Is the “helicopter parent” a serious issue?

Researchers have studied the complex topic of parenting for many years, and the results have always been a difficult read. There is so much for parents to consider. Many factors ranging from family and environment to genes and biology influence how successful our children will become. This makes it difficult for parents to decide where to look for parenting answers. The impact of the “helicopter parent” is something we should know about too.

A simple internet search on “how to deal with a tantrum” gives you over six million results, with tips, tricks, guides, how-to’s and step-by-step handbooks.

Often, moms and dads are caught in a loop wondering if they are doing enough for their children. It is common for parents to want to do more. They want to involve their children in more activities or assign them more chores. Parents want to spend more quality time or outdoor time with them. They want to sign them up for more sports or feed them more healthy foods.

Maybe less is more

Is there such a thing as overdoing it?

Researchers published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology have said that – YES – that over parenting can be detrimental.

Being active and purposeful in our children's lives can do wonders for their confidence. It also helps build a closer relationship and level of attachment. However, there is such a thing as going too far.

This overly involved parent has commonly become known as a helicopter parent.

The term “Helicopter Parent” originated from Dr. Haim Ginott’s observations of teenage complaints of their parents in his book Between Parent & Teenager. Many of us know a “helicopter parent” like that, one that will (sometimes unknowingly) be strongly involved in everything relating to their children’s lives, hovering over them, sheltering them from mistakes and disappointment, or isolating them from the world around them.

How then can a child thrive?

In their 2013 study Parent and Child Traits Associated with Overparenting, Woszidlo et al. found that overparenting traits have been associated with

  • higher levels of narcissism
  • and more ineffective coping skills,
  • linked to greater anxiety and stress in young adult children.

Continuously over parenting can limit their children’s freedom to choose, their ability to make mistakes, to problem solve, to think for themselves, or to stand up for themselves.

As a society, we have learned that there is a specific set of key factors that define success, and parents feel an enormous pressure to make sure that their children are on the “right path” to success. All the while being responsible for their children’s happiness – and their own.

We expect our kids to perform at levels that we did not perform ourselves. The time for free play or exploration has become a secondary concern.

Parents want to make sure their kids have everything they need to succeed. However, the road to children being successful is not a clear path. Many parents have forgotten the importance of allowing space for their children to learn for themselves. There is a concern that this may result in a different generation. One that is overly reliant on the approval and the guidance of others in order to succeed.

So what can parents do?

Photographer: Gary Butterfield | Source: Unsplash

As with most things in life, a good balance is often the answer.

By integrating mindfulness into your parenting, you will be more equipped to truly observe, hear, and understand your children from a deeper place of listening.

From there, you can decide which situations may warrant a parent stepping in for the child, which situations might require a little guidance, and which are better left in the children’s hands.

It is far more effective for us parents to focus on our own happiness – our children will learn a lot more from growing up in an environment that is filled with love and happiness than they will from a prescribed “parenting technique”.

In mindful parenting, the focus is on the children.

However, the emphasis is much more so on our own understanding of our children and how we can better support them. As parents, we need to hold the space for them to grow, adapt, and learn about how to navigate their wonderful and crazy lives.