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Is Helicopter Parenting Affecting Your Child’s Progress?
What is Helicopter Parenting?
Helicopter parenting might not be a term you’re particularly familiar with, but you are probably familiar with the type of parent it refers to – you might even be guilty of being one yourself to some degree! Helicopter parenting is a term that was coined by teenagers who likened their parents to helicopters ‘hovering’ over them. It generally refers to the type of parent who is overly focused on their child in a way that moves from parental interest or concern to over-controlling, overprotective and over-perfecting behaviour – particularly in an educational context.
A helicopter parent will typically take control of tasks in their child’s life that they are more than capable of doing on their own, be overly engaged in their school work and social time, and allow them very little opportunity to learn, grow and develop independence on their own terms.
What have studies shown about how this type of parenting impacts young people?
As you can probably imagine, this style of parenting can have many short and long term consequences on the overall wellbeing of children and young people. Young people thrive when they have the opportunity to develop individualism, independence and responsibility without it being dictated to them by a pushy parent. A 2013 study involving 297 students published in the ‘Journal of Child & Family studies’ found that college students with helicopter parents felt significantly more depressed, less satisfied in life and attributed their decrease in wellbeing to a violation of ‘basic psychological needs for autonomy and competence.’
Other studies and research have reported other impacts on the long term wellbeing of young people including;
- Decreased confidence and self esteem
- Underdeveloped coping skills and lack of coping strategies in times of stress
- Increased anxiety
- An unreasonable sense of entitlement
- Underdeveloped life skills
A low grade, not making the team, or not getting a certain job can appear disastrous to a parent, but Dr. Deborah Gilboa, founder of AskDoctorG.com, ascertains that “many of the consequences parents are trying to prevent–unhappiness, struggle, not excelling, working hard – are great teachers for kids.” Transitioning from the world of education to university or the world of work can be a tricky path to navigate for a lot of young people. Confidence, self-esteem, coping skills and a level head are all valuable qualities that will make a young person successful during this transition. So it would seem that Helicopter Parenting needs to be identified, addressed and corrected to ensure your child has the best chance of making it on their own.
How can you prevent doing this?
Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with taking an interest in your child’s life, making sure you are aware of what they’re doing, what their plans for their life are and encouraging them to communicate with you so you can best support them with achieving their goals. Helicopter parenting is an extreme type of parenting where the child’s ideas, desires and interests aren’t listened to or explored.
Parenting is a tricky role to navigate in itself, and nurturing your child’s independence so they can develop into a confident and capable adult is one of the clear aims many parents will cite when asked why they act the way they do.
Dr. Gilboa offers this advice – “As parents, we have a very difficult job. We need to keep one eye on our children now and one eye on the adults we are trying to raise. Getting them from here to there involves some suffering, for our kids as well as for us.” This means sometimes having to let our children struggle, allowing them to experience disappointment and failure, and when this happens, helping them to work through it and develop the skills, resilience and confidence to bounce back. It means letting your children do tasks that they are physically and mentally capable of doing. Making your 3-year-old’s bed isn’t hovering: Making your 13-year-old’s bed is.
GT Scholars is a not-for-profit social enterprise that provides a range of courses and workshops. Our growth mindset workshop focuses on helping young people and parents have a full understanding of growth mindset and how to apply this in their everyday lives. To find out more about the growth mindset workshop, click on the following link: https://gtscholars.org/courses/understanding-growth-mindset/
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