While the idea of "helicopter parenting" was originally developed as a concept for parents with college-age students, it's also totally possible to be an overprotective and overly-involved parent to young children.
Ask a helicopter parent why they micromanage their child’s life, and you will probably be met with a quizzical look, as if you asked something as obvious as Why do you feed your kid? Their answer will probably be something along the lines of this: Because I love him/her.
Well, the bottom line is that love does not mean that boundaries are irrelevant. In fact, some studies show that children of controlling and overprotective parents report increased rates of depression and anxiety, and feel less prepared to manage stress and life dissatisfaction.
Now, that is not to say that it is a good idea to throw your child out on their own at the age of seven. The key is to find a balance between supporting your child, and simultaneously helping to foster his/her independence.
All that said, let's take a look at the top five signs of helicopter parenting. And if you identify with any of these, read on for some tips on how to stop.
1. You talk to your child’s teacher more than once a month.
You thought your child's math homework was too tough for him/her on Tuesday, and you're also curious about the format of Friday’s test (after all, your child will study differently if it is multiple choice or free response).
Sure, it's natural to want your child to excel academically. But it's quite another thing to insert yourself into their academic development. The key is to be mindful of your child's challenges, and teach him or her to be assertive, to ask the teacher about any issues or questions that arise. This empowers your child rather than fostering overreliance on you.
2. You break up fights.
Whether it is among siblings or between your child and a peer, you jump right in to stop any arguing. You tell them to “get along” or you play judge and jury, telling both sides what they should do.
Instead, let your child learn the inevitable challenges of communicating with others, which includes disagreements. The ability to discuss differences and develop a win-win plan is an extremely useful tool for your child’s relationships, now and in the future. You may choose to have your child role-play different ways to approach a conversation so he or she develops effective communication skills.
3. You do your child’s homework (or provide too much help).
A client came into session the other day telling me about her stressful week. Her 11-year-old daughter, “had a science project due yesterday. We were up half the night finishing it.” When I asked her why she was up, my client reacted like I was suggesting she go out of town and leave her daughter alone for a week.
Here’s the thing: you already passed sixth grade. Your daughter has not. So please let her.
4. You refuse to let your child “fail.”
Whether it has to do with school, soccer field performance or not being invited to a birthday party, you will do whatever it takes to keep your child from failing. Interestingly, this is not the same as helping your child succeed. In fact, pushing through and learning from mistakes develop resilience, perseverance and grit, all of which are some of the best predictors of success. So let your child stumble a little, while making sure he or she is safe.
5. You instill a sense of entitlement in your child.
Typically, helicopter parents not only hover over their child, but also focus constantly on how great their child is. They tell their children with excessive frequency how special he is, how talented she is, and so on. And while helping your child develop self-confidence is important, this can lead to an inflated sense of self-worth.
Entitlement refers to having the sense that you deserve special privileges simply because of who you are. It extends out further than the children of diva movie stars and includes many children of helicopter parents. The problem? Not only are entitled individuals tough to be with, but they are also extremely unhappy and have difficulty cultivating strong relationships.
So are you a helicopter parent? Or do you know someone who is? Share with us below.