Expert Parent Advice

Strategies to Avoid Becoming a Helicopter Parent

Helicopter Parents – we’ve all heard the term that describes those overly controlling, high-strung moms and dads who hover over their kids, guiding their every move and protecting them from hurt and disappointment.  We watch other parents “helicopter” their kids and swear that we’ll never do that – but do your actions match your intentions?  Are you unknowingly helicoptering your kids? 

I’m Amy McCready with Positive Parenting Solutions, and I’m proud to partner with Kids ‘R’ Kids for the Expert Parenting Advice series.  Today, we’re talking about the risks of being a helicopter parent and simple strategies to avoid becoming one.

We all have the hard-wired need to protect our kids and shelter them from pain, but hovering too closely, doing too much and jumping in on your kids battles and challenges have significant adverse effects on kids.

In one of the best known studies on helicopter parenting, researchers from Keene State College in New Hampshire found that students who grew up with overprotective, helicopter parents tended to be less open to new ideas and actions, as well as more vulnerable, anxious and self-conscious compared with kids who had parents who kept a distance.

Helicoptering starts with toddlers on the playground and can last into adulthood with negative results at each stage along the way.  Fortunately, there are things you can do to pack away the propellers for good.

1.  Let your kids experience the natural consequences of their choices.  If your preschooler refuses to eat breakfast, rather than spoon-feed her on the way to school, let her experience the feeling of hunger.  She’s not going to starve, and she’ll be less likely to skip breakfast the next morning.

If your son is between a ‘C’ and a ‘B’ in math, don’t go in and meet with the teacher to find out what extra credit he can do to get the higher grade.  Either let him experience the grade he earned or coach him on how he can make an appointment with the teacher himself to discover what, if anything, he can do to raise his grade.

2.  Take time for training and turn over the reigns.  Take time to teach your kids – toddlers to teens – to do “grown-up” tasks to foster their independence.  Whether it’s packing her own lunch or doing laundry start to finish, train on the step-by-step process for success, and then give her the responsibility.  Our kids aren’t going to magically become responsible and self-sufficient.  We have to take time for training and give them the opportunity to sink or swim.

3.  Don’t step in to “fix” relationships.  Whether it’s a sibling squabble or a disagreement on the playground, resist the urge to get involved.  If we always step in as judge and jury, or worse yet, contact the other parents on our child’s behalf for every little thing that comes up, they’ll never learn how to navigate the ups and downs of peer relationships.  If your child is having difficulty with a friend, talk it through and provide coaching, but let him handle it on his own and experience the outcome – positive or negative.

For more strategies to avoid being a helicopter parent, be sure to check out the interactive that goes along with this video. For ongoing solutions to your parenting challenges, visit us often at Kids 'R' Kids Learning Academies.

I’m Amy Mccready for Kids ‘R’ Kids, and I’ll see you next time.