Many parents these days tend to be extremely protective of their children, to the point that it seems like they’re constantly hovering above their kids. This behavior has been jokingly coined “helicopter parenting,” and despite the humorous name, experts believe it’s no laughing matter.
It’s natural to be protective of your children. I myself have two boys, and I experience an incredible urge to shelter them from harm. In many times, it pays off—we can often anticipate trouble better than our kids, and know how to best avoid it.
The problem arises when we overdo it. We find ourselves demanding to know every single detail of our kids’ lives. We ask where they are 24/7, who they’re spending time with, and what they’re doing.
We end up crossing the line between being involved and being overbearing. While helicopter parents believe they’re doing the right thing, they actually tend to negatively affect their children’s development in several ways:
Robbing children of learning opportunities
Everything that happens in life is a learning opportunity. Failures and mistakes are more so, teaching valuable lessons about how to handle different situations in life. Children can’t learn to deal with failure and bad luck if their parents never let them have these experiences.
Taking care of everything for a child deprives them of the most important impetus to succeed. For kids to become strong adults, they’ll need to know just how bad things can be. They also need to feel they have choices.
If those are always being made for them, they won’t know how to make smart decisions without mom or dad to help out – and let’s face it, no matter how hard we try, we can’t always be there for our children. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is let them figure out how to deal with problems on their own.
Expanded childhood or adolescence
A 2010 study by Neil Montgomery, a psychologist at Keene State College in New Hampshire, showed that helicopter parenting cultivates dependent, anxious, and vulnerable children.
Surveying first year college students, the study associated helicopter parenting with decreased openness to new ideas and actions. Hovering over a child can hamper their maturity in taking care of themselves and in facing difficult situations, making them constantly worried about even the simplest things.
Overprotected children also become easily upset when situations don’t go their way, because they’re used to their parents making things work for them.
Similarly, doing everything for your children removes their confidence to do things on their own. Helplessly feeling that they can’t do anything for themselves, they hesitate to even try. Over-parenting breeds children who hesitate in aiming high for fear of failure, or who do so only when they know that their parents will make ways for them to succeed anyway.
Montgomery’s study also suggests that these children can become neurotic. They may even rebel in the future in an effort to break away from hovering parents. How can we remain involved in our kids’ lives without resorting to hovering over them? Here are a couple of tips we use in our family:
- Encourage, Don’t Hound
If your kids are uncertain about new situations, show them the advantages of trying new things but don’t push them. When they’re doing a school project or preparing to join a competition, offer your help but don’t pressure them into doing things your way.
Children of all ages face problems, and the best way for them to learn how to handle things is usually by experiencing it themselves. Talk to them and let them know the consequences of each decision, but let them do the rest.
Don’t save them from every awkward situation because failure and sadness are a healthy part of life.
- Trust in Your Child
Relax and let your children live their life as their own. This may be difficult, but if you truly believe that your child is great, then trust that they can go through life with flying colors. This also does wonders to a child’s self-esteem.
What helicopter parents rarely see is the beauty of their children’s personalities; they forget that children are people, too. A little respect for kids’ decision-making abilities can go a long way, both developmentally and socially.
Pasha Lubeck is a single mom to two beautiful boys and a part-time designer for Kichler Lighting. She believes that being a parent is one of the most challenging jobs in the world—and also one of the most rewarding.