Two Signs You Grew Up With Helicopter Parents
Sometimes, well-intentioned parenting can have destructive effects on children.
Posted December 10, 2022 | Reviewed by Vanessa Lancaster
- Helicopter parenting is an overprotective form of child-rearing where parents constantly monitor their children’s activities.
- While the intention behind helicopter parenting is usually good, the reality is that it can often do more harm than good.
- Issues like over-protection and needless interference, if left unaddressed, can lead to a long-standing dysfunctional family dynamic.
Many people come to therapy confused about the extent to which parents should be involved in their kids’ lives and what constitutes crossing the line. They ask questions like:
- “My parents have always made an extra effort to be involved. How do I tell them to back off respectfully?”
- “I have always resented my parents’ obsession with being over-involved in my life, but now I worry that I won’t be present enough in my own kids’ lives. How do I avoid turning into my parents?”
- “I want the best for my kid, but the closer I go to her, the more she recedes into herself. Am I doing something wrong?”
Helicopter parenting is an overprotective form of child-rearing where parents constantly monitor their children’s activities and provide them with excessive levels of support, like a helicopter swooping in at the right time for a rescue.
While the intention behind helicopter parenting is usually good–to keep children safe and help them succeed–the reality is that it can often do more harm than good. Studies have shown that helicopter parents are more likely to have children who suffer from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
Here are two behavioral tendencies that a helicopter parent uses to stay over-involved in their kids’ lives.
Helicopter parents typically stay in close contact with their child or children via text, phone calls, or social media. They may also request frequent face-to-face check-ins, even when the child is away at school or college.
Although having continuous updates on the whereabouts of your child can be helpful, it is often advisable to let children reach out to parents when they need them.
A study published in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services found that while keeping constant tabs on one’s kids might keep parents from worrying, it can also chip away at their child’s sense of independence and self-efficacy. Low levels of self-efficacy can lead to bigger and more complex problems like self-esteem issues, anxiety disorders, and depression.
The study also found that children with helicopter parents can face alienation from their peers. The parents might not allow their kids to go out during certain hours or partake in activities they presume to be dangerous, which interferes with their socialization. The kids might prefer to preemptively isolate themselves to avoid the embarrassment of being checked on every five minutes.
It is advisable for the parent, as the child grows, to not track their every move. This not only saves parents’ energy but also pushes the child to develop key life skills like risk-taking, being responsible for their own safety, and, most importantly, being open and authentic.
2. Erasing failure
Being over-involved in your child’s life is a protective instinct. The catch is that this instinct perceives anything that might cause pain or discomfort as a threat, even if that thing might eventually help you and your child grow.
Helicopter parents often try to protect their children from the disappointment of failure by intervening and taking the reins in their hands. They could pull certain strings to turn a rejection into an acceptance, jump in at the last minute to finish their child’s project, make phone calls or donations on their behalf, file complaints, and so on–just so the child does not have to face the consequences of their actions or the plain facts of life.
When parents are always there to catch their children, kids never learn how to deal with disappointment or frustration. As a result, they may have difficulty coping with challenges later in life.
An essay published in Parenting Culture Studies explained that one of the erratic coping mechanisms a child might develop due to such over-protection is parent blaming. In other words, a parent protects their child from negative experiences to be a good parent but eventually gets blamed by their own child for any or all problems they might face in their adulthood.
At worst, issues like over-protection and needless interference, if left unaddressed, can lead to a long-standing dysfunctional family dynamic. Therefore, to avoid permanently straining your relationship with your children, it might help to let them pay their own dues.
Helicopter parenting comes from a well-intentioned place but can lead to prolonged suffering. If you suspect your parents or your own parenting style of having helicopter tendencies, it may be important to ask for professional help.