to parents of older kids (think high school and college). These are kids who should be able to handle certain things on their own like asking a teacher about an assignment, signing up for classes, or talking to their boss about their work schedule. 

How To Avoid Being A Helicopter Parent

Parents of young kids who are acting like helicopter parents are constantly hovering over them, directing how they play and/or over-scheduling them with activities. Basically, not giving them a chance to play on their own or really have alone time to learn how to entertain themselves. 

While monitoring your child’s safety and assisting them with things is a normal part of parenting, a helicopter parent takes it to an extreme level in ways inappropriate for the developmental stage of their child. For instance, a typical college student can talk to a professor about a bad grade on their own. They don’t need a parent to do it for them. A toddler playing with a toy in a way that is different from what it is intended for does not need to be shown the “correct way” to play with the toy. They are perfectly fine exploring how the toy works and having the opportunity to try and figure it out on their own.


The Harm of Helicopter Parenting

Having a helicopter parent can harm a child’s development. That is because children whose parents have overprotected them have been shielded from difficulty, so they have not had the chance to develop problem-solving skills and be able to think through a tough situation on their own. They can have a hard time being independent as they get older because they have never had to do it before. They can also grow up to feel more entitled than their peers and become narcissistic. 

How to Avoid Becoming a Helicopter Parent

Most helicopter parents become that way because they have good intentions. They want to support and protect their child. They want to make sure they become happy and successful. However, they end up becoming overly involved and their help and support become something that resembles control more than anything else. So what can you do to ensure that you don’t become an overly protective and hovering helicopter parent?

How To Avoid Being A Helicopter Parent

First and foremost, it is okay to help and support your children, but it is also important to let them fail and to experience difficulties sometimes. While parents want to protect their kids and keep them from experiencing hurt of any kind, that is just not the way life works. Getting a bad grade, not getting a job, or not making a team is not the end of the world. Kids of all ages need to deal with disappointment and figure out how to problem solve. 

  • A toddler needs to figure out that the square block will not go into the round hole in the toy. They can play with a toy in the way that it is intended. They can fall down on the playground and get themselves back up. 
  • A middle schooler can get into a fight with their friends and navigate making things right. They can try out and not make a sports team.
  • College students can talk to their professors when they are not doing well in class or they have questions about an assignment. They can navigate their own admissions and job interviews. 

In all of these instances, it is okay to ask if they need help, support, or advice. Modeling how to do that for them is key. Show them or offer some advice. Talk through things with older kids, but let them generate the solutions. As they get older, they will become better and better at dealing with things on their own. That is the goal of parenting – for children to eventually have the skills to deal with their own lives as they become adults. The only way children learn how to deal with failure or be good problem solvers is to actually experience it themselves and solve problems! 

How To Avoid Being A Helicopter Parent

Obviously, parents should always step in when a situation is dangerous or someone could get hurt. The key is to make sure that when you step in, it is because the issue or problem is beyond what your child is developmentally able to handle. While a college student should be the ones to talk to their professor about a bad grade or struggles with content, an elementary school student needs their parent to go to the teacher and discuss these things. By middle and high school, they should, with encouragement and some guidance, be able to go to a teacher on their own and ask for help. 

To avoid being a helicopter parent, it is important to provide support and guidance rather than steamrolling in and taking over the situation yourself. 

Helicopter parents get a bad rap. While being a helicopter parent translates into micromanaging your child’s behavior and taking over all the decision-making, it is usually less about control and more about the parents’ anxiety and fears for their children. At its core, a helicopter parent has good intentions. It just goes too far and becomes too over-involved. It is important as a parent to step back and make sure you are not teaching your child to rely on someone else to fix all their problems. It may seem like you are helping, but in the long run, it only stunts their development. 

Check out How To Be A Good Mother with 5 Simple Tips for more advice, tips, and tricks.

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How To Avoid Being A Helicopter Parent

Sources: Parent and Child Traits Associated with Overparenting

Photo Credits:

Michelle Frick
Michelle Frick
Born in Massachusetts, Michelle currently lives in North Carolina. She has two teenage boys who are growing up way too fast. Besides her love of writing, she enjoys running, practicing yoga, watching hockey, and cheering on the Boston Red Sox.

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