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Are You a Helicopter Parent? Part 1: Signs Not to Ignore and The Effects of Overparenting

Updated: Jul 25, 2018

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Firstly, what is a helicopter parent? In the literal sense, it’s a parent who hovers over their children to observe and follow their kids’ every step. In the figurative sense, it… well, it means the same thing.

Parents, understandably, care and worry about their child. It’s because they love and want the best for their children. But there is a healthy limit to how much parents should be thinking about their little ones (and not-so-little ones), as well as how much they should be managing certain aspects of their kids’ lives. Too much of a good thing can be bad, after all.

Photo: Instead of supporting their child in their endeavours and undertakings, helicopter parents often take their children's matters into their own hands. (Photo: Designed by Freepik)

A helicopter parent is one who devotes too much time and energy into their child’s every move. It’s one who micromanages, one who is overprotective, over-controlling and quite frankly, overbearing.

Helicopter parents don’t allow the child to learn from their own mistakes and instead, intervene at the wrong times—the times when it’s critical that the child tries to deal with or rectify certain problems themselves. These parents don’t realise the adverse effects of what they’re doing, and though it comes from a good place, it stunts a child’s emotional development and significantly decreases their coping skills, among other things.

See also: Dealing with Naughty Kids: Love or Tough Love?

In a study by Chris Segrin of the University of Arizona, Michelle Givertz of Cal State at Chico and Neil Montgomery of Keene State College, young adults who were raised by helicopter parents grew up to be more narcissistic and had amplified anxiety and stress due to poor coping skills.

And in 2016, researchers from Florida State University found that kids with helicopter parents had higher chances of developing health issues in adulthood due to their parents always scheduling their sleep and exercise, or managing their diet for them.

Other studies found that helicopter kids grow up with an entitlement complex, are more likely to be depressed and have less motivation to succeed. Because their environments growing up are immensely structured and regulated, it becomes difficult for these children to self-reflect, to go through their own self-growth journey and to develop the necessary skills along the way—all pivotal especially once they enter adulthood.

Here are some signs that you may be a helicopter parent:

  • When something happens to your child because of their peer(s) at school, you call up the school and/or ask to meet with the other child(ren) and their parents to settle the issue.

  • The friends that your child makes would be very dependent on your approval.

  • You keep a very, very close eye on their social media and/or their social life.

  • You help them with their homework a lot, and perhaps even do their work for them.

  • When discussing your child’s academic progress or results with teachers and/or the principal, you often negotiate for a better outcome or argue why your child deserves better marks.

  • You don’t let them get involved in positive activities that they would like to do, as the activities may not be in line with what you have in mind for them, or you think the activities are not helpful for their future, perhaps even too dangerous or risky.

  • You send them to as many extracurricular activities as possible and determine what they can and cannot participate in, not considering whether or not your child actually enjoys the activities or feels burned out.

The consequences of helicopter parenting:

  • You don’t let your child develop grit and perseverance, so when they grow older and do not have you around all the time, they’re not prepared for the real world. A child without grit and perseverance can become overly sensitive and will give up sooner than they should.

  • You’ll make things too easy for your child, because they know you’ll always be there to fight their battles and fix things for them. When this happens, they become overly dependent on you and are less capable of dealing with problems on their own.

  • When your child is constantly coddled, they’ll fail to develop good judgment as they won’t learn from their own mistakes or understand the consequences of certain decisions and actions.

  • Your child will have an inflated sense of their strengths and ability, and have a lack of humility, because things always work out in their favour as a result of your help.

  • When you keep intervening in their social and/or academic life, you don’t let them develop interpersonal skills or coping skills to navigate the issues they are facing themselves.

  • Your child will believe that you don’t trust them and may rebel against you in the future (possibly during adolescence).

  • Your child will develop a fear that they will fail or do something wrong in your eyes, so they may hide certain things from you and not be completely open or honest.

Letting go will be uncomfortable and scary, but know that this is for your child’s good. Sometimes, we often project our dreams and desires onto others, not realising that those dreams and desires may not be theirs.

Usually, helicopter parents don’t realise that their behaviours are detrimental, let alone know that they are overparenting in the first place. So, how do we stop or avoid this phenomenon? The first step is to acknowledge it and be aware of what it is, so that you can catch yourself (or even someone else) engaging in helicopter parenting behaviours. Look out for Part Two to be published next Monday, where we address how helicopter parenting can be avoided or stopped.





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