Parents will do anything just to keep their children protected at all times, even if it means implementing strict rules on them. They need to keep an eye on everything, from their behaviors to the people they interact with. Despite having shared experience in many things, parents have different approaches to raising children. Among the most popular parenting styles is helicopter parenting.
Understanding Helicopter Parenting
There are many parents who are overly focused on their children. They tend to take too much responsibility for their kids’ actions, behaviors, and experiences. While these are done with good intentions, it can sometimes become detrimental instead of beneficial. Parents may unknowingly become overcontrolling, over-perfecting, and overprotecting. This is called helicopter parenting.
Helicopter parenting comes in many forms. It is when parents try to prevent their toddlers from every age-appropriate risk, do not encourage developmentally appropriate independence, or never allow the child to play alone. "In toddlerhood, a helicopter parent might constantly shadow the child, always playing with and directing his behavior, allowing him zero alone time," Dr. Ann Dunnewold, Ph. D., a licensed psychologist and author of “Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box,” said.
It also happens when they become overly involved in their teens’ academic work and extracurricular activities to shield them from failure or disappointment or intervening in disagreements with their friends, co-workers, or employer.
According to Psychology Today, an online site that features the latest from the world of psychology, the term ‘helicopter parenting’ was coined in the 1990s in Dr. Haim Ginott’s book titled “Parents and Teenagers.” It describes parents who are overly involved in their children’s lives, especially in academic and achievement-related activities.
Helicopter parents, just like any other parent, have their reasons. Experts say that there are deep-seated issues at the root of this style. For instance, some parents feel that helicoptering will prevent the struggles their children may face. They also tend to do everything in their power to prevent them from getting hurt or disappointed. Some parents don’t realize that all of these are part of growing up and important in building their character.
Peer pressure from other parents can also be a factor. "Sometimes when we observe other parents over-parenting or being helicopter parents, it will pressure us to do the same. We can easily feel that if we don't immerse ourselves in our children's lives, we are bad parents. Guilt is a large component in this dynamic,” Dr. Carolyn Daitch, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders, said.
Consequences of Helicopter Parenting
Parents’ involvement in their children’s lives is important because this can help them in their development. However, too much of everything is not okay. Constantly hovering will not be beneficial in a parent-child relationship. As they get older, they seek out more independence. When this happens, parents need to support and guide their kids.
Helicopter parenting can backfire and cause a child to develop low self-confidence or low self-esteem. Parents being too involved and overprotective can make a child doubt their own abilities since they’ve never had to figure out anything on their own. They might feel that their parents don’t trust them to make their own decisions.
A recent study published in the journal Child Development revealed the long-term impact on children whose parents are overly strict and protective. According to Medical News, one of the world’s leading open-access medical and life science hubs, the researchers studied 184 individuals between the ages of 13 and 32, from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. They analyzed information about the participants' experiences of being controlled by their parents during their teen years.
Also, the team asked the participants about their lives, what their parents were like, and the status of their relationship, including their educational attainment. They watched videos of each parent interacting with friends during childhood and videos of them with their romantic partners at present. The findings showed that helicopter parenting creates social and educational problems in their children’s lives. For instance, they found out that the children of overcontrolling parents were less likely to be in a relationship by age 32. They also had lower educational attainment of the same age.
"Even though parents routinely attempt to guide their children toward successful adaptation, overcontrolling parenting in adolescence has the potential to impede development in a fundamental way that's not easy to repair," co-author Joseph Allen, Hugh Kelly Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, said.
Lead author Emily Loeb, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Virginia, added that helicopter parenting likely creates more than a temporary setback for adolescent development since it interferes with the key task of developing autonomy at a critical period. This explains why some teens were less psychologically mature and were less liked by their peers.
Children who have overly strict and protective parents can affect their confidence and self-esteem. "The main problem with helicopter parenting is that it backfires. The underlying message [the parent's] over-involvement sends to kids is 'my parent doesn't trust me to do this on my own’,” Dr. Dunnewold said.
According to Healthline, an American website and provider of health information, feelings of low self-confidence and low self-esteem can become so bad that they lead to other problems such as anxiety and depression. A 2014 study found out that students raised by helicopter parents were more likely to be on medication for anxiety and depression. There’s also the risk of a child developing entitlement issues where they believe they deserve certain privileges.
Experts say that it’s important for parents to still know their limits when it comes to raising and disciplining their children. A relationship governed by fear will not do any help in the long run. Letting children struggle, helping them to work through failure, and allowing them to be disappointed are great contributions for their growth and development. "Remembering to look for opportunities to take one step back from solving our child's problems will help us build the resilient, self-confident kids we need,” Dr. Deborah Gilboa said.