Are you a “helicopter parent”?

Below are three articles on helicopter parenting, on how to found out if you are “helicopter parent” who hovers around your child and controls every decision made, the demerits and the merits of helicopter parenting.

Asian parents are on the whole, extremely concerned about education and academics, and dedicate much of their energies to supporting their children in the pursuit of academic achievement. Helicoptering comes quite naturally as such. In Japan, they call them “kyoiku mamas” (education mothers); in Singapore the “kiasu mothers”; in Hong Kong, I have seen parents drive to the varsity to help kids furnish their dorms, etc.

Being an Asian parent, I am innately a “helicopter parent”. But by a stroke of fate, my own two kids each have by nature such a stubborn independent streak (who from ages two would never let me so much as decide which socks or clothes they could put on, let alone other major decisions), so that I now just bite my lips and swallow my urge to “hover” and direct.

Instead, I watch on the sidelines while they make their decisions, what activities to pursue, what kind of academic help they want (tuition, juku cramschool, etc). And when I feel the need to intervene I have to use logic, negotiation and incentives, cajoling or resort to democracy or reverse psychology on my kids to get compliance or reach some sensible and desirable decisions and outcomes.

Believe me, it is exhausting, I’d much rather be a “helicopter parent”. Since my kids will not let me “helicopter parent” them however much I’d like to, it was with great surprise and delight when I heard my son recently say to me, “Mum, when it becomes time for me to make a career decision, I’m glad you’ll be around to give me lots of advice.”

Anyhow, for better or for worse, read on for the merits and demerits of helicopter parenting…

How Not to Be a Helicopter Parent

You may have heard the term “helicopter parent.” More and more colleges and universities are using it. But what exactly does it mean? Helicopter parents hover. They are always on the lookout for threats to their children’s success and happiness. If a problem does surface, these parents are ready to swoop in and save the day.
In recent years, colleges have reported that helicopter parents are making their presence felt on campus. They are intervening in roommate disputes, registering their children for classes, and questioning professors’ grades. The consequences of such behavior have been negative for students, parents, and colleges.


How Do You Know If You’re a Helicopter Parent?

If the following items describe you, then you’re probably overmanaging your child’s life:

You are in constant contact with your child.

Cell phones have led to frequent communication between parents and children. If you dial your child’s number every day or multiple times each day, then you are hovering. And if your child calls home at any sign of stress or trouble, you are likely overinvolved.

You are in constant contact with school administration.

One of the main goals of going to college is for kids to grow into independent adults who can direct their own affairs. If you’re emailing or phoning school officials on a regular basis to resolve your child’s conflicts, then you are overmanaging.

You make your child’s academic decisions.

If you are choosing courses, majors, and a career path for your child, then you are too involved. Giving advice or input is certainly acceptable and warranted, but being in control of these types of decisions is a sure sign of hovering. On that note, if you ever find yourself doing research or writing a paper for your child, you are definitely a helicopter parent.

You feel bad about yourself if your child does not do well.

If you consider schooling an experience involving both parent and child, then you probably view your child’s accomplishments, or lack thereof, as a reflection on you. Helicopter parents base their own self-worth on their children’s success. If you feel like a failure when your child fails, you are hovering.

What Are the Negative Effects of Helicopter Parenting?

Parents may have complex reasons for hovering. No matter what the motive is though, the results of doing so are negative for everyone involved. Harmful effects of helicopter parenting include the following:

Children’s growth is stunted.

Helicopter parents seem to be stunting their children’s maturation. Numerous students are arriving at college without basic social and survival skills. They lack knowledge about how to negotiate for what they need, to coexist with other people in shared living quarters, to stay safe, and to solve their own problems. With their parents always ready to step in, kids are failing to learn accountability and responsibility.

Parents feel more anxiety.

Research indicates that helicopter parents’ mental health is suffering. One study released by the Society for Research in Child Development in Atlanta states that parents who judge their own self-worth by their children’s accomplishments report sadness, negative self-image, and diminished contentment with life in general. According to Peter N. Stearns, provost of George Mason University, parents’ anxiety and dissatisfaction with life have markedly increased during the past 20 years because of overinvolvement in their children’s lives.

Colleges must use their resources to deal with helicopter parents.

Colleges are taking steps to mitigate the influence of helicopter parents. Some are holding extra parental orientation sessions, some are hiring staff members to field parents’ phone calls and emails, and some are employing “bouncers” to keep parents at bay. All of these plans require monetary resources, and parents will end up financing them through increased tuition costs.

How Can You Help Without Hovering?

Of course, it’s never too late to plant your feet firmly on the ground. Here are some suggestions to help you distance yourself while fostering independence in your child:

Let your child call you.

Avoid the temptation to phone every day. When your child does call, listen and give appropriate input, but refrain from decision making. Also, encourage your child to try to solve problems on his own before dialing home. Ultimately, this will help your child to develop self-confidence and self-management skills.

Stay out of roommate, social, and grading disputes.

Help your child learn to be a strong self-advocate. If you rush to the rescue at every turn, your child will have difficulty taking responsibility in the future. Growing up can be tough, but if you try to eliminate any discomfort or conflict, your child will have trouble functioning as an adult.

Take a coaching role in the area of finance.

Parents certainly want to make sure their children graduate in four years, and navigating college finances can be daunting for students. However, parents miss an opportunity to teach kids fiscal responsibility if they take total control of all economic matters. Working together to plan and budget is your best bet.

Engage in activities that are personally rewarding.

Parents who have interests of their own will find themselves less invested in their children’s happiness. This is not to say that you should not care if your child is unhappy. However, if you are content with your own life, you can handle your child’s disappointments in stride and be an invaluable resource.

