· Do you do too much for your child, when they are capable of doing it for themselves?
· Have you been guilty of going out of your way to make sure your child doesn’t fail?
· Do you keep the apron strings too short?
· Have you ever vetted your child’s friends? Or sorted out their friendship battles for them?
· If your child is asked a question by a professional, have you ever answered for your child?
Well if you have - then you may be guilty of being a Helicopter Parent!
So, what is a Helicopter Parent?
It is not a style of parenting that we research, learn about and decide to follow as our chosen parenting method. It is instead a state of mind, something we tend to do, probably with the best intentions, but that may actually not be at all helpful to the child in the long run!
In some cases, it may even be very damaging to them.
The term ‘Helicopter Parent’ describes a parent who is perhaps too focussed on their child, in a controlling or over-protective way. Helicopter Parenting describes the parent as ‘hovering over’ the child! Well, I have to say, most parents want the best for their children, don’t we? We want them to have the best and be the best they can be. I know I did and still do for mine. I’m sure we have all done some of the things on the list above to some degree and for some of them I would definitely have to plead guilty as charged! But does that make me over-protective?
Having answered yes to many of the signs above, even if only to some degree, I decided I needed to find out if I was indeed a Helicopter Parent, or just a nurturing caring one. And what is the difference?
Does protecting my child make me a Helicopter Parent?
When is ‘being protective’ of our children, just caring and protecting? And when is it not?
When does it become controlling and over protecting? And why does it matter?
Well, I found out that the answers lie in whether or not the way you parent affects the child in a positive or negative way. If we protect a child from harm, but still allow them to grow and learn and to practise their skills, then this is positive. But if we do too much, over protecting the child to keep them from harm or emotional upset by doing things on their behalf, then this can produce negative outcomes. It can result in them having low self-esteem for instance. They can begin to think that they aren’t good enough because the parent is always trying to sort things out for them.
Parents who do this too much, however, are in fact only hindering the building of their child’s life skills and resilience. Making the child feel inferior or useless.
It is denying them the tools. It is over-protecting your child or being a Helicopter Parent!
It is in fact showing them that they can’t do this - but you can.
Trying to ensure that your child has a particular teacher or is in a certain group or sports team by arranging it for them may make you feel better, after all, this is trying to get the best for them - right? But does it make your child feel better? Does your child see it as interfering? Is it fair to single your child out from the others in this way?
Being pushy, wanting your child to get higher grades or to be good at a particular topic or sport, often your choice, not necessarily theirs, can cause anxiety and depression in children. They may want to please you or not disappoint you. And this can be very hard to live up to. Especially if they are doing something because you want them to do it and not because they want to. Much better to encourage their own choices and not be too rigid about the results they should achieve, especially if these are your aspirations, not theirs.
Do you shadow your child? I hold my hand up and have to admit, I do remember my oldest daughters first ever bus ride into town on her own with her friends. Yes, I followed them in the car….
Oh, my goodness! I feel so bad about that now. What was I thinking? Keeping them safe is one thing, spying on them might be a step too far. I’m embarrassed even as I write this!
What if you never allow your child to be alone. If you try to direct their play or choices. Or worse still,
get a job in the school they are in so you can keep an eye on them? What if you become friends with your children’s friends? This may cause your child or their friend embarrassment.
Being a ‘Helicopter Parent’ is controlling or suffocating a child. It will make them dependent even perhaps to the point where they can’t or won’t make decisions. It is actually stopping the child from becoming independent. It is making them dependent. On YOU! Or it may make them rebel and drive them further away from you.
Children need to fight their own battles. They need to be able to take risks.
We must allow them to learn to take responsibility for themselves, to be accountable for their own actions. They need to learn ‘Life Skills’ in order to be able to do this, many of which they just don’t get if a parent is too controlling, over-protective or just does too much for the child. So, although we may feel that there are huge benefits in protecting our children, and of course there are, in overprotecting them or being a Helicopter Parent there are more disadvantages than benefits!
It can do so much harm in the long run if we aren’t careful.
Your child is not a mini adult, but they are ‘Practising Adult’.
Allow them to practice in the safety of your care. Because, if you don’t, they will have to practise when they are away from you or once they have left your care. And that could be so much more harmful to them!
Let go of the need to control and start to learn to trust. Give them the chance to develop their independence. Teach them responsibility and allow them to gain the skills to go out in the world feeling strong, resilient and capable. Feeling confident both inside and out.