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Helicopter Parents: Time for a Landing

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Most parents want the very best for their children, and they’ll go to great lengths to be wonderful providers and protectors. The deep love and care that parents have for their children can even push parents to be a bit over-the-top. Helicopter parents are known to be overly protective and involved in their children’s lives. Helicopter parents are too involved in the lives of their children and don’t allow them to make their own decisions.

The term “helicopter parenting” was coined in 1990 by child development researchers Foster Cline and Jim Fay in their book, “Parenting With Love and Logic”(Carrera). According to the authors, helicopter parents, “hover over and then rescue their children whenever trouble arises. They’re forever running lunches, permission slips, band instruments, and homework assignments to school.” This type of excessive parenting, even though done with genuine intention, has some serious kickbacks and severe long-term consequences that most are not aware of.

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Helicopter parenting increases a child’s depression and anxiety levels (Adely). They are always in look out for guidance, and when left alone, they become too nervous to take a decision. Multiple studies over the past decade summarize the social and psychological risks of being a helicopter parent’s child. ‘Parental involvement is related to many positive child outcomes, but if not developmentally appropriate, it can be associated with higher levels of child anxiety and depression,’ according to a 2013 study that surveyed 297 college students (Michaud). That study found that students who said they had helicopter parents reported ‘significantly higher levels of depression and less satisfaction with life.’ These kids are less open to new ideas and activities and more vulnerable, anxious and self-conscious. A study in 2011 of 300 college students found that ‘helicopter parenting is negatively related to psychological well-being and positively related to prescription medication use for anxiety/depression and the recreational consumption of pain pills” (Harris).

The other problem with never having to struggle is that children never experience failure and can develop an overwhelming fear of failure and of disappointing others (Lascala). Both the low self-confidence and the fear of failure can lead to depression or anxiety. Studies show that when they reach college, children of overbearing parents are found to be more likely to be medicated for anxiety or depression (Revie). In a study released last year, researchers from the University of Minnesota found that over-controlling parents made it harder for young people to navigate school environments (Jayson). The data emerging about the mental health of our kids only confirms the harm done. At the end of the day we want our kids to be happy. However, driving them does the opposite, it robs them of the ability to discover who they are and what internally drives them. Without this understanding of oneself, happiness hardly ever happens.

Another problem with children raised by hovering parents is the children lack self-regulation skills (Schwartz). Helicopter kids don’t grow up with as much free time as other kids. Their environments are usually highly structured, and their time is closely regulated. Without opportunities to practice managing themselves, they lack the skills necessary to reach their goals. A 2014 study from the University of Colorado found that adults who grew up with helicopter parents are less likely to possess the mental control and motivation they need to succeed (Magruder). Other studies have drawn similar conclusions. Helicopter kids grow up to procrastinate and they lack the initiative and motivation needed to succeed (Parenting Without Fear). Parents may be making lives easier for their kids in the short term, but they’re missing out when they don’t learn problem-solving, conflict resolution and coping skills they need for life.

Children need to understand that failure is no big deal. They need to learn how to fail. They need to learn the difference between success and failure as early as possible, because that’s what will give them strength later on. We all want to love our children as much as possible and protect them from the dangers in our society. We live in an increasingly competitive world and want to give our kids every advantage possible. But if we over-parent and smother them, it can backfire. Parents should, of course, do the best they can for their kids. Impulses to involve ourselves in our children’s’ lives often come from a sense of duty, and of unconditional love. We can harness those desires to give the most we can to our kids by resisting helicopter parenting, which can lead to poor outcomes in adulthood. Instead, try letting children discover themselves—their weaknesses, strengths, their goals and dreams. We can help them succeed but should also let them fail. Teach them how to try again. Learning what failure means, how it feels, and how to bounce back is an important part of becoming independent in our world.

With any parenting style, it’s important to consider how it’ll affect the child now and in the future. Of course, every parent at some point has done a little extra to make their child’s life easier. The problem is when helicopter parenting becomes a regular thing and hinders healthy development. If parents are “helicopter parenting,” they may not be aware of it, and there’s no doubt they want what’s best for their child. Parents should think about the person or the adult they want their children to become, and then base their parenting style around this outcome. Parents may find that stepping back eases a burden — on their shoulders, as well as on their children’s

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