Parental involvement for helicopter parents, as all parents, stems from the desire to see their children succeed. How can well-intentioned, motivated, and loving parents inadvertently create children that lack basic skills to lead independent lives? These parents are not guilty of neglect or loving care. So why the heavy criticism? Let’s give this parenting style a second flyover.

What is a helicopter parent?

The nickname initially emerged from the 1969 bestselling book Between Parent & Teenager by Dr. Haim Dinott. In the book, a coddled teenager complained: “Mother hovers over me like a helicopter and I’m fed up with her noise and hot air . . . I’m entitled to sneeze without explanation.” Later, the nickname gained popularity in the 1990’s when researchers Foster Cline and Jim Fay used the term “helicopter parent” in their book, Parenting With Love and Logic to refer to a parent who hovers over a child.

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It’s a sign of the times

Parental over-involvement is increasing. It’s never been easier to hover from a distance. Cell phones and social media create easy channels to stay connected. Thus, parents are talking to their children more than ever. In a 2013 Clark University poll, two-thirds of moms and more than half of fathers contact their adult child almost every day. It is a perfect recipe for children to call their parents before making the most innocuous decisions in their daily lives. According to the Huffington Post, that is exactly what is happening.

Hover Consequences

Excessive over-involvement results in children that are insecure, fearful, unable to make decisions for themselves and tolerate frustration. Perhaps more serious than inducing co-dependent children, the over-involvement can lead to psychological damage. These adult children have higher levesl of depression and anxiety. Studies also show that students with helicopter parents have a harder time finding a job after graduation.

A study that examined the impact of helicopter parenting on college-aged students concluded that students without helicopter parents reported higher life satisfaction, physical health, and self-efficacy. Students with helicopter parents reported low levels of self-efficacy or the ability to handle some tougher life tasks and decision. Researcher Mallory Lucier-Greer noted the differences in parent-child interactions. Supportive parents, tell their children “you can manage your finances, you can pick out your classes.” Meanwhile, helicopter parents are doing those things for their children.

Does it have to be toxic?

Of course not. Although helicopter parenting is a deviation from what is considered the best practice, close communication with your child can be wonderful. Helicopter parenting has also been linked with better well-being for young adults. Although some studies concluded that helicopter parenting can be psychologically damaging, at least one of the researcher’s involved admitted that, when parents perceive their child is depressed, they are more likely to hover. According to the Washington Post, those same studies critiquing helicopter parents offered no support that helicopter parenting caused the psychological damage.

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Tips For Encouraging Independent Children

Every parent wants their child to succeed. Here are some tips to encourage independent children.

  • Listen to your child. This encourages independent thinking which is what a child needs to become an independent adult.
  • Let your child experience consequences. Mistakes are how we learn. If your child gets detention, let your child experience detention. These experiences will prepare your child for the world. Of course, if your child needs your help, it is okay to intervene i.e. if your child is faced with a legal problem, hire a lawyer.
  • Empower your child to solve their own problems, including relationship conflicts. You won’t always be there, so it is important for your child to learn how to solve life’s problems on their own.
  • Don’t do your child’s work for them. Help your child keep track of deadlines, but encourage your child to manage their work on their own.

There is not one “right” way to raise a child. Indeed, there are many child rearing techniques around the world. A parent knows their child best and if a parent believes that a deviation from the normal recognized parenting style is what the child needs, that parent is probably right.

Looking for more parenting tips for older children? Check out Closing The Teen-Parent Communication Gap.

Sources: 5 Signs You Were Raised By Helicopter Parents, Helicopter Parent, Helicopter Parents: The damage They Cause To Their Children, The Myth of the Helicopter Parent, Why Those Annoying ‘Helicopter Parents’ Aren’t So Bad After All, Helicopter Parents: Hovering May Have Effect As Kids Transition To Adulthood, The Effects of Helicopter Parenting