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A helicopter parent is a parent who hovers over their children.
They are excessively overprotective and involved in their children’s lives in a manner that might be considered pathological.
It is often considered a parenting style with good intentions that often backfire.
Are you a helicopter parent? Let’s find out.
Warning Signs of a Helicopter Parent
Being overprotective is the primary sign of helicopter parenting. If you worry that your child will never be safe or fulfilled without you, you are probably a helicopter parent.
You still have time to eject from the helicopter and land with your feet on the ground.
The Nightmare Helicopter Parent
My friend Elsie* asked me if I would allow my children to attend a sleepover.
Her son had been invited to his best friend’s birthday party sleepover and wanted to go.
He felt he was old enough to make good, safe choices, but she was sure he wasn’t ready.
She and her husband were fighting because he thought she was being overprotective.
She wanted my input so I could settle the issue once and for all. Her son was 16.
Elsie is an extreme example.
She is the kind of helicopter parent that makes other helicopter parents cringe.
She refuses to work because her children, ages 14 and 16, might need her. They are not allowed to ride buses to school events because they might have an accident.
They are only allowed to eat homemade food and snacks because she doesn’t trust food made by other people.
The last time I spoke with her, she told me she had decided that her children would not go away to their chosen university but would instead live at home and either study online or attend a nearby college where they could commute.
This type of parent is harmful to parents as well as their children.
The kids never get the chance to grow up when they are constantly under the watchful eye of their parents. Likewise, the parent never gets a chance to relax.
The last time I saw Elsie, she was on the verge of a breakdown.
Her inability to let the children experience any part of life without her had taken over.
Make no mistake. Helicopter parenting is harmful.
Even if you are 1/10th the helicopter of my friend Elsie, you may wish to rethink your parenting style.
*name changed to protect the rotor
1. You don’t let your children make choices.
A parent should make choices for their children.
If I allowed my kids to make all of their own choices, my daughter would be wide awake at midnight every night, watching M3gan on an endless loop.
The difference between a responsible parent and a helicopter parent is that the helicopter parent makes all of their child’s choices.
They don’t allow their kids to make any decisions out of fear that they will make a mistake.
2. You regularly contact your child’s teachers for updates.
An involved parent may reach out to a child’s teacher if they are experiencing issues at school.
A helicopter parent will send weekly or even daily emails to teachers to ensure all is well.
They will ask for updates about their child’s performance, any classroom issues and areas for improvement.
The helicopter parent will then ensure the child is aware of this close relationship so that they will always be on their best behavior in class.
3. You complete their homework for them.
A helicopter parent doesn’t want their child to experience failure in any way.
Sometimes, this means they will take over homework, write essays, create science fair projects, and so on.
Not only does this not help children in any way, it also robs them of a true education.
4. You have the final say over your child’s friendships.
Your children are bound to make friends with kids you don’t know once they are in school.
Unless you choose to home school or have the luxury of a small, private education, there is virtually no way to know every child your own child meets during the day.
A helicopter parent will go out of their way to meet these children, investigate them and decide if they are suitable friendship material.
5. You solve all problems for your child.
A helicopter parent doesn’t want their child to ever feel pain or sadness. This includes fixing problems when or even before they arise.
Sometimes it includes fixing problems that don’t even exist.
I recently received a text from a helicopter parent who was concerned that her daughter wasn’t invited to my daughter’s birthday party sleepover.
I had to explain that my daughter wasn’t having a birthday party sleepover, which is why her daughter hadn’t been invited.
6. You attend your child’s social events even when unnecessary.
It is often an expectation for parents to attend social events with young children.
At around the age of five or six, the hosts of the party may tell parents to pick up children at the end of the party as they are old enough to enjoy the occasion with only a few adults present.
By age 13, the parties probably won’t include parents at all. A helicopter parent will insist on staying at these parties.
They will also invite themselves along to playdates, attend school dances and join in other events that are typically meant only for kids.
7. You have a nightly check of your child’s online activity.
This is a tough one.
We are taught to monitor our kids’ social media so we can be sure they aren’t being preyed upon or bullied.
We are also told to give our kids space to make mistakes.
While it is a good idea to do an occasional spot check of social media, daily or even weekly monitoring is a bit much.
It sends your child the message that you neither trust them nor value their privacy.
8. You don’t allow your child to take part in activities with even a small degree of risk.
There are some sports that carry with them an unacceptable degree of risk for many parents.
For many, these include contact sports like hockey, football or soccer. Others might consider extreme sports like mountain biking or snowboarding to be too dangerous for their children.
I personally know helicopter parents who don’t allow their children to run track, or swim because there are inherent dangers involved.
I am not saying that you should let your child take part in activities that are clearly dangerous.
I am saying that you should use reason and science when making these decisions.
9. Your children are not allowed to carry out age-appropriate responsibilities.
A helicopter parent will not let their children perform chores that meet their age guidelines.
They may fear the child will be injured.
They may also fear that the child will do the chore wrong. The helicopter parent finds it easier and safer to carry out these tasks alone.
10. You speak for your children.
The child of a helicopter parent doesn’t have a voice. The parent will speak for them in both social and private situations.
The helicopter parent will answer for the child when asked questions at a well-child checkup, a trip to the salon or a visit with family.
If you find yourself answering a question that was directed to your child, you might be a helicopter parent.
Being a helicopter parent is trying on you and your children.
If you find that you’re guilty of any of these tell-tale signs, think about what causes your behavior and seek methods to give your children some autonomy.
Do you worry about being a helicopter parent? Share in the comments!