Tips on How to Stop Being a Helicopter ParentJun 15, 2023
Tips on How to Stop Being a Helicopter Parent
Welcome to My People Patterns and our anti-anxiety parenting project. If you're curious about Parenting Styles and, perhaps more importantly, how to stop being a helicopter parent - you're in the right place!
How Do I Know If I'm A Helicopter Parent?
Undoubtedly, this is the toughest job there is, and it can be the most rewarding relationships that exists. The responsibility and pressure that exists when a child comes into your life is literally life-changing. We want them to succeed, to be happy, and to be safe, and that pressure impacts us - I'm labeling this as 'anxiety'. This parental anxiety is a key component of helicopter parent psychology.
Despite our best intentions, anxiety can lead us to become what is called a "helicopter parent". This term refers to a parent who is overly involved in their child's life, often hovering over them and micromanaging their every move. In the long run this limits the possibilities children have to develop into happy, healthy, well-adjusted youngish adults.
If this has got you wondering whether you might be a helicopter parent, there are some practical ideas on the My People Patterns website. A good place to start is this simple and practical blogpost here
You could take our free online Helicopter Parenting Quiz to find out, if you show some of the tell-tale anxious signs of Helicopter Parenting.
What are the characteristics of helicopter parenting?
There's not one standard definition of helicopter parenting, but some of the behaviors that are commonly observed look like:
Over-involvement in child's academics: This behavior is characterized by parents who are excessively involved in their child's academic life. They constantly monitor grades, participate in homework assignments, and maintain continuous contact with teachers, sometimes to the point of undermining the child's independence and learning process.
Making decisions on behalf of the child: Parents exhibiting this behavior tend to make involved decisions for their children, often without consulting them or giving them choices. This could include choosing their hobbies, friends, or educational path. Such behavior can limit the child's ability to develop decision-making skills and gain personal experiences.
Creating a fear-driven environment: These parents often project their anxieties and fears onto their children. Whether it's fear of failure, fear of danger, or fear of the unknown, the child grows up in an environment where they're continuously anxious and fearful, which can negatively affect their confidence and risk-taking abilities.
Problem-Solving for the child: Such parents are quick to step in and solve any problems or challenges their child might face. Whether it's a tough assignment, a conflict with a friend, or a setback in their hobbies, these parents don't let their children tackle the issue on their own. In the long term this actually encourages them to avoid growth opportunities.. This can hinder the development of their child's problem-solving and coping skills.
Constant supervision: Parents who constantly supervise their children limit their freedom and inhibit their ability to explore and learn independently. This includes continually checking on their whereabouts, monitoring their online activity, or overseeing their social interactions. Over time, this can impact the child's self-esteem and their ability to make independent decisions.
Helicopter Parenting Pros and Cons:
While the intentions of helicopter parents are often well-meaning, the consequences of this parenting style can be quite damaging.
Over-involvement in child's academics: Excessive parental involvement in academics can lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression in children. They may develop a fear of failure, as their parents are constantly scrutinizing their performance. This could also hinder their academic growth, as they do not get to experience learning from their mistakes (Grolnick, Wendy S., and Ruth F. Gurland. "The role of parental intrusive control in children's development: An existential study." Journal of Family Psychology 16.3 (2002): 244).
Making decisions on behalf of the child: When parents continually make decisions for their children, it can impede their development of autonomy and decision-making skills. It may also cause the child to develop a dependency on their parents, leading to difficulties making decisions on their own as they grow older (Sartor, Carolyn E., and Kenneth J. Sher. "The role of autonomy and relatedness in teens and young adult development: Disentangling cause, effect, and reciprocal processes." Development and Psychopathology 23.4 (2011): 1047-1053).
Creating a fear-driven environment: Growing up in an environment driven by fear and anxiety can lead to children developing chronic anxiety disorders and a fearful attitude in later life. They may struggle with self-confidence and have difficulties dealing with stressful situations (Chorpita, Bruce F., and David H. Barlow. "The development of anxiety: The role of control in the early environment." Psychological bulletin 124.1 (1998): 3).
Solving problems for the child: Parents who always solve their child's problems could impede their ability to develop problem-solving skills. This can lead to difficulties in dealing with challenges in adulthood and may lead to increased stress levels (Gallagher, Hugh A. "Effects of problem-solving strategies on problem understanding and performance." Journal of Educational Psychology 88.3 (1996): 553).
Constant supervision: Constant supervision may lead to lower self-esteem, as children may start to believe that they can't do anything without their parent's help. It could also lead to a lack of independence and increased difficulty in managing life challenges on their own (Barber, Brian K., Joseph A. Olsen, and Suzanne E. Shagle. "Associations between parental psychological and behavioral control and youth internalized and externalized behaviors." Child development 65.4 (1994): 1120-1136). Constant supervision may lead to lower self-esteem, as children may start to believe that they can't do anything without their parent's help. It could also lead to a lack of independence and increased difficulty in managing life challenges on their own (Barber, Brian K., Joseph A. Olsen, and Suzanne E. Shagle. "Associations between parental psychological and behavioral control and youth internalized and externalized behaviors." Child development 65.4 (1994): 1120-1136).
