Parenting has changed a lot over the past 50 years.
Many of us can recall being practically pushed out of the house as kids with our parents instructing us to keep busy and stay out of their hair until dinner time. Our homework was our responsibility, and disputes with friends were left for us to deal with on our own.
Over time parental involvement in the lives of their children has gradually increased. It starts when our toddlers are unsteadily navigating the equipment at a playground. Instead of letting them take a “whoopsie!” fall, there we are, ready to catch them from fear of them hurting themselves (or another parent judging us).
You’d think that as children become more independent, we’d be there for them less. But as any helicopter parent knows, you only become more involved in their lives. We’re checking their homework and making sure it’s perfect so they get that “A”. We’re shooting off emails to teachers and coaches, explaining why our children deserve “this” and “that” (even when perhaps they don’t). We’re harassing college admissions to accept our children, and we’re visiting campuses to make sure they’re “safe”.
These are all clear signs of helicopter parenting. While there are few studies about this – because it is generally quite new – all signs point to this form of parenting being detrimental to our kids.
Why helicopter parenting is hurting our children
Parental involvement is important and leads to a lot of positive outcomes for our kids. But being too involved has been linked to several negative outcomes.
One study involving college students found that children with over controlling or “helicopter” parents suffered from increased depression and less satisfaction in life. The researchers were able to correlate their lessened sense of well-being with the fact that their parents had overstepped their boundaries and ultimately made them feel incompetent.
Helicopter parenting can also strain the relationship between children and their parents. This apparently starts as young as when they learn how to walk as one study found toddlers sought out non-helicoptering parents to play more often than those with helicoptering parents.
You might be a helicopter parent if…
- You’re fighting battles for your kids
Let’s say your child comes home from school in tears because someone called them a bad name or told them that they didn’t want to play with them. You know you’re a helicopter parent if your first action is to make a phone call to that child’s parent to sort things out.
- You constantly supervise your kids
You hang around at birthday parties (not to be social), your kids can’t walk to the park and play by themselves at the age of 10, and you drive them to their friends’ homes – even though that friend lives right down the block.
- You’re doing their school work
Terrified of them receiving a poor grade, you spend your evenings “working with your child” (a.k.a. doing it for them) to complete their homework and school projects to perfection.
- Your kids don’t do chores
The chemicals in cleaning products are toxic and vacuums are dangerous, so why on earth would you allow your children near them? You’ll do the cleaning instead.
- You can’t stand to see them upset, frustrated or angry
Witnessing your child experience a negative emotion immediately sends you to their side so you can start working on making them feel happy again.
Parenting is not easy, especially since we’re bombarded with constant advice and information about how we should and shouldn’t be doing it. We won’t do everything right all of the time, but if we let them screw up, actively listen to their problems, and work with them to explore options on how they can work out a situation, we are going a long way in creating competent, self-reliant and happy future adults.