Clinica Sierra Vista WIC

The Helicopter Parent


You have seen these people before, you know, the ones who will not allow their child to do anything without their strict supervision. The ones who are at their child's side at the playground at the first sign of distress making sure that everyone is playing fair and no one is taking advantage of their child. Helicopter fathers and mothers hover around their children and continually intervene in their activities, even though their children really do not require that much parental assistance. In fact, it is well known that, while parents certainly have good intentions, "helping" a child too much may actually hinder the child's social and personal development.

Sure, it is typical for parents to be concerned about one's child and to want the best for him. Everyone wants that for their child, but perhaps the "best" are opportunities that allow a child to grow emotionally and socially and thus accurately learn how the world really works. When parents go too far to overprotect their child, he misses out on the chance for his own problem-solving or decision-making skills to develop. The parent who jumps up too quickly when the block house falls over or intervenes with the older child who just took your child's tricycle at preschool are common examples. Should you continue to intervene in similar situations, two messages are forthcoming:

You are willing to solve your child's problems, and

He will sense that you believe that he is incapable of handling his own problems.

Some helicopter parents have been known to make their child's bed, complete their homework "just so it looks better," or pick out everyday school clothes for him the night before "…because it is just easier to do it this way." Some parents will go to great lengths with school teachers to act as defense attorneys for their child when he has so casually neglected to do his work and is about to receive that dreaded "F" grade. "You have to give him another chance," the parents pleads, "he didn't have an opportunity to complete all the work yet." Some helicopter parents even go so far as to find jobs for their children, preventing the child from learning the necessary steps it takes for one to show up and interview correctly and get the job.

The result for the child with the hovering parent can be one of the following:

I will continue to act helpless, so that you will always take care of me, and then hopefully my spouse will take over, or

I will try to get as far away from you as I can or I will suffocate.

Every expert will agree that while it may be difficult to watch your child choose a path that you find disagreeable, it is essential that at some point the child be allowed the freedom to do so. To not allow this would be like overpowering your child to do as you wish, to do what is important to you and your life choices, but that could be considered a selfish approach. Often the real question for helicopter parents is: What is unfinished in your own life that you keep putting off? Certainly it may be easier in the short run to try and ignore some of your own problems while focusing on your child. But that prevents you from dealing effectively with your issues, and consequently, you work way too hard to solve your child's problems. Solve your own issues, go after your unfinished goals, that will likely assist in you becoming a more relaxed parent while offering your child good role modeling.

The trick is to gradually allow a child more opportunities for self-exploration and decision-making. Guidelines are important, as are rules, but the child requires an opportunity to become a self-determined individual. That way, when he reaches the age of maturity, he has been developing skills that will allow him to be a successful adult.

Children can learn from failures as well as successes. It will be our response to their situation that will alert him to what we think he can do. Should we rush to his side, he will feel incompetent and begin to recognize that he always requires assistance. Should we wait, observe, smile and encourage, the child begins to learn that we feel confident in his abilities, feel relaxed about what is occurring, and are open to the endless possibilities that can occur when he solves a problem. Later on it is fine to ask how the problem-solving went. How did he feel about it and has he considered how, if at all, he might try to do it different next time? Parenting in this manner would allow your child to move from experience to experience like a jet plane, successfully soaring above his accomplishments. Flying your parenting helicopter over your child will keep him grounded for life. Which flight plan is best for your child?

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