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Friday, April 22, 2011

Helicopter Parenting (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

    Helicopter parent is a term used to describe parents who are extremely involved in their child’s experiences and problems, especially in academic institutions.  Like a helicopter, the parent hovers over the child and is not far from reach when they are called for so-called parental duties. This expression gained notoriety in the media when the Millenium Generation started reaching college age and their professors started complaining about The Baby Boomer parents complaining about their kids’ grades and in some cases, negotiating their child's grades.  Additionally, parents have entered their children’s workforce by negotiating their salary and benefits.  You say, this is ridiculous, I’m not one of those parents!

    Now, consider this.  Your school aged child repeatedly forgets to take their lunch to school. Like a loving parent, you repeatedly take the lunch to school so they will not go hungry. Or how about this, the weather has been chilly for the past few weeks and your child insists on not wearing the jacket to school every day for the past few weeks. So, do you let them go without a jacket or insists they wear one every chilly morning and potentially have a power struggle with your child?  Or this, your school aged child has a cell phone and you instruct them to call you multiple times during the day to report how their day is going.  It's been said by some that a cell phone is the longest umbilical cord in the history of mankind!  So, is this effective parenting or helicopter parenting?

    It is hard to know where you draw the line between being an appropriately involved parent and a helicopter parent.  However, many have argued that the implications of helicopter parenting are pretty serious and the side effects do not show up until these children enter college. At college age, they are expected to become independent and self-reliant.  Some of these expectations may include cooking for themselves, managing their finances, choosing their career path, etc.  This of course, begs the question:  Is it fair to expect your child to be autonomous when they have been so used to being rescued for the past eighteen or so years?

    Find out if you are heading in the path of becoming a helicopter parent by taking this quiz at:  Please note that this is just a fun exercise to give you an idea about the matter.

Interesting articles on helicopter parenting:,8599,1940395,00.html


  1. It's all such a fine line isn't it? Be involved, but not too involved. Discipline your kids, but not too harshly. Don't let them watch TV or play video games, but make sure they get some down time and they are not too over-scheduled. Add that to the constant guilt that seems to come with every new baby and it's a wonder parents aren't frozen in a state of fear and doubt.
    I took the quiz, by the way, and I am not a helicopter parent. But you know what - I could see it happening. Particularly with Marshall and Sam. The mere fact that I took the quiz shows at least some doubt on my part, right?

  2. I scored a 14 but it's hard to believe, seeing as how I'm a homeschooling mom ;-)

    But I have noticed that I've lightened up in the past year. Since Lucas is such a big kid, others expect more out of him than they normally would from other kids his age. So, I've started feeling like I should help him prepare for what others expect, as long as it fits what I want for him.

    It really is hard to find that right balance...

    Because you really can't start treating your 5/6 year olds the way you hope to treat your 18 year olds. That's not going to teach them how to be independent. In my opinion, it's only going to take away that base of support they're supposed to have to build on when it is time to venture out there in that scary world!

  3. Book Mommy: This is so true! I find myself writing prescriptions for tv time,computer time, number of "junk food", extracurricular activities, homework, chores, etc. to get a handle on things. Striking this balance of supporting my child and helping him gain independence is an evolving process.

  4. Laxmi13: You raise two good points. First, the dynamics involved when dealing with other people's expectations when it comes to your child. Usually, such folks want the best for your child, but this can complicate matters.
    Second, you are right in pointing out that you do have to treat your 5/6 year old child differently than your 18 year old. However, you can plant the seeds for independence very early on with age appropriate responsibilities (making bed, picking up trash, getting dressed, feeding themselves, etc.) so they are ready to lead adult lives in a complex world with endless demands.

  5. I scored a 14....11-19 Nice job! You’ve found a good balance between being too hands-off and too involved. Encourage your child to make some easy confidence-building decisions like choosing what to have for dinner, or where to go for a play date. Giving her a bit of freedom will benefit you both.

    I like to think about my goals for parenting my children. I feel like allowing our children to make decisions and do things on their own even when we know they are going to make a mistake is loving them. For example, when we teach our kids how to ride a bike, we have to let go. Yes, they are likely to fall (we clean their wound), but think about how exhilarating it is for them when they do it themselves and finally get it. This is a simplistic example.

  6. Anonymous: Learning how to ride a bike is an excellent example! To stay with this metaphor, it is inevitable that a child will fall when learning to ride a bike. However, you can prepare for this fall by wearing protective gear like a helmet and then the fall becomes less traumatic. So as a parent, letting your kids make mistakes is part of the learning process and the impact of those mistakes can be mitigated if parents equip their kids effectively. Protecting them from making these mistakes only makes the impact greater later in life. I see mistakes as building blocks to success. Thank you for sharing this example!