Be aware of the difference between helpful involvement and unproductive hovering.

When your child has experienced emotional or physical trauma, step in. If you notice disturbing behavior or personality changes, step in. If collegiate foul-ups are threatening your child’s education, step in. Otherwise, step back and let your child grow into a responsible, independent adult.


‘Helicopter parents’ hinder children’s learning

By Sarah Womack, Social Affairs Correspondent

The headmistress of a leading girls’ school has warned that “helicopter parenting” is preventing children from growing into healthy, self-sufficient adults.

What type of ‘parenting helicopter’ are you?

Vicky Tuck, the principal of Cheltenham Ladies’ College, claims that some mothers and fathers are hindering their child’s ability to learn and become self-sufficient because they are constantly hovering overhead, supervising and directing.

The trend towards parents confiding in their children and treating them like mini-counsellors is also preventing children from being carefree and learning from their mistakes, she believes.

The “least selfish thing” a parent can do for their child was send him or her to boarding school, she told The Daily Telegraph.

“Growing up is a slow process with ups and downs. Children need to work out who they are, with a lot of support, but not in an intrusive way,” said Mrs Tuck, whose school charges boarding fees of £24,528-a-year for girls aged 11 to 18.

The term “helicopter parenting” was coined by Madeleine Levine, an American clinical psychologist, who claimed in her book The Price of Privilege: “Kids are unbearably pressured not just to be good, but to be great; not just to be good at something, [but] to be good at everything.”

The rise of the mobile phone is often blamed for the explosion of helicopter parenting – it has been called “the world’s longest umbilical cord”.

Parents point to rising school and university fees and say they are just protecting their investment or acting like any other consumer.

But Mrs Tuck claims that parents are filling their child’s life with so many activities that children are “multi-tasking” at a very young age, while the parents’ tendency to “helicopter” leaves their child stressed and anxious.

She said: “We like girls to have a go at things here, but then to choose a few things they can pursue in depth. You will get much more gratification from a few things pursued with commitment and which you have a grasp of.

” Mrs Tuck, who has sons aged 21 and 24, said that there was a genuine anxiety among parents to make sure their child was “pumped with physical, cultural and intellectual stimulation – a feeling they will only develop if they are constantly active”.

Experts say the phenomenon of “smother love” has become an epidemic among babyboomers.

However, some academics say that the tendency can be maximised to the good.

Cary Anderson, of the University of Philadelphia, insists “helicopter parenting” isn’t always a negative thing – “it just depends on the helicopter”.

He claims that it is the “logical next step” when faced with a generation of students who rely on parents for advice and who actually listen to them, rather than rebelling in their teens and early 20s.

He advises parents to reinvent their role by becoming a “traffic helicopter” and helping their child to cultivate more independence.

He said: “You want to talk to them about were the pitfalls are and what the best route to follow is, but it’s ultimately the driver who makes the decision.”

Source: The Telegraph 27/12/2007

The above notwithstanding …

a recent study found that a high level of parental involvement correlates with a positive college experience.

The Benefits of Parental Involvement

There is mounting evidence that parents should take more rather than less interest in their children’s education. In a review of research studies, the Harvard Family Research Project found that teens whose parents play an active role do better in school and are more likely to enroll in college. Unfortunately, families tend to become less involved as their children progress through middle and high school.

Your teenager might even welcome your participation. The College Board and the Art & Science Group found that almost 30 percent of college-bound seniors surveyed wished their parents did more to help them look for and apply to colleges. Only 6 percent wanted their parents to do less.

How many parents went to extremes? Not as many as you might think. More than 30 percent of students surveyed said their parents were very involved in the college admissions process. But parents almost always stopped short of doing the work on their own. For example, only 1 percent of students reported that their parents wrote their application essays for them.

What about those students whose parents do get overly involved and continue to hover after they start college? According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, they are more engaged in their studies, taking part in more educational activities, and are more satisfied with their college experience. It’s important to note that the survey defined helicopter parents as those who often meet with campus officials to solve their child’s problems.

The study also found that the children of helicopter parents earned lower grades. But the report doesn’t blame parental intervention. Rather, it theorizes that parents take action because their children struggle in school.

A Healthy Balance

So is there such a thing as too much parental involvement after all? Yes. While participation in a child’s education is encouraged, parents should respect the needs of maturing teens. As children grow, they need to practice making their own decisions—with guidance from their parents. The Harvard report advises that teens need to face challenges that will build skills and self-esteem. They should take advantage of opportunities to shape their identity and speak their mind.

As you strive to maintain a healthy balance, try thinking of yourself as a coach. You’re there to provide structure, give advice, and serve as a role model, but it’s your child who needs to step up to the plate. Instead of keeping track of college application deadlines yourself, for example, work as a team to set up a calendar or weekly planner and let your child take charge of meeting those deadlines. You can also help by sharing your own strategies for staying organized.

Source: The

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5 thoughts on “Are you a “helicopter parent”?”

  1. In reading this very interesting post I was particularly struck by your statement: “Instead, I watch on the sidelines while they make their decisions, what activities to pursue, what kind of academic help they want.”
    I believe wholeheartedly that a child both needs the guidance of a parent AND also must learn to make her own decisions. It is in those instances that a child can learn about the consequences of her decisions and actions. By constantly hovering above a child and guiding them through every decision the child is not served well in the long run.

    1. We parents, many of us will be “hoverers” to different degrees. We will hover or dig our heels in and defend our positions on issues that matter to us. For some of us, it will be over table-manners, others homework, etc. I suspect there are a great many “Amy Chuas” or dragon-lady type parents out there than those who would own up to..

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