Every parent wants his or her child to grow up to be well-adjusted, healthy adults. Sometimes, however, parenting gets in the way. Could there be such a thing as “over-parenting”? Parenting styles have changed greatly since the 1960s. In my opinion one of the most common and debilitating parenting styles is that of the helicopter parent. As a therapist I see adults on a regular basis who have been raised by these parents; parents who are so controlling that their children do not learn how to be social, how to make age appropriate decisions, and do not know how to learn from mistakes. These parents do their children’s homework or projects. They schedule and supervise play dates with an eagle eye. They call their child’s professor and beg that the “C” that Junior made be changed to an “A”. Did you know that every year before freshman orientation, college professors gather together to discuss how to handle this phenomenon?
“…parents who are so controlling that their children do not learn how to be social, how to make age appropriate decisions, and do not know how to learn from mistakes.”
Research is beginning to show an alarming trend. College freshman are more likely to suffer from depression and suicidal thinking. When a child has been hovered over for the first eighteen years of life, and then are released into the world, they do not know how to cope. Rather than being able to make age-appropriate decisions in their earlier years and developing confidence over their growing mastery, mom or dad has handled it.
Ways to Overcome Helicopter Parenting
1.) Allow children to resolve their own conflicts. If your child comes to you about a playground dispute, ask her “What are you going to do about it?” Have a conversation with your child about handling confrontation. Let her know that you are willing to listen, but be careful not to march into every dispute calling the teacher and making a fuss. More than likely this will embarrass your child over time and do more harm than good. Let her learn how to handle it and develop self-confidence.
2.) Don’t open the package that your child asks you to open right away. Kids are creative. Foster their creativity by giving them the chance to figure it out first.
3.) If a child chooses to waste time and not complete homework or study for a test, let him face the consequences of poor decision-making. Failure can be a great teacher. (Before you get up in arms reading this, part of the consequences of poor-decision making on the part of your child is the punishment you decide to give him for the poor grades.)
4.) Just say ‘no’ to being a short-order cook. Your child will learn over time to eat what is put before him. Children learn to be happier adults when they can be grateful for what they have. Giving a child six options for dinner tells them that they are entitled to whatever they want and that just is not the real world. His boss is not going to ask: “You can make $100,000 /year, $80,000/year, $75,000/year, $60,000/year, $40,000/year or $25,000/year. Your decision.”
5.) Allow your child free, unstructured time so that he can learn how to pacify himself on his own. Don’t schedule every moment of every day.The benefits of the above tips are great. A child who learns how to handle conflict is a child who grows to be an adult, who knows how to handle workplace drama. When you foster a child’s creativity by letting him figure out to do for himself, he may go out into the world and be a great innovator. A child who has been allowed to fail and learn from it could be the next Edison. How many times did it take him to make a working light bulb? A child who is allowed free time to explore and have creative play learns that he does not have to look to others to pacify himself and grows to be an adult that loves himself for his unique traits rather than expect others to make him complete.
Character Traits of Child Who Has Not Been Hovered Over
1.) A lack of “entitlement mentality”: This child copes well with delayed gratification, is patient, and knows that he will not always get his way.
2.) Self-worth, self-confidence, & a positive self-image: He is able to rely more upon himself and feels good about who he is and what he can do. He does not put himself down, but has a healthy dose of humility and resilience.
3.) Responsibility: He is learning to be independent and not default to his parents every time he makes a mistake.
4.) Mastery: He does not feel helpless; he is more trusting of his own abilities.
More and more adult children are moving back home with their parents. They struggle with navigating the work world and with having healthy relationships. They develop depression and anxiety because they have not learned how to cope. Helicopter parenting has not worked.