Know! To Step Away From The Helicopter

Know! To Step Away From The Helicopter 

Many well-intentioned parents have taken to their helicopters in an effort to protect their children from harm, shelter them from disappointment and save them from failure. But as we discover, hovering helicopter parents actually do more harm than good for their children.

What exactly is a “Helicopter Parent?” By definition, it is a style of parenting in which an overprotective mom or dad swoops in at any sign of challenge or discomfort, unintentionally discouraging a child’s independence by being too involved in the child’s life (dictionary.com).

How involved is “too involved?” Among a long list of “ifs,” Positive-Parenting-Ally.com suggests you might have stepped into the helicopter if:  You regularly fight your child’s battles with friends or frequently dispute so-called “unfair” grades given by teachers; you complete your child’s school projects and homework to help him/her achieve a better grade; you feel your child’s failures reflect poorly on you, and you therefore make excuses when he/she comes up short; you maintain tight control over your child and you’re preoccupied with his/her schedule and activities; you intensely fear for your child’s safety and do not allow him/her to take any risks.

It is natural to want our children to be safe, feel good about themselves and be happy. And certainly every child needs supportive parents standing behind them for this to happen. But research shows that crossing over into helicopter parenting puts children at an elevated risk for making poor behavioral choices, being unhealthily dependent, fearful, vulnerable, self-conscious, anxious and impulsive, both in the short and long term.

What can parents do to appropriately aid in their child’s safety, self-confidence and overall success, while avoiding the helicopter?

Encourage youth to make their own choices: Take a step back and allow children to practice making decisions without your input. This will not only give them a better understanding of consequences, but it will teach them that their life is about the choices they make, not about the choices made for them.

Help them gain a sense of responsibility: Consider this an opportunity to fuel your child’s sense of, “I can.” Give them a task and let them go at it. Even if it is not done perfectly, refrain from trying to fix it.

Allow children to make mistakes, and then be okay with it: Mistakes are a natural part of learning and becoming more independent. If children feel your support even when mistakes are made, they will not only grow from the experience, but they are likely to have less fear of failure and will be better suited to make wiser choices next time.

Keep communication open and ongoing:  Non-judgmental listening is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children. Show them you are tuned in and are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Without lecturing, help them become more aware of the big picture by discussing various scenarios, possible actions and potential consequences.

Prepare children to handle risks: Children who have been sheltered from anything involving risk are themselves at-risk of being unhappy, insecure and fearful of the world. Instead of sheltering them, parents can teach youth to recognize signs of danger and respond appropriately.

The child who was never allowed to climb trees, ride a bike to school or take other age appropriate risks, may go one of two ways: He/she may become the teen who now fears everything and avoids the world, or he/she may become the teen who instead rebels at any given opportunity – neither of which are healthy or positive. Do yourself and your children a favor; step away from the helicopter and empower them to discover and embrace their sense of “I can.”

SOURCES: Dr. Neil Montgomery, Neil: Parent and Child Traits Associated with Overparenting - Keene State College, New Hampshire.  The New York Times: When Helping Hurts, Eli J. Finkel and Granne M. Fitzsimons, May 2013. Positive-Parenting-Ally.com: Helicopter Parents and Overprotective Parents: The Truth and Sharp Essence of the Modern Phenomenon of Overparenting.