As cool as the phrase may sound, “helicopter parents” aren't certified pilots; the term refers to parents who hover a little too closely over their kids. Helicopter parents lean heavily to the overprotective side, partake in a whole lot of hand-holding and generally maintain the same level of parenting from a child's birth through her college years. For children, this causes potential effects ranging from anxiety to depression to incompetence. While each parent-child relationship requires its own delicate and distinct balance of independence and support, there are certain changes you can make right off the bat to slow the whirring of the blades.
Avoid doing for your child what he can do for himself. Make this your golden rule, regardless of your child's age. If he can lift a spoon to his mouth, he can eat without your help; if he can read and operate a calender, he can schedule his own college courses. Encouragement never hurts, but your child builds confidence and competence by doing things on his own.
Manage your telephone time. Too many phone calls are a red flag for helicopter parenting. If you call your child three times a day, shave it down to two, then one and then once every couple of days. The same goes for unnecessary texting and social networking.
Use the words “it's up to you” more often, especially as your child grows. While parental guidance and support are invaluable, you can leave many decisions up to your child. If she constantly consults you on day-to-day tasks such as regular purchasing decisions or minor conflicts with friends, tell her that the decision is hers. These words go a long way in encouraging your child's sense of independence; they teach preteens, teens and young adults how to make their own way in the world and build a little confidence to boot. Apply this philosophy to major choices for growing kids, to a lesser extent. While your input and experience may help your child choose a college, for example, milestone decisions must ultimately lie with her.
Step in only when you're needed. As the flip side to your golden rule, there will be times when your child needs your help. Approach every situation by asking yourself if it is truly out of your child's control. If it is, feel free to lend a hand. Watch out for patterns; for instance, a teenager with his first bank account is likely to overdraw at least once, but if it happens again and again, don't make excuses for your child's bad behavior. If your child's mistakes causes consequences, let him deal with them. As the parenting website Kidspot Australia points out, “the toughest trees grow in the windiest conditions.”
- Indiana University: “Helicopter Parents” Stir Up Anxiety, Depression
- The New York Times: Helicopter Parents Make Child Miss Milestones
- Time: Hover No More: Helicopter Parents May Breed Depression and Incompetence in Their Children
- Kidspot Australia: The Risks of Being a Helicopter Parent
- Education.com: Hover Much? 6 Helicopter Parenting Moves to Avoid
- J.T. O'Donnell Career Insights: Stop Hovering! 10 Rules for Effective Elevator Parenting
- Photo Credit D. Anschutz/Digital Vision/Getty Images