Helicopter parenting is a style of parenting that over-focuses on children by taking too much responsibility for their successes and failure…

I was once told that when we give birth to a child, we also give birth to two main emotions: guilt and worry.

We worry whether our child has eaten enough; is warm and safe enough; has the right friends or how our words and actions might affect him or her.

We feel guilty if we take time out for ourselves; have to say no sometimes, or when we go to work and not always available. We also can carry guilt when we are not always able to provide everything we feel they want and need.

Although these thoughts are quite natural, there are times when they can consume us, impacting our relationship with our children, and causing us to over-compensate, often leading to what is referred to as ‘helicopter parenting’.

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What is a helicopter parent?

The term ‘helicopter parent’ was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter.

The term became popular enough to become a dictionary entry in 2011.

It refers to a style of parenting that over-focuses on children by typically taking too much responsibility for their experiences and, specifically, their successes or failure. Parents sometimes do this, often sub-consciously, to help counter their own feelings of guilt and worry.

Remembering the balance

We all know that children benefit from feelings of love, acceptance and being cared for – which helps build self-confidence and a good foundation for growth. However, we should not forget that failures and challenges also teach them skills and show them that they have the ability to be able work through these.

Helicopter parenting can often lead to:

  • Decreased confidence and self-esteem: By being over-involved with our children, we can send a message to them that we do not trust or think they are capable of doing things on their own, which may lead to a lack of confidence.
  • Undeveloped coping skills and increased anxiety: Children learn mostly through experience. If we prevent them from experiencing all forms of loss, disappointment and failure, they will not learn valuable coping skills and may feel less competent in dealing with these stresses later on in life. This can also lead to heightened levels of anxiety and depression.
  • A sense of entitlement: By always having their social and school lives adjusted by their parents to best fit their needs, children can become used to having their own way. They might then struggle with certain social skills such as sharing and compromise, which can have an impact on their relationships as they grow older.
  • Undeveloped life skills: Parents who always tie shoes, clear plates, pack lunches, pick up dirty laundry and take responsibility for monitoring school work (even when their children are capable of doing so themselves) prevent their children from learning these skills and taking responsibility for themselves. They are then not able to experience and learn from the consequences of these tasks not getting done. At the same time it can often leave parents feeling exhausted and taken for granted.

Be conscious of the type of adult you are trying to raise

What we need to do is to balance our love, care and protection of our children with providing the enough space and freedom to be able to learn important life skills.

As parents, we need to be aware of their needs as a children right now, while being conscious of the type of adult we are trying to raise. This means that we need to let them struggle a bit and work through difficulties, allowing them to feel a sense of achievement or disappointments. When failures or challenges occur, we should help them work through these.

Allowing them to do age appropriate tasks and chores, and giving them an opportunity to try solve their own problems, will help build self-reliance and self-confidence.

While I believe that, as parents, we will not be able to avoid feelings of guilt and worry entirely, we should be able to not let them control us and how we take care of our children.

Article Reference: Parent.com: Better Parenting