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How Helicopter Parenting Affects Your Child

Priyanka Athavale Apr 14, 2020
Helicopter parents are those that tend to constantly hover over their children, getting involved in their lives past a healthy point. Parenting explains the effect overparenting has on children, and how to manage it.

Why Hover?

Helicopter parenting is a result of many different issues. Guilt at not being able to spend much time with children due to work obligations is one of them, which is commonly found in working mothers. Irrational fears of worst case scenarios, or feeling like a bad parent after being around another hovering parent are also primary reasons!
Helicopter parents are called so because of their tendency to hover around their children. This term was seen for the very first time in Dr. Haim Ginott's book Parents & Teenagers, in 1969, when some teenagers who were interviewed claimed that their parents tended to hover over them like helicopters.
It is a natural mode in parenting which has gotten unhealthily prolonged. Some parents continue overseeing every little detail of their children's lives even when their 'kids' are 20-something adults studying in college!
Not to criticize here, because everyone knows that the intentions of the parents are in the right place and they are doing what they do out of care. However, it is almost always harmful for the child. Here, we discuss the effects that helicopter parenting can have on children, but first, let's see some 'hover-ey' traits.

Characteristics of Helicopter Parents

✦ They are always prepared to the last detail when it comes to their children. Like for a class picnic, the child will have a huge bag filled with lots of food, meds in case of emergencies, sunblock, band-aids, a spare change of clothes, water bottles, napkins, tissues, you name it.
✦ Some parents tend to cave every time their kid throws a tantrum. The mom says 'No', and the child says things like, 'You hate me', and the mom gives in. More often than not, it is out of pure guilt, but this let's the child know that one hissy fit is enough to get mom to do his/her bidding, resulting in a spoiled brat.
✦ When it comes to buying books or toys for their kids, some parents will comb through every review of the product, ask around, check the store's website, and may even call up the store to inquire about the product's safety and educational value.
✦ These parents always tend to overprotect their children. Not letting them go anywhere alone, making sure they never fall ill, and even falling into fights or arguments on behalf of their kids, are some classic examples. This fails to teach the kids to stand up for themselves or become resilient.
✦ They are involved in their children's life to the point that it seems they have forgotten that their children are individuals who have to lead their own lives. From making the bed to picking out their friends, driving them everywhere, doing their projects, and even taking them to job interviews, these parents practically live their kids' lives for them.
✦ They are always advocating for their children and bragging about their achievements. 'My daughter just won the gold medal at the Mathletes', or 'My son made quarterback for his college team', or similar gushing and swooning over their kids' accomplishments are commonly seen in helicopter parents.

Effects of Helicopter Parenting

The Good Side

✦ There are no positive effects of overparenting to be honest, but parental involvement in a child's life does help in more ways than one. These ways are listed below.
✦ Children tend to perform better in school and extra-curricular activities if they feel supported, yet not smothered, by their parents. They complete their chores and also find time for studies, playing, and socializing.
✦ Children develop a positive self-esteem and a sense of faith that they can achieve difficult goals because they are capable. This results from parents encouraging their kids to solve their problems on their own.
✦ They develop a positive outlook towards life, and do not dwell on the negative. They also tend to complain less because they feel heard and acknowledged by their parents.
✦ These kids tend to be more secure and share their things with their peers. They are more outgoing and social and learn to hold their own among others, because they know that their parents will support them, but not fight their battles.
✦ Older kids whose parents are involved in their lives to an acceptable extent are better able to deal with the issues of their age, and also run a lower risk of falling into bad company, dropping out of school, or substance abuse.
✦ It also helps the parents know what is going on in their child's life so that they can help out if required, and can feel secure that their kid is doing okay.

The Not-so-good Side

The following are the negative psychological effects of prolonged helicopter parenting on children.


A parent may do their child's homework or make their bed out of love, but this has serious long-term effects. It makes the child totally reliant on the parent for every little thing, as that is what he/she has grown up with. These children become dependent adults who cannot live their lives on their own.
They also tend to have trouble sustaining relationships as they do not know how to work on one by themselves. This is a very serious and basic drawback of helicopter parenting, that can lead to unfavorable consequences.

Not Taking Due Responsibility

Some parents believe that their children are perfect the way they are, and that they can do no wrong. Hence, they are always jumping to the aid and defense of their little ones when the child has to take even remote responsibility for something; for example, not doing the homework, forgetting to bring a book, or hitting another child.
These kids begin to believe that they can get away with anything and do not need to face any negative consequences for their actions, mainly because this is what their parents reinforce every time they step in to protect the kid from his/her misdoings.

Low Confidence

The minds of children are like sponges; most times, their perceptions and observations tend to astound us. Hence, do not be surprised if your doing every little thing for your kid leads him/her to believe that you do not have any faith in him/her.
Parents constantly taking over
their kids' lives leads them to think that they are not capable of doing anything on their own, and that their mom or dad do not trust their judgment. This leads to low self-confidence, which prevents them from taking complicated decisions or participating in competitive activities that are deadline-based.

Fear of Failing

There are times when you must have seen a parent say to their child, 'Oh leave it! You are not able to do it. Let me!'. You too may have said this line at some point of time. However, this does not help kids at all, as it only sends out signals to them that they need to be perfect - at everything - all the time. This instills a fear of failure in them which hampers their progress in life, as they are under constant and intense pressure to be perfect.

Problem-solving Problems

Children who have overly-involved parents usually lack the necessary problem-solving skills required in day-to-day life. They are so accustomed to having their parents do everything for them, that they are unable to handle a situation on their own, for no fault of theirs. Hence, parents must refrain from rescuing their child from every problem, as this can cause him/her trouble in adulthood.

Lacking Discipline

If a mother does everything for her child, then the child will not learn any self discipline. For example, bringing a forgotten book to school, waking him/her up in the morning for a class, or doing his/her homework will shield the child from the obvious and natural effects of his/her mistakes.
The child will never face the consequences, and will hence not realize the importance of being disciplined.

Creates a Distance

Constantly nagging your child and participating in every aspect of his/her life will only push him/her away from you. Children like their independence, and if they feel smothered, they are less likely to open up and more likely to bottle everything inside. This can harbor resentment, anger, and a sense of being stifled, which will not help your relationship in any way. It will only create more emotional distance between you and your child.

How to Handle Helicopter Parents

There are many ways in which schools and other institutions deal with over-involved parents. The situation is a delicate one, and the outcome should be such that it becomes favorable for everybody.

✦ Identify the concerns and fears of the parents and address them. Reassure them that their child is going to be okay, and always keep them in the loop.
✦ Tell them to distance themselves slowly, but in a positive way. Instead of saying, 'Don't do that', try saying, 'How about if we do it this way'. This will make them see your point.
✦ Talk to the parents about their responsibilities in the kid's life, and also the kid's own responsibilities. Make the parents aware that the child needs to be independent, by using positive words.
✦ Let the parents know how their over-involvement is hampering their child. For example, if a mother comes with her daughter for a job interview, then explain to her how her presence does not bode well for her daughter's job prospects, as it makes the young lady seem dependent and incapable of taking complex decisions.
✦ You can lay down some ground rules as to what is acceptable and what is not. For instance, accosting a teacher in the parking lot after school hours to talk about the child's grade is unacceptable; calling the administration office and setting up a meeting however, can be done.
Helicopter parents can sometimes be difficult to handle. However, understanding where they are coming from, their fears, and their concerns, can help get them out of this zone, and also help their child become a well-rounded, confident, and independent individual.