Is helicopter parenting harmful for children?
- Merriam-Webster defines a 'helicopter parent' as 'a parent who is overly involved in the life of his or her child.'
- The term 'helicopter parent' was first mentioned by Dr. Haim Ginott in his 1969 book Parents & Teenagers as a phrase used by teens to describe their parents who 'would hover over them like a helicopter.'
- The American Psychological Association lists three primary parenting styles: authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved.
- Pew Research Center's study on Parenting in America shows 62% of American parents say they can be too overprotective of their children, while 25% say they give their kids too much freedom.
Helicopter parents see their kid's childhood through a crafted lens that dents children's independence and a natural inclination to explore. Childhood should be spent creating, discovering, and engaging in fun activities--not always while being watched like a hawk.
This is not to say that parents who don't hover should leave their kids excessively unsupervised. On the contrary, most parents are aware that they can't and won't be able to look after their child around the clock, and that that's acceptable. As future adults who will have traits and interests unique to themselves, it's essential that children have room to develop their individuality. A child simply cannot explore their world or themselves without receiving some space from adults.
Refusal to allow that space is harmful because it doesn't consider the children's feelings. It can be hard to swallow, but adults don't always know best. And because children rely solely on their parents for every life detail, insisting that everything aligns strictly with parental plans is to disallow children's much-needed sense of autonomy. In some cases, helicopter parenting distorts kids' understanding of failure, which can cause them to be perfectionistic or anxious as adults. Further, they can come to resent their childhood as they're left dealing with the consequences of parental hovering, having to reparent themselves.
As the name suggests, helicopter parents hover endlessly over their children, eliminating healthy parent-child boundaries and enabling children to become overly dependent on them. Studies show that this parenting approach negatively affects children's emotional and social development and their productivity in school. It also stunts their growth. If looking to raise a capable adult, helicopter parenting is not the way.
With a sizable body of research on parenting styles out there, it is time to re-examine the effects of helicopter parenting.
Contrary to their portrayal in popular culture, helicopter parents are primarily concerned with ensuring the success and happiness of their children.
To prove this hypothesis, psychologists Helen Chapman and Nick Kirby-Tuner lay out how helicopter parents can be counted on to arrive on time, help kids with homework, and aid their development with extracurricular activities all planned out.
A couple of worrying statistics paint a dismal picture of family life in America. Most notably, one in every five students was bullied in 2019, 73% of married couples get divorced due to a lack of commitment, and lastly, 27% of American adults are “estranged from a close family member.”
It is not surprising to hear that professional family therapists, like Vicki Botnick, fear that today’s younger generation takes refuge in their phones and friends instead of with their parents. She feels parents should create connections with their children and are likely to instill good values in them. By doing so, kids will feel supported and loved.
The old stereotype that being a helicopter parent is the same as being an overbearing tyrant needs to be retired. WaPo columnist Michelle Singletary agrees, saying helicopter parenting is more about being a shepherd. She doesn’t want to decide what her kids want in life but rather to ensure they don’t stray from the path until they are ready to shoulder responsibilities and pay the bills.