NZ Woman's Weekly
Are you a helicopter parent?

Are you a helicopter parent?

As a parent, it’s only natural to want what’s best for your kids. And most of us will do whatever it takes to make sure they lead happy, successful and fulfilling lives.

While these are admirable goals, the way we go about trying to achieve them may be doing our children more harm than good. Parents who try to control every aspect of their child’s lives by doing things for them are known as “helicopter parents” (because they are constantly hovering over them).

Behaving this way is often with the best of intentions. You want them to be successful and feel a sense of accomplishment. You would also like to see them glide through life without any major disappointments. But you are not providing them with the tools to do things for themselves and discover independence.

Helicopter parenting sends children the message that they are helpless and can’t get through life without Mum or Dad’s assistance. You could be stifling them, rather than offering support.

Helicopter parents can also put a lot of pressure on their children to always be the best at whatever they do and their kids can respond by becoming anxious and stressed.

A recent study from the University of Mary Washington in the US found that children with controlling parents are more likely to be depressed and have difficulty getting on with others. The research also suggests that these children feel less competent and less satisfied with their lives.

Lead researcher Dr Holly Schiffrin says parents need to be wary of being too hands-on, as it could undermine their kids. “Parents should keep in mind how developmentally appropriate their involvement is and learn to adjust their parenting style when their children feel that they are hovering too closely,” she says.

Children may also respond to helicopter parenting by becoming rebellious. For some this may be their way of saying, “Back off, I need space.”

helicopter parent

HELICOPTER PARENTS…

  • Insist on being in every aspect of their child’s life
  • Do things for them that they are old enough to do for themselves, such as choosing their clothes
  • Think good parenting means their child never fails or has a bad day
  • Are embarrassed when their child doesn’t accomplish things because they feel it reflects badly on them
  • Need to know every detail about what their child is doing away from home
  • Fight their child’s battles
  • Do their child’s homework
  • Accompany them to events when they are old enough to be left there on their own
  • Frequently quiz their friends about what they are up to, check their Facebook page or read their diary
  • Give them a cellphone and ring them on it constantly to check up on them
  • MODIFYING YOUR BEHAVIOUR

    There are a few things you can do to stop smothering your child and in turn avoid becoming a helicopter parent. These include:

    • Asking yourself if you really need to be doing this for your child. Are they capable of doing it on their own? Are you preventing them from becoming independent?
    • Looking at your child’s peers. Are they allowed to walk to school on their own? Their friends can be a guide to how much they can handle.
    • Giving your child every opportunity to do things by themselves (as long as it is safe, of course) and letting them make decisions.
    • Allowing them to a make mistakes. This will help them to see that every action has a consequence and also help them learn how to put things right if they do mess up.
    • Supporting them when things go wrong instead of rescuing them from it. This doesn’t mean backing off completely and not showing an interest in your child’s life, but if you want your child to be competent and capable of handling their own mistakes, then tone it down.

    IT’S IMPORTANT TO CREATE POSITIVE LIFELONG HABITS

    Wanting to do everything for your child is understandable when they are little and need your help. However, as they grow, you should encourage them to do as much as they can for themselves, otherwise you could get into bad habits that are hard to shake – even when they are teenagers. According to a US report into parenting practices, it’s not all that uncommon to find parents writing essays for their kids at university or ringing them in the mornings so they get up in time for lectures.

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