Do Helicopter Parents Help or Hurt Children?

The pros and cons of this type of discipline

Helicopter parents prevent kids from being responsible.
Klaus Vedfelt Prem / Riser / Getty Images

Media sources have used the term “helicopter parent” to describe a type of discipline where parents become overly involved in their child’s lives. Although it may sound like a good idea to play a major role in a child's decisions, helicopter parents often take this to the extreme.

The term “helicopter parent” was first coined in a 1969 book titled “Between Parent & Teenager.” The teen featured in the book reported his mother watched over him like a helicopter. Since then, many college administrators have used the term to refer to parents who continue to try and watch over their children from a distance after they have gone away to college and the term has spread to encompass all overprotective parents.

The Positive Aspects of Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter parents are certainly involved in their child’s lives which can be a good thing. You can count on the children of helicopter parents to arrive on time, to have their homework done, and to be prepared for their activities.

Helicopter parents of younger children and teenagers are likely to know where their kids are at all times, which is an important safety consideration. They are also likely to be very aware of who their child is with and how their child is doing in school.

The Problems With Helicopter Parenting

Growing up with helicopter parents also has some drawbacks. Potential problems include:

  • Kids lack problem-solving skills: Kids of all ages need problem-solving skills. Whether you have a 5-year-old who needs to learn how to sound out words or a 25-year-old who can’t find a job, kids need to know how to solve their own problems. When parents solve all of their child’s problems, kids don’t learn these valuable problem-solving skills
  • Helicopter parenting leads to dependence: Helicopter parents do so much for their kids that it can make their kids dependent upon them. If a mother calls her 19-year-old to wake him up each morning to ensure he gets to class on time, he won’t learn how to do this for himself. Parents should be helping kids learn how to survive without them.
  • Kids don’t learn to advocate for themselves: Helicopter parents usually advocate for their children, rather than teaching their children to advocate for themselves. It’s important for kids to be able to ask questions, gain clarification and speak up when they need something. In the workforce, these kids won’t have Mom or Dad available to help them deal with a mean boss or challenging policy at the office.
  • Helicopter parenting shields kids from natural consequences: Kids need to face some natural consequences in life. After all, in situations where parents don’t intervene, kids are going to face natural consequences. Yet, most helicopter parents micromanage their children's activities in an attempt to prevent them from receiving any negative consequences.
  • Helicopter parenting interferes with the parent-child relationship: The actions of a helicopter parent may interfere with the parent-child relationship as well. Constantly nagging your child to get his homework done, or checking up on his every move, isn’t likely to make your child want to talk to you more. Instead, it may push your child away. 
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