Nov 4, 2017 Parenting

The Truth About Helicopter Parenting (and How to Spot the Signs)

by Dacy Knight
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Getty Images

We all want the best for our children. We want our little ones to enjoy happy, nurtured childhoods, and we want to provide them with the resources they need to succeed. But in today's highly competitive world, raising your child to ensure success every step of the way can backfire and instead manifest in micromanaging your kids. Referred to as "helicopter parenting," this tendency for parents to pay extremely close attention to their child's experiences and problems can prove to be detrimental to the child's development, independence, and eventual success. The term "helicopter parent" was coined by parenting consultants Foster Cline, MD, and Jim Fay in 1990, and as one might guess, the name comes from the idea of parents hovering overhead as they oversee their child's life.

Though intentions are good, the danger of helicopter parenting is that it runs counter to the behavior needed to raise self-confident, independent, motivated children who will be ready for the real world. "As it turns out, so-called helicopter parenting does kids no favors," explains Joel L. Young, MD, medical director of the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine and diplomate of the American Board of Adolescent Psychiatry, in Psychology Today. "It can be challenging to watch a child fail—or to wonder if they will succeed—but this is a necessary ingredient in the recipe for successful adulthood." Below we've listed the five top warning signs of helicopter parenting and how to take a step back and find a healthy balance.

You do for your child what they can do for themselves. In our highly competitive world, it can be tempting to try to pave the path for your child's success. However, doing for them what they can and should do themselves—by completing their homework or solving their problems—you're limiting their development and growth. "Don't do your child's work for them or keep track of deadlines for them," warns Young. "Even school-aged children can learn to remember test dates and classroom projects. By middle school, your child should be managing their schoolwork largely on their own with only as-needed help."

You negotiate for your child's conflicts. Helicopter parents have a tendency to step in for their children anytime a conflict arises. "Encourage your children to solve their own problems by asking them to contemplate potential solutions," says Young.

You shield your child from failure. It's natural to want the best for your child, but that shouldn't mean guarding them from life's realities. "Don't raise your child to expect treatment that is different from or better than treatment other children receive," notes Young. "Every child deserves an equal chance at a sports team or scholarship. Your child shouldn't expect to get something they don't deserve or didn't earn."

You keep your child on a short leash. Helicopter parents have a tendency to be overprotective. Young warns to not manage your child's relationships or communications. Instead, give them the appropriate space to learn social skills and test out the waters of the real world. Rather than save children from outside dangers, overbearing tendencies can encourage children to rebel later in life.

You impose your values onto your child. "Listen to your child, rather than imposing your goals and wishes on him or her," advises Young. "Listening to your child encourages independent thought and critical thinking. It also helps you avoid a common downfall of helicopter parents: imposing your values on your child."

Next up, discover the parenting mistakes that lead to spoiled kids.