These parents go beyond taking a loving interest in their children and attempt to plot out a life course for them. Media and society have dubbed this type of parenting “helicopter parenting” due to the hovering about of parents over their children.
Helicopter parenting understood
Helicopter parents often honestly believe that they are helping their children succeed. In the article ‘Helicopter’ Parents Have Neurotic Kids, psychologist Neil Montgomery suggests that helicopter parents “Know what good parenting looks like” and are just trying to “ratchet it up to a new level” in order to make their kids even better. While this might sound like reasonable thinking, it has been shown to be extremely detrimental.
Helicopter parenting and short-term success
Helicopter parents will often notice that their intervention into a child’s affairs will produce an outcome in a particular situation that seems better than if the child worked through the problem on his/her own. However, this ‘success’ is very short-lived. By continually solving a child’s problems, the child becomes accustomed to assistance and never learns to deal with common life issues.
This failure to mature normally puts helicopter parented children at an extreme disadvantage later in life. Once they are adults, they become neurotic, anxious, and depressed. The short-term success that helicopter parenting may have provided when children were younger snowballs into an unmanageable deficit once adulthood is reached.
Alternatives to helicopter parenting
Madeleine Levine, author of the book “Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success”, lists five character qualities in a Yahoo article that parents need to foster in their children. They are:
A child who is resourceful is a problem solver. He/she can analyze a difficulty and weigh the pros and cons of possible solutions. For parents, it is best to let a child handle(and sometimes mess up) a lot of their own problems. The experience will lead to greater maturity down the road.
Forcing kids into what a parent thinks is best for them robs them of any feeling of self-direction and saps enthusiasm. Figuring out what a child truly likes and then encouraging that like will lead to a child that is passionate about future goals.
Book learning and good grades have their place, but a child with no creativity is like a birthday party where all the presents are textbooks. Expose a child to art, music, crafts, and nature. Don’t make children think that academic success and a good job are the only things that matter in life.
- A strong work ethic
Parents need to be careful here. A strong work ethic can mean many things to many people. In this case, just make sure that children understand that is by their own efforts that they will succeed. Make sure to praise the effort regardless of the outcome.
Let kids know they have a say in how their lives turn out. Don’t pamper them to the point that they think their parents will solve all their problems for them. This will only set them up for failure as adults. While complete hands-off parenting has its own pitfalls, it is not the only other option to helicopter parenting. A balance must be struck that allows for guidance and discipline without stifling a child’s natural maturation process.