What are helicopter parents and how do they affect their children?
If you are a parent, you might have heard the term “helicopter parents” before.
But what does it mean and how does it impact your children’s well-being and development?
This article will explain everything you need to know about this parenting style and why you should avoid it at all costs.
Characteristics of helicopter parents
Helicopter parents are those who are overly involved in their children’s lives, often to the point of being intrusive and controlling.
They hover over their children, constantly monitoring their every move and decision.
They are highly anxious about their children’s safety and success.
Some of the most common characteristics of helicopter parents include:
- They have some level of anxiety or fear about their children’s well-being, success, safety, and more.
- Placing restrictions on what their children can and cannot do.
- Solving problems for their children, even those that they can handle on their own.
- They constantly supervise and correct their children.
- They are overly involving themselves in their children’s academic performance or sports.
- They interfere in their children’s social life and friendships.
Are helicopter parents toxic?
While the intention behind helicopter parenting is usually good–to keep children safe and help them succeed–the reality is that it can often do more harm than good.
Studies have shown that helicopter parents are more likely to have children who suffer from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and poor coping skills.
Moreover, helicopter parenting can hinder children’s independence, creativity, problem-solving, and resilience.
By not allowing children to face challenges, learn from mistakes, and make their own choices, helicopter parents deprive them of the opportunity to grow and thrive.
What are the signs of a helicopter parent?
How can you tell if you are a helicopter parent or if you know someone who is?
Here are some signs that indicate a parent is being overprotective or over-involved with their child’s daily life:
- Not allowing children to make age-appropriate choices or decisions.
- Cleaning a child’s room, doing their homework, or completing their tasks.
- Stepping in to negotiate conflicts between a child and their peers or teachers.
- Overseeing a child’s homework and school projects, and checking them for errors or mistakes.
- Monitoring a child’s diet, exercise, health, and hygiene.
- Sending multiple texts or calls to a child who is away at school or work.
- Intervening in a child’s life to prevent them from failing or experiencing any discomfort or hardship.
Opposite of a helicopter parent
There is not one specific opposite of a helicopter parent, but there are some parenting styles that are more relaxed and less controlling.
One of them is free-range parenting, which gives children certain responsibilities and freedoms, sometimes from a young age.
Another opposite of helicopter parenting is autonomy-supportive parenting, which gives children the tools and guidance to handle things independently and make their own decisions.
Autonomy-supportive parents respect their children’s opinions and preferences and encourage them to explore their interests and passions.
Helicopter parents vs lawnmower parents
Lawnmower parents are similar to helicopter parents, but they take it a step further.
They not only hover over their children, but they also mow down or plough away any obstacles or difficulties that might stand in their way.
Lawnmower parents try to eliminate any potential source of frustration, disappointment, or failure for their children, and they often intervene in their affairs and make decisions for them.
For example, a lawnmower parent might write their child’s resume, call their employer, or even bribe their teacher.
Lawnmower parents are also known as snowplough parents or bulldozer parents.
Helicopter parenting examples
Here are some examples:
- A mother accompanies her 18-year-old son to his college orientation and tries to choose his classes and dorm room for him.
- A father calls his daughter’s soccer coach to complain that she is not getting enough playing time or praise.
- A parent who does their child’s science project for them then argues with the teacher about the grade.
- A parent who tracks their child’s location, online activity, and phone calls using various apps and devices.
- A parent who insists on driving their child everywhere, even when they are old enough to walk, bike, or take public transportation.
Effects of helicopter parenting on adults
Helicopter parenting does not stop when children become adults.
Many continue to interfere in their adult children’s lives, affecting their careers, relationships, and mental health.
Some of the effects of helicopter parenting on adults include:
- Difficulty finding or keeping a job, due to lack of skills, confidence, or motivation.
- Poor academic performance, due to dependence on parental help or pressure to meet unrealistic expectations.
- Low self-esteem and self-worth, due to constant criticism or comparison from parents.
- Anxiety and depression, due to feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or unhappy with their life choices.
- Lack of social skills and emotional intelligence, due to limited exposure to different people and situations.
- Difficulty forming or maintaining healthy romantic relationships, due to parental interference, approval, or disapproval.
Types of helicopter parents
Not all helicopter parents are the same.
There are different types and degrees, depending on the parent’s personality, motives, and behaviour.
Some of the types of helicopter parents are:
- Reconnaissance helicopter parents: These are involved in their children’s lives in subtle and unobtrusive ways. They may gather information, offer advice, or attend events, but they do not directly contact or confront their children’s employers, teachers, or friends.
- Low-altitude helicopter parents: These use more assertive and visible tactics to influence their children’s lives. They may submit resumes, negotiate deals, or advocate for promotions on their children’s behalf. They may also introduce themselves to recruiters, coaches, or potential partners.
- Guerilla helicopter parents: These are the most aggressive and intrusive type. They may lie, cheat, or manipulate to get their children what they want. They may also threaten, harass, or sue anyone who stands in their way or harms their children.
Helicopter parenting is a parenting style that is characterized by excessive involvement, protection, and control over one’s children.
While it may stem from good intentions, it can have negative consequences for both children and parents.
It can impair children’s development, well-being, and autonomy, and can cause parents to feel stressed, anxious, and dissatisfied.
Therefore, it is important for parents to find a balance between being supportive and being overbearing, and to allow their children to grow and learn at their own pace.
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