How to Know If You’re a Helicopter Parent… and How It Could Impair Your Child’s Development

As technology enables us to be more and more connected and aware of the often frightening happenings throughout the world, parents and educators are forced to take a closer look and more careful approach to safety. But could this heightened awareness and potential paranoia be promoting a type of parenting that actually hinders our children’s development and capacity to learn?

Helicopter parenting, defined by as “a style of child-rearing in which an overprotective mother or father discourages a child’s independence by being too involved in the child’s life,” is largely a result of the aforementioned media-induced paranoia that leads to parents taking extreme measures to ensure their child’s “safety.”

An overemphasis on safety and the smothering effect of helicopter parenting, however, disable children from learning how to survive as independent beings, creating negative ripple effects into teenage years and adulthood.

A recent study presented by the American Psychological Association agrees that while it’s instinctual for parents to do whatever it takes to keep their offspring safe – a basic evolutionary practice – when taken too far, overprotection negatively impacts the development of emotional and behavioral regulation.

Take wild animals for example. It is common practice in the animal kingdom (of which we are a part) for mothers not only to raise their offspring closely and carefully for a set amount of time, but also to literally chase them off and outcast them when the children are ready!

Obviously, circumstances aren’t as “wild” for human children and outcasting is far too extreme and absolutely not recommended. Nonetheless, children need to be given enough independence, autonomy and space learn skills on their own, be creative and, at times, fail miserably.

So, what are some kinds of helicopter parenting and how can parents learn to adopt healthier patterns and relationships with their kids? Here are the basics.

Common behaviors of helicopter parents:

  • Anxiety or fear over sending your kids to school, daycare, sleepovers, camps or anywhere out of your sight
  • Persistent guilt any time your child fails at a task or gets unhappy
  • Going beyond societal and cultural norms to “guarantee” your child’s success
  • Doing tasks for your child that they are perfectly capable of completing on their own
  • Convincing your child to do and/or achieve certain things to suit your own ego and expectations

Behaviors of healthy parents:

  • Responding to your child’s failure with love and understanding, while guiding them to their own solution for the problem at hand
  • Giving your kids times to be creative and get messy, without an agenda
  • Setting basic rules and guidelines that keep kids safe without limiting their independence
  • Giving children a chance to self-regulate before jumping into “protection mode” at the first sign of discomfort, fear or other negative emotion
  • Practicing mindfulness habits for yourself and for your children

Are you curious whether or not your current parenting style could be classified as helicopter? Read this article to learn more about the four basic parenting types – of which the “authoritative” style is most likely to overlap with helicopter tendencies – and see which one sounds most familiar to the style present in your home.

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