No one sets out to become a helicopter parent—you know, the parent who hovers near their child, watching, and then swoops in to the rescue at the tiniest sign of challenge or discomfort. In fact, most helicopter parents have the very best of intentions: They want to be involved in their children’s lives, and they want their children to feel loved, safe, confident, and supported.
But somewhere along the line, their involvement can turn into over-parenting—when moms and dads are constantly managing and problem-solving on a child’s behalf.
Here’s the issue with helicopter parenting: When we constantly micromanage our children’s lives, activities, art projects, or social interactions, we send the message that they aren’t able to do things on their own. The result? Children may begin to feel incompetent or unable to handle their own mistakes (which of course are inevitable; we’re all human, after all.)
Helicopter parenting, in other words, discourages self-reliance and independence, and undermines confidence and resilience—traits most of us would like our children to exhibit in adulthood.
Check out our five classic examples showing different ways a helicopter parent operates, how it ends up making a child feel—and more positive approaches to each.
1. The Hoverer: Do you hover nervously while your child is climbing on the play structure at the park, telling him repeatedly to be careful or not to climb so high? It actually makes him feel more fearful and unwilling to take risks.
2. The Fix-It-Upper: Are you quick to find the missing puzzle piece for your child upon the slightest struggle? It makes her feel like she can’t solve her own problems.
Instead…Let her tackle some things on her own, even if she gets a little frustrated! She’ll learn accountability and responsibility.
3. The Meal Manager: Do you cut up your child’s food, pour his water, and serve him his own vegetables? It may make him feel incompetent in his own abilities.
Instead…Allow him to use child-size knives, fail, try again, and repeat until successful. He’ll learn resilience and autonomy.
4. The Voice Coach: Are you answering questions the preschool teacher is asking your child? It actually makes her feel unheard and not valued.
Instead….Let her use her own voice, with her own words and own opinion. She’ll learn the value of being heard and expressing herself.
5. The Umpire: Do you retrieve your child’s toy from another child who snatches it away? Doing so will make him feel he can’t handle problems with others on his own.
Instead…Let him work through his own battles. He’ll learn the power of problem solving.