Helicopter parents have gained a negative reputation, but the truth is, a lot of their unhealthy habits come from wanting the best for their kids. Crème de la Crème put together this guide to help parents figure out if they’re taking on unhealthy helicopter parenting habits so they can channel their behaviors in more positive ways.
What Is a Helicopter Parent?
“woman hugging boy on her lap” used with permission via Unsplash by jwwhitt
Loosely defined, a helicopter parent is someone who pays too much attention to their kid’s every move. These highly involved parents try to oversee each and every aspect of their child’s life, sometimes even acting on behalf of their child. The name “helicopter parent” comes from the idea of a hovering parent — picture a helicopter buzzing around, ready to swoop in for the rescue at the first minor sign of trouble.
Helicopter parents are notorious for doing things like sitting in on college interviews or complaining directly to a college professor about a grade their young adult child has received. These days, though, helicopter parenting can apply to parents of kids of any age.
All in all, helicopter parents are parents who just can’t let go of their children. These parents excessively monitor their kids, showering them with protection in ways that aren’t appropriate for the child’s developmental stage.
Habits of Helicopter Parents
So, what’s so bad about shielding your kid from bad things? While no one wants their child to experience pain and hurt, certain mistakes and experiences help prepare a child to succeed in the future.
Yes, young children require parental supervision, and appropriate control and guidance from parents help kids learn the rules of the world. However, micromanaging is one telltale habit of a helicopter parent. This can manifest in different ways, including:
Gaining coping skills in childhood can prepare kids to better face the real-world obstacles they’ll inevitably face as they get older. When kids get the chance to overcome obstacles on their own, they build resilience and coping abilities to deal with difficult situations.
Kids learn through trial and error, but parents can find allowing their kids to learn these tough lessons on their own to be challenging. Of course, you don’t want to see your kid suffering! However, if a child doesn’t learn how to struggle, persevere, and even cope with disappointment, they won’t have this background when they come across tough stuff later on in life. Helicopter parents who remove every obstacle their child may encounter rob their kids of the chance to build their own resilience.
Another unhealthy habit of helicopter parents? Blurring boundaries between parent and child. Sure, it’s fun to enjoy childhood again alongside your child, and to a certain extent, it’s great to share things with your kid. However, too much boundary-blurring can lead to over-identification.
Often, this tendency comes from good intentions. Parents want to ensure that their kids can enjoy things they didn’t get the chance to enjoy and have every opportunity for success they might not have had themselves. Unfortunately, helicopter parents can take this too far, pushing kids to accomplish things for the sake of the parent. If parents don’t let children own their accomplishments, kids may feel like they never actually accomplished anything.
Disciplining Too Little…
Some helicopter parents blur the roles between parent and child, trying to be a friend instead of showing kids the consequences of actions in a healthy way. Parents who give their kids too much leeway don’t help their kids build their own limits and morals. Providing training that helps kids figure out right from wrong and understand the results of their actions prepares kids to set healthy limits for themselves in the long run.
…Or Too Much
On the flip side, other helicopter parents may not allow room for their kids to make ANY mistakes. Parents may invest heavily in succeeding at being a parent. Their kids’ success becomes part of their own self-image; anything that doesn’t go well for the child means the parent has failed. You don’t want your child to fear failure for your sake. Working hard, even if the hard work doesn’t pay off right away, builds confidence.
How To Avoid Unhealthy Habits
If any of the above sounds uncomfortably familiar, you’re not alone. Again, helicopter parents’ tendencies often come from a good, kind place of wanting your child to be happy, loved, and successful. If you think your own behavior is falling into the helicopter parent category, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- When your child faces a problem, ask questions to help them through it instead of jumping in to fix it for them. Questions like, “What do you want? What can you do to get that?” can help guide your child toward identifying a solution for themselves. Facilitate the thought process, but don’t do the thinking for them.
- Try not to take your kid’s words and behavior personally. Your child is a unique individual, and not everything they say or do is about you.
- Own your own behavior and emotions. Start sentences with “I” instead of “you” so you don’t force your child to take responsibility for your feelings. For example, instead of, “You don’t listen! How many times do I have to tell you to clean up your toys?” try, “I feel so angry when I see toys left on the floor.”
- Starting when kids are young, let them make small decisions, such as choosing what to wear or deciding whether they are hungry or full. This helps kids learn how to listen to their bodies. Giving a couple of choices can also help in cases when there’s something your kid has to do.
- Likewise, let kids take small risks. Mistakes are integral to learning.
- If your child can do something for themselves, stop yourself from doing it for them. (There’s an exception to this one: If you know your child is already competent at something and want to do them a favor, then go for it.)
- And finally, don’t argue about your kid when your kid is there.
Blurred boundaries can lead to a child depending on a parent to step in at all times, even if they don’t like relying on the parent in that way. Learning how to identify your own tendencies and behaviors can help you act in a way that is healthy for both you and for your child.
Do you have a tip for parents struggling with unhealthy habits? Drop us a line so we can share your advice!