The Helicopter Parent

Helicopter Parent – Is that you?

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” –English proverb

Ask a mid 20th Century parent what they hoped their children to achieve and you were likely to learn that they hoped their children would become well-adjusted adults. More recently, parents have taken on this task but also attempt to create stress-free environments for their children.

Meet the “Helicopter Parent”. This term means that a parent hovers over their child like a helicopter, with propellers churning, keeping it in the air just above its target. Another term in use is “Hover Mother”. This term singles out the parent who we most often see using this style of parenting.

It’s easy to justify overprotectiveness: children today are growing up in stressful times; there are more dangers for them to navigate than ever; we want to give our children every advantage. Mothers especially have an instinct to protect their children, or at the very least, smooth the way for their success.

Certainly mothers want to prevent suffering at all costs. In doing so, do mothers also prevent children from learning how to navigate obstacles and tolerate life’s frustrations? Is Helicopter parenting harmful?

Helicopter parenting started when baby boomers became financially secure. They didn’t have to struggle like their parents had and were able to provide their children with undivided attention and unlimited resources. Boomers didn’t want their children to go without as they had as children and wanted to ensure their offspring would have every opportunity they didn’t.

As a result, Generation x, y and millennial, the children raised by boomers, have been known for their inability to grow up, and “me, me, me” mentality. They can afford this attitude, because mom and dad will foot the bill when their next adventure doesn’t work out.

Pros of helicopter parenting:

Communication: One can argue that because helicopter parents are so involved in their children’s lives there may be better communication between parent and child.

Engagement: Parents focus on engaging their children in a variety of activities and introduce them to many new things they may not otherwise experience.

Validation: A child’s needs are often met and validated by hovering parents. This can build a child’s sense of value.

Cons of helicopter parenting:
Dependence: Children raised by helicopter parents may not develop the skills necessary to go out into the world and solve their own problems as autonomous adults.

Rebellion: Children may be more likely to rebel, feeling that their parents have pushed them to live out their dreams; they may act out or create conflict as they try to develop autonomy.

Sensitivity to failure: Helicopter parents tend to shield their children from experiencing failure. As they grow and experience failure they may be unable to cope.

Would you as a parent be comfortable allowing your child to succeed or fail on their own? Do you believe in your child’s ability to recuperate without your intervention?