Helicopter parents think they are protecting their children from harm and are standing up for their child to make sure they get their well-deserved special treatment The truth is that helicopter parents are doing their children more harm than good, are potentially stifling the creativity and emotional development of the children and often embarrassing them.
What is helicopter parenting?
Helicopter parenting was originally described by famed author, child psychologist, psychotherapist and parent educator, Haim G. Ginott (1922-1973). He is known as author of the 1965 best-selling book “Between Parent and Child.” Ginott is credited with the first published reference to helicopter parenting in his 1969 best-seller, “Between Parent and Teenager.” In the book, Ginott mentions a teenager who complained to him, “Mother hovers over me like a helicopter.” Helicopter parenting is described very simply by Positive-Parenting-Ally as parents who “seem to ‘hover’ over their children in an effort of trying to control their lives in order to protect them from harm, disappointment, or mistakes.” They do their child’s daily homework and keep them safe by insisting that they be excused from activities where they could get hurt, in the opinion of the parent. So the child is often left on the sidelines when other kids in the physical education class are playing soccer or are taught gymnastics routines.
Helicopter parents demand to speak to the teacher “right now” even after school personnel tell the parent that the teacher is in class. The parent feels entitled to special treatment and should not have to wait for anything. Their child should also not have to wait. Their child should be first in line to receive rewards or to engage in an activity and their child should be seen first at medical or dental appointments, even if there are children who need more urgent care than theirs. Helicopter parents may think they are protecting their children, but they are actually hurting their children, possibly for a lifetime.
Mothers are overwhelmingly more likely to be guilty of helicopter parenting than dads and are also more likely to go to extremes to circumvent rules for their children. Moms more often refuse to let their children make mistakes, be given a bad grade or to perform in the ballet recital without the helicopter mom interfering and complaining. The helicopter parent feels the need to constantly come to their child’s rescue. They complain that their children are not treated fairly, that the child received a bad grade not because of poor effort or incorrect answers but because the teacher does not like their child. Other children are chosen for teams, school plays or recitals because the coach likes the other children better, not because the child of the helicopter mom does not have the necessary skills.
Helicopter parents, particularly mothers, are easily identifiable at an early age and typically interfere by the time a child starts school. There are differences between the types of behaviors exhibited by helicopter moms and helicopter dads. The fathers are so consumed by overall status and career path that they may skip going to the teacher or coach and go straight to the top with his complaints and even threats. Helicopter moms are busy working behind the scenes, manipulating and dominating to get the special treatment for their child that the mother thinks her child deserves, even though none of the other children in the class or on the team get that specific treatment or benefit demanded by helicopter mom. She is likely to threaten teachers and coaches directly, often telling them if they do not give her child what she wants, she will see to it that the teacher or coach gets fired.
The results of helicopter parenting can leave a child with serious deficiency in some life skills and with poor emotional health. The U.K. Daily Mail reported on a study that found children of helicopter parents are “more likely to be depressed,” and to have difficulty getting along well with others. The children have less self-confidence than peers and are more likely to have anxiety issues, according to results of the study. This coincides with other findings on the effects of helicopter parenting. The Family Education Network quotes Ohio State University associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, Dr. Hiasako M. Koizumi, who explains that the helicopter mom “interferes with normal child development. She manages their environment to the extent that she prevents them from learning how to handle stress, inhibits healthy exploration, denies the growth of autonomy, limits self-confidence, and nurtures socially isolated and inadequate teenagers.”
Many other professionals stress the detrimental effects that helicopter parenting has on children and that the effects are long-term, potentially affecting the child throughout their entire life. Children of helicopter parents often exhibit a lack of confidence to accomplish anything independently. Some children may grow up unable to make crucial decisions on their own, while others recognize the helicopter parenting and are embarrassed by their parent’s behavior. Other children grow up with a sense of entitlement, stemming from the special treatment demanded by their parents throughout their childhood.
Helicopter parents bully other parents, teachers, coaches and anyone else who they feel is the cause of their child not having the best grades, not being first in line and not being recognized more than other children. They also display hovering behaviors when a child spends the night at a friend’s house, when their children go off to summer camp or on a school field trip. Even when not physically with their child, helicopter mom is still there…hovering. Some summer camps have actually started hiring staff whose job duties are to deal with all the telephone calls from helicopter parents who call to request special treatment for their child and who demand that staff supply their child with certain items that the other campers are not given.
Helicopter parents do not stop when the child enters adulthood
Just because a child graduates high school does not mean helicopter parenting stops. Some grown children feel the hovering even after going off to college or after getting married and living on their own as an adult. The extremes that helicopter parents go to so they can still hover over their adult children is demonstrated in the ABC-News report “Helicopter Parents Hover Over Kids’ Lives,” which states that up to 60% of college students have at least one helicopter parent. The extremes that some parents have gone to includes a confession by one college student who reported that his parents installed a nanny-cam on his computer. Jim Settle, co-author of the study on helicopter parenting of college students stated that the parents installed the nanny-cam “so the parents were able to watch their son 24 hours a day.” Other parents have logged on to their college-aged children’s social media pages to keep track of what they are doing and with whom and have make repeated calls to university administrators over minor disputes and even to complain over the food served to their child on campus.
College is not the only place that helicopter parents hover after their child reaches adulthood. They are right there to “help” their child get a job, which usually backfires when the human resources officer or hiring manager gets a call from mommy. When the adult who has been victim of a helicopter parent throughout childhood does get a job, there are likely to be issues with keeping the job, difficulty accepting criticism or a sense of entitlement, expecting more favorable treatment than co-workers.
Are you a helicopter parent?
Helicopter parents often refuse to admit to being a helicopter parent. They usually see nothing wrong with their actions, as in the case of the mother who called the college dining hall to complain about her daughter being served chicken that was too salty. The mother said making the call was the right thing to do. Other parents do not recognize that they are guilty of helicopter parenting. Baby Zone offers a quick, 10-question quiz so parents can determine if they are a helicopter parent. If you are, back off and let your child be a child and if grown, let the child be an adult. Let the child fall, fail the math test or not get chosen for the lead in the school play. Johnny will learn to dust himself off and go back to playing football and Suzy will learn to study harder for the next test. Children need to make mistakes and learn from them instead of having a hovering parent “protecting” them from living a normal life. Children who learn from mistakes and who learn to make decisions on their own are more likely to develop positive self-esteem and not grow up with a sense of entitlement or lack of confidence.