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Are You a Helicopter Parent?

What it means to be a helicopter parent…

Helicopter parents have a parenting style that includes overly hovering their children and being overly involved in their affairs. In most situations, helicopter parents want to take over and handle their children’s situations. It is usually not out of malicious intent and comes from a good place. Little do they know however, this can be quite detrimental to a growing child’s cognitive development and confidence in their decision-making skills.

You’re a helicopter parent if you consistently…

  1. You are quick to tell them how to complete a task before giving them a chance to figure it out on their own

  2. Answer for your child when adults ask them questions

  3. As soon as Karen comes home crying from a fight with Meg, you are quick to try to make it "better" by calling Meg's parents

  4. You are completing your child’s homework or papers yourself because you want to ensure it's done perfectly

  5. You don’t want your child helping in the kitchen or cleaning up because you fear your child can get hurt

  6. You call a college’s Chair of department after they did not accept your child into their school

  7. You are managing and keeping a close watch on your child’s exercise and diet habits

  8. Sheltering your child from failure and not allowing them to learn from their own mistakes

Effects Helicopter Parenting has on your Children…

Edward Deci and Richard Ryan published their Self-Determination Theory where they explained the 3 innate needs that all human beings need for healthy development are:

1-Basic need for autonomy

2-Basic need to be confident in one’s abilities and accomplishments

3-Basic need to feel they are loved and cared for

The closer we are to having these 3 basic needs met the more satisfied we are with our lives. A study was done to measure the effects of hovering parents in 2013. Research found being too involved or over-parenting in a child’s life undermined these 3 basic needs to different degrees.

Research has also shown that “children with helicopter parents may be less able to deal with challenging demands of growing up, especially with navigating the complex school environment” –Nicole B. Perry, PhD, University of Minnesota.

Helicopter parents often have children who show signs of low self-esteem. When parents solve problems for their children, then children may not develop the confidence and competence to solve their own problems. They second guess themselves when making decisions and ask others often what they should do in situations.

As kids enter their tween and teen years, they crave independence and privacy. Being a helicopter parent often strains the parent-child relationship. I can't tell you how many times in session a teen brings up the fact that he/she feels that the parent does not trust them or have embarrassed them. This is often times when a parent is trying to "fix" problems for the teen. Often times the teen has confided in the parent about something by venting or sharing about a situation and the parent has tried to "solve" the problem. Most of the time, the teen just wants you to listen and validate their feelings and NOT offer solutions. But instead, say things like "Wow you must be super upset about this. I trust you'll figure out a way to solve this."

Tips to avoid Helicopter Parenting…

Although parents come from a loving place and want the best for their children, being overbearing and not allowing your child to go through the cognitive processes of solving problems does more harm to their ability to be productive and function without struggling in society.

1- Remember that it's in your child’s best interest that they think through, solve problems themselves and fail a little in life. This is when we truly learn from our experiences as human beings.The truth is that our kids learn from failing, a whole lot more than they do from being rescued.

2- Observe your child and encourage them to work through matters. Encourage them to talk matters out and work through different emotions.

3- If you're itching to "fix", LEAVE THE ROOM. this will allow you to take a step back and allow them to move forward on their own.

4- Remind them only once. Then step back and let your kids rise to the occasion.

5- Stop taking responsibility for your kids’ actions. That subconscious impulse to excuse our kids’ actions because “we” didn’t remember to remind them. It's not doing them any good.

6- Focus on equipping your kids with the skills they need. So instead of running their HW to them mid-day, teach them how to organize their HW and backup so they remember next time.

7- Let them do things you KNOW they can figure out how to do or know how to do themselves. Letting them do for themselves what they’re really capable of doing. It's an opportunity to keep on giving them that moment of "victory" "I did that all by myself".

8- And of course, know when it's time to seek outside help from a mental health professional.

Click here to read more about therapy for children.

Click here to read more about therapy for teens.

Click here to read about parent consultations.

Gaithersburg, MD

Sources: - gref the development of their children

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