The term “helicopter parent” was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who claimed their parents hovered over them like a helicopter.
“Overparenting” is what Ann Dunnewold, Ph. D., a licensed psychologist and author of Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box, calls it.
“It means being involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and overperfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting,” Dr. Dunnewold explains.
But the problem is that there is a fine line between being a loving, caring, involved parent and being an over-involved, hovering parent; the tendency for parents is to become so involved that they lose perspective on what their kids really need. Many parents blur those lines and don’t even realize they are hovering.
Do you know when you’ve crossed that line?
You are a helicopter parent if:
- You act as if you are your child’s agent, always trying to prove that your son or daughter is smart, talented, or beautiful. This shows up in the form of constant bragging or trying to “sell” your kid to everyone you talk to.
- You jump in at the first sign of conflict between your child and another child. If your child is old enough to talk and reason, take a step back and see how she handles the situation; you might be surprised.
- You constantly shadow your small child, always playing with her and directing her behavior, instead of letting her have time to play alone and use her curiosity and creativity.
- As your child gets older, you plan out every day and fill it with activities so they will not be bored. You think that filling their time with scheduled events that are educational or that push them athletically or musically will make them more well-rounded individuals. The honest truth is that it’s good for kids to be bored now and then; it forces them to use their brains to come up with ways to entertain themselves.
- You want your child to get good grades, so you become their personal homework assistant. Let your kid do their own projects, for crying out loud! I can’t count how many science projects and dioramas I’ve seen that had strong parental influence. I always wondered how that kind of hovering benefitted the children. They certainly weren’t learning a whole bunch if Mom or Dad was doing most of the work.
- You fight your child’s battles in youth sports and in the classroom. When your child isn’t getting the playing time or can’t play the position he wants, you confront the coach. Your child can talk; let him handle it. When your child isn’t getting the grades you want, you confront the teacher as if it’s his or her fault. Your child can talk; why not let him talk to his teacher or perhaps you two talk about it and go to the teacher together? Especially if your child is in middle or high school.
Engaged parents give their kids love, acceptance, self-confidence, guidance, and opportunities to grow.
“The problem is that, once parenting becomes governed by fear and decisions based on what might happen, it is hard to keep in mind all the things kids learn when we are not right next to them or guiding each step,” Dr. Gilboa, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School, explains. “Failure and challenges teach kids new skills, and, most important, teach kids that they can handle failure and challenges.”
Janis Meredith, coach’s wife for 28 years and sports mom for 21, has been spreading the message of positive sports parenting for four years through her blog, podcast, and videos. She recently launched an at-home video course to help sports parents keep the sports dream alive for their kids, instead of pushing them away from competition. Learn more about the course, Parenting Your Child Through a Positive Youth Sports Experience.