Digital Dad: Are You A Helicopter Parent?

Dad of 3. Husband of 1. Master of None.

I’m going to put my cards on the table and say that I’m definitely not a ‘helicopter parent’. Well if I was I’m not anymore. I have 3 boys – 6, 4 & 1 – all very independent in their own right with one perhaps being a bit more ‘demanding’ than the others. We don’t and have never ‘child proofed’ our home. Ok so we don’t leave knives lying around the place or the fire guard off the fireplace but we’ve never used a stair gate, we’ve never put covers on plug sockets and we’ve never bubble wrapped a coffee table.

I say this in jest of course and as a parent I protect my kids as best I can but there are always going to be times and situations when I can’t protect them and I accept that.

All I can do is equip them as best I can to protect themselves the best they can.

So what is helicopter parenting? Well, as you might have guessed, it’s over parenting, meaning over controlling, over protecting and over perfecting a child’s life. It’s a somewhat regimented and directed parenting style with the goal of protecting the physical and mental well-being of the child, often unconsciously at the risk of stifling the child.

As parents we instinctively want to protect our kids and keep them safe and that’s perfectly reasonable. Sometimes however, without quite realising it, this can lead us to become ‘Helicopter Parents’. The trick is to recognise when these over protective / over controlling instincts kick in and to intentionally back off to let our kids learn to take care of themselves

Listen we all know that parenting is nerve wracking. Sure half of us probably don’t know what we’re doing most of the time – this is probably more true with a first child – and TV shows and news articles continually pumping out nightmare stories or ‘What If’ scenarios obviously doesn’t help.

Helicopter parenting

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as the next parent for helping my kids to retrieve their toys from other children who snatched them away, or helping my kids to ask for something that they want. It’s only when my eldest first reached the age of “NO, I’ll do it myself” or “why can’t you just let me do it myself” that I realised I was being more of a hindrance than a help.

So what are the signs that you may be a helicopter parent?

Knowingly or unknowingly and out of sheer love and concern for your child, you might be following the helicopter / hover style. For instance if you find yourself answering questions of behalf of your child or you have heart palpitations at the thought of your child going on a play date, or it’s never crossed your mind to have your kids help out with making dinner or emptying the dishwasher (because knives are sharp) then maybe, just maybe, you’re a helicopter parent.

Other signs might include:

  1. Not allowing your child to make age appropriate choices
  2. Not allowing your child to tackle their own problems.
  3. Constantly negotiating on behalf of your child
  4. Your nickname being ‘Black Hawk’ or ‘Chopper’
  5. You’ve been known to disinfect playground rides.
  6. You shield your child from failure
  7. Your child’s first overnight will be in college.

.What are the affects of helicopter / hover parenting?

On a more serious note however, research has shown that parents start being overprotective with a genuine intention but in the process of engaging with kids and their lives, they lose the actual perspective of what they want. So rather than helping their children it can have adverse affect such as:

  1. Low self-esteem and confidence.

The over involvement of the parent makes the child believe that their parents will not trust them if they do something independently. It, therefore, leads to lack of self-esteem and confidence.

  1. Immature coping skills.

When the parent is always there to prevent the problem at first sight or clean up the mess, the child can never learn through failure, disappointment or loss. Studies also reveal that helicopter parents can make their kids less competent in dealing with tensions and pressures of life.

  1. Overanxious.

Helicopter parenting can often lead to increases levels of depression and anxiety in a child. Children that always look for guidance can often become too nervous to make a decision when left alone.

  1. Sense of entitlement complex.

When parents get over-involved in their child’s academic, social and sporting activities, children can quickly get accustomed to always having their parents to fulfill their needs. This can make them more demanding as they feel that it is their right to have what they want.

  1. Underdeveloped life skills.

Over involvement of parents can also lead to children refusing to learn basic life skills such as making/packing lunches, tying shoe laces, cleaning a mess, emptying a dishwasher, general house work and cooking a meal.

How To Avoid Helicopter Parenting.

If while reading this you suspect that you might be guilty of helicopter parenting or you realise (now) that you might be stifling your child’s independence, fear not, a few simple adjustments to you approach can make all the difference.

Similar to any habit – good or bad – make a conscious effort to avoid doing things a certain way. For instance:

Helicopter Parents

  1. Stop Hovering Over Your Child.

If your child can dress themselves and tie their own shoe laces then let them do that. If they can pour their own cereal or make a sandwich for themselves then let them. Try to avoid holding them back from doing things that suit their age. As mentioned above, try not to get over-involved in your child’s academic, social and sporting activities.

Children, like adults, need to learn for themselves (within reason of course) and disappointment, discomfort and even pain is all part of growing up.  If as parents we shield our children from life’s hardships and struggles they are never going to learn if we are always doing it for them.

  1. Stop Overthinking.

Try to stop worrying or over thinking about all the things that could happen to your child. Easier said than done, I know but try to let go of all those negative thoughts such as: “Is he/she interacting enough with people in school?”, “What will he/she become when they grow up”  “Is his/her shyness because of lack of confidence?”

Try to avoid searching for evidence to confirm your worries about your child..

  1. Scale Back On “Yes”.

Kids are cute. Kids are sharp. Kids know how to play up to their parents. If you are too obliging to them they will take advantage of it.

  1. Stop The Labels.

Hands up, I’m guilty of this. Be it positive or negative; try not to label your child. Refrain from labels such as the “funny one” or “sporty one” or “lazy one” or “you’re just like your mom/dad”. Also avoid saying “You always…” or “You never…”.

Words are powerful thus try not to make any negative assumptions about your child’s behaviour.

  1. Let Them Chose A Different Path.

You made your kids but you cannot make them become something that you want.

If you over-influence a child they’ll struggle to perceive their own hopes and dreams. Let children explore their own thoughts and opinions. If they think differently from you, so be it. Listen to them rather than shut them down. Discuss it with them. Let them express themselves

If your child chooses a path that is different from what you have wished/decided for her don’t take it personally. They are children after all, not clones.

  1. Don’t Ignore You.

Don’t forget to focus on your own life. If your child becomes the focal point of your life it’s very easy to neglect your own life and to stop thinking about your needs, your interests, your relationships, your social life and your activities. Step back and reassess.

Let me know your thoughts.


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