Helicopter Parents: 12 Sure Signs You Are One Of Them

You might not want to admit it, but you could be a helicopter parent without knowing it. Here’s how it could be getting in the way of raising a resilient, independent child.

You might have heard of helicopter parents before, a parenting style that has been vilified for a generation of self-entitled, helpless children. We might not like to admit it, but we’ve all been helicopter parents – at least sometimes. Here, we dive deep into the topic to provide you with a better understanding of this parenting style. What are some typical traits of helicopter parents? What are the effects of parenting styles on child development? What can you do if you’re a helicopter parent? And how can you achieve the opposite and raise your child resilient?

Building resilience in children – an important goal for many parents to ensure the future success of their young ones – can be difficult. It begins with giving your child security that he is safe, providing an environment where he is loved. “The active ingredients in building resilience are supportive relationships,” according to child development experts(1). In that way, nurturing a strong relationship with your child bears some resemblance to the protection of helicopter parents. Yet the effects of helicopter parenting are often the opposite of resilience – leading to anxiety and depression. So where does it all go wrong?

What is Helicopter Parenting?

"Helicopter parenting" involves pouring an unhealthy amount of attention into your child's life. As the name implies, helicopter parents tend to hover over their children at all times.

From giving advice all the time to dealing with your children's issues yourself, helicopter parenting goes hand-in-hand with intruding into your children's lives – a lot.

Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Gleneagles Hospital Singapore, says that helicopter parenting is "maladaptive" behaviour, or actions that do not help a child adjust to a situation. Oftentimes, the parent is "overprotective, hovers around the child, and gets involved in his affairs and activities excessively".

Signs of Helicopter Parenting

There are many ways to identify whether you're a helicopter parent or not. Do any of these signs of helicopter parenting seem familiar to you?

Signs of Helicopter Parenting: Do you believe that…

1. Your main role as a parent is minimising pain in your child’s life?

2. A smooth life will help your child to grow up happily?

3. Your child shouldn’t experience painful or negative setbacks?

4. It's okay to intrude into your kid's social life, continuously giving them advice and listening to their problems?

5. Your child may not be able to handle life's challenges, such that you call them excessively throughout the day until even they become anxious?

Signs of Helicopter Parenting: You...

6. Handle your children's social issues by talking it out with the adults who could be responsible.

7. Finish your child's assignments for them and ask teachers for an extra grade.

8. Preach to your child's teachers after class, telling them what they should be doing.

9. Keep your child within your sight at all times when possible.

10. Organise your older child's room, wash and fold your teenager's clothes, even though they are quite capable of doing such tasks themselves.

11. Don't let them take any risks.

12. Don't accept failure in your child.

Why Helicopter Parenting Doesn't Work

Helicopter parents overly shield their children from a huge range of issues. They may go so far as solving the child's problems themselves.

While such parents have the best intentions at heart, the reality is they could be harming their child's development.

Here is how helicopter parenting does not help your child.

● Helicopter parents want to find easy ways to prevent their children from getting stressed, such as by doing their assignments or chores. However, some frustration can be good as it helps your child improve his problem-solving skills. Meanwhile chores can teach your     child how to be self-reliant.

● They think they know how to best guide their children's physical activities. However, when it comes to sports and teamwork, too much hand-holding only deprives your child of learning and adapting to new experiences, such as resolving conflicts, cooperating, leading others towards a common goal, and persevering through defeat. They can only learn these skills by experiencing them on their own.

● Some parents strip children of the opportunity to be independent when they keep them by their side all the time. However, doing so only reduces your child's self-confidence, adaptability towards the world’s challenges and may even lead to aggression and/or depression.

● They want to protect their children by not allowing them to take any risks. However, not taking any risks at all can hamper one's mental and physical growth.

● They won't accept the child's mistakes, instead taking over the tasks that their child has to do. However, doing so will only deny your children a chance to learn how to persevere from trial and error. Trial and error allows your children to teach themselves, and eventually, how to navigate the world or resolve issues later in life.

Effects of Helicopter Parenting

Although helicopter parenting may come from the best of intentions, it comes with a lot of negative consequences for the child. According to experts and helicopter parenting statistics(2), children are at risk of developing behavioural problems when they grow older.

With extensive helicopter parenting, your child could become:

Anxious and depressed. Helicopter parents can also force unfeasible expectations onto their children, who become self-critical, faulting themselves even for the slightest of errors. Over time, this behaviour can slowly develop into anxiety and depression.

Developing low self-esteem. Previous studies(3) have shown that children whose parents don't care for their children, or don't give them opportunities to improve via trial and error, were at risk of perceiving themselves as worthless.

Extreme dependence. By doing everything for your children instead of letting them figure it out on their own, you're creating a situation of dependency. Your children will only ever see you as the solution, even in adulthood. Always remember that struggling is actually     good, as it helps a person learn how to do things better and sharpening the ability to adapt to any situation that they are thrown in.

Aggressive and impatient to their peers. Parents who over-impose their authority and intervene too much in their children's lives can make them feel as though they're not in control and unable to rely on themselves. In response, their children uphold their own influence by becoming irritable(4) when talking to peers.

Overweight. Helicopter parents tend to limit their children's outdoor playtime activities (to avoid injuries, mostly). This often results in children sitting indoors. Most of the time they'll be in front of a TV or computer. And this deprives them of opportunities to develop social skills and exercise.

A study by the University College London(5) has discovered that children brought up with parents who did not impose as much psychological control over them become happier, more satisfied adults.

Helicopter Parents, Here’s What You Can Do About It

There are ways to curb the signs of helicopter parenting. Here are some practical tips:

Don't Punish Mistakes

● Trust kids with tasks that are age-and developmentally-appropriate.

● Equip children with the skills needed to complete a task.

● Encourage them to make mistakes but be ready to guide them when they do so. The aim is to teach them life lessons so that they can learn how to be resilient.

● Observe how your child deals with frustration first before intervening.

● It's fine to let your child get a few minor injuries. Remember: the point is to keep him as protected as needed, not as protected as possible.

Making your child feel safe and trusted in your hands is an important way to guide them properly. (Image Design by Jcomp/Freepik)

Open Communication Channels

● Listen to your children intently, especially with regard to social conflicts. Support them as they talk and let them express their full range of emotions. Then, teach them to soothe themselves and find ways to resolve the issue.

● Reassure them that you care for them before helping them solve a problem.

● Engage them in conversation that helps stimulate their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

● Be vulnerable and let your kids see you struggle(6). They will learn about perseverance, which might even set them up for future success.

Teach Them Independence

● Emphasise how their struggles can be an opportunity for learning and collaboration.

● Highlight the importance of the process over the results.

● Let your children solve problems on their own, as it helps them learn to become mentally stronger. Let them test their limits. Celebrate their efforts, not just their successes, especially when they persevered through difficult problems.

● Don't forget to start small, and don't push further if they can't take it. Let them explore their own passions that they naturally excel in, instead.

● Teach your child to talk to his own peers or teachers if he has issues with them.

Parents, remember that it's alright to be involved in your children's lives. But it's impossible to protect or advise them 24/7.

“Putting yourself out of your job” as a parent is the only way you’ll know you’ve successfully raised an adult.

Article sourced from theAsianparent Malaysia:

12 signs you may be a helicopter parent