The Problem with Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter parenting“Helicopter parenting” has become a familiar term, referring to the tendency of parents to “hover” over their children, micromanaging every aspect of their lives in order to “help” them succeed.

Some degree of “hovering” is necessary, especially when children are very young. You really do need to monitor them to keep them safe.  The problem I see is that parents often don’t know when or how it’s appropriate to pull back from this style of interaction.

When you are always pointing out how children can do better or constantly helping them make choices about every little thing, you are essentially teaching them that they don’t have the capacity to successfully engage in these activities themselves. The result:  Children who don’t develop confidence in their own ability to deal with life.  They essentially step into a passive stance, always looking outward for answers, and never developing deep trust in themselves.

Struggle, pain, frustration, mistakes, confusion…these are not considered to be positives in American society.  Yet, it is precisely through facing adversity that a person develops self-confidence, a sense of competence, and true feelings of self-worth.  As much as it feels kind to protect children from experiences that may cause them distress, in reality we are robbing them of the opportunity to struggle, overcome, and learn they can really handle what life throws at them.

Our job as parents is to be tuned in, but that does not necessarily mean being intrusive.  Sometimes, “tuning in” means understanding that it’s time for us to pull back and give our children space to struggle (within their capacity, of course).  If you can truly allow this process, you’ll be giving your kids the best chance of becoming strong, competent, vibrant human beings who have the courage and skills to face life.

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Licensed psychologist in San Antonio, Texas.
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