How can I allow my child to make their own decisions?
At first glance, being a helicopter parent might seem effective. It keeps children safe, provides them with guidance, and may even lead to better grades due to parental intervention. However, this over-involvement often hinders a child's natural growth and independence.
When we, as parents, constantly step in to solve problems for our children, we inadvertently block their opportunities to engage fully in their own lives, to take responsibility for their actions, and to hold themselves accountable for the outcomes. By solving every issue for them, we deprive our children of crucial life skills that are vital for their development into self-reliant adults.
This is where the four-step method for teaching skills can be a lifesaver for both parents and children. The process begins with doing tasks for your child, which is a common practice when they are juveniles. However, as they grow older, it's important to move to the second step - doing the task with them. This helps them understand how the task is accomplished while still having the safety net of parental assistance.
Gradually, you transition into the third step, where you watch them perform the task. Your role here is mainly observational, only stepping in when absolutely nonelective. This gives your child the space to make mistakes and learn from them, fostering problem-solving skills and resilience.
Finally, we reach the fourth step - the point where they can perform the task independently. This doesn't mean you're no longer needed as a parent, but your role shifts to more of a mentor and less of a doer.
Implementing this approach is key for preparing our children for adulthood. Without it, we risk raising a generation of adults who lack the skills and self-confidence needed for adult life. So, while it's true for us to want to protect and help our children, it's equally important to remember that our ultimate goal is to equip them with the skills and mindset required to navigate life successfully on their own.
What can I do to help my child develop problem-solving skills?
Problem-solving skills are essential to succeed in life. It is a skill that can be developed from an early age. As a parent, you play a significant role in fostering your child's problem-solving skills. Here are some ways you can help your child develop problem-solving skills.
A Tool For How To Stop Being A Helicopter Parent
This acronym encourages parents to stop (or pause) before automatically stepping in to do something for their child. It reminds them of the importance of letting their child develop their own skills and abilities.
P - Parents
A - Allowing
U - Useful
S - Skills to
E - Emerge
Each you think about doing something for your child, remember to "PAUSE" and listen to the ideas in this tool. Consider whether this is an opportunity for their child to learn or practice a useful skill or if you are about to rescue them from a situation, big or small, that will
How can I help my child become more independent?
Chronic anxiety often drives parents' behaviors and expectations, leading to overcontrol and limiting the psychological autonomy their children need to grow into well-adjusted adults. This is a concept of Dr. Murray Bowen, the founding father of Family Systems Theory. His model gives us a framework to reducing chronic anxiety, which, if followed, helps parents can better balance the five "dials" of parenting: warmth, acceptance, expectations, control of autonomy, and control of behavior.
Addressing helicopter parenting requires grounding and fostering connections in less anxious ways. This isn't about pulling back completely but rather reframing our approach to allow our children to navigate their own lives more independently. When this happens, children are granted more psychological autonomy and are given the space they need to become fully functioning, happy, healthy young adults.
The Opposite Of Helicopter Parenting and Enjoy More Time As A Parent?
The Grounded Parenting course from My People Patterns is essentially a guide on 'How To Stop Being A Helicopter Parent' and takes a family systems approach to understanding Chronic Anxiety, lowering it, and helping helicopter parents do less hovering so they have more time to enjoy being a parent.
Grolnick, Wendy S., and Ruth F. Gurland. "The role of parental intrusive control in children's social development: An observational study." Journal of Family Psychology 16.3 (2002): 244.
Sartor, Carolyn E., and Kenneth J. Sher. "The role of autonomy and relatedness in adolescent and young adult development: Disentangling cause, effect, and reciprocal processes." Development and psychopathology 23.4 (2011): 1047-1053.
Chorpita, Bruce F., and David H. Barlow. "The development of anxiety: The role of control in the early environment." Psychological bulletin 124.1 (1998): 3.
Gallagher, Hugh A. "Effects of problem-solving strategies on problem understanding and performance." Journal of Educational Psychology 88.3 (1996): 553.
Barber, Brian K., Joseph A. Olsen, and Suzanne E. Shagle. "Associations between parental psychological and behavioral control and youth internalized and externalized behaviors." Child development 65.4 (1994): 1120-1136.
Learn more about conflict, family systems and growing great relationships
My People Patterns shares the best tools, techniques and knowledge from a family systems perspective - all aimed at helping you grow great relationships. Hit subscribe to learn more about our S.O.F.T approach to healthy connections.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.