Dr. Robert A. LeVine (1974) proposed that there is a universal hierarchy in parents’ child-rearing goals: 1) Parents encourage healthy routines that contribute to their child’s physical health and survival, 2) parents teach important lessons and practices to ensure their child is economically independent at maturity (i.e., in adulthood), and 3) parents expose their child to experiences that maximize their obtainment of specific cultural values (i.e. prestigious personality traits, devotion to a religion, academic achievement, or personal satisfaction/self-realization/self-actualization).
For some parents, however, it isn’t as simple and straight-forward as this. Some parents tend to closely monitor their children, becoming so involved with their lives that they become invasive. They hover over their children, to the extent that they received the name “helicopter parents.”
Are you a Helicopter Parent?
As your child grows, it may be difficult to let go, especially as they approach an age where they begin wanting more independence and autonomy. Your eight year old may want to start walking to school alone, or your twelve year old might ask to extend their curfew by an hour or two.
All parents want the best for their children, they want them to grow up to be happy, healthy, and successful. However, there is a fine line between being loving your child and interfering with your child’s life. You might be a helicopter parent and not even realize it!
If some or all of the following situations sound familiar to you, you might just be a helicopter parent. Consider evaluating your parenting style, and how your child is responding to it. Perhaps they don’t need as much assistance as you may think. For now, let’s take a look at the seven signs that you should look out for, as well as how to remedy these situations if they occur.
- You do their school work.
It’s 9pm and your child tells you they have a project due tomorrow that they haven’t started. You find yourself doing more of it than they do.
Don’t: Do their work for them.
Do: Be available for help and encourage independent thinking. For example, discuss the contents of a book together, rather than writing the book report for them.
2. You’re constantly concerned about their safety.
You’re afraid of letting your child take the training wheels off their bike, climb trees, play on playgrounds, and get a few bumps and bruises.
Don’t: Try to bubble wrap your child and shield them from the world.
Do: Encourage safe behaviour (i.e. no playing with fire), but keep in mind that children learn through exploring. A minor bruise or scratch teaches them limits and boundaries.
3. You do the housework.
You find yourself acting as a maid for your child. You allow them to be free of responsibilities while you cook and clean.
Don’t: Handle all their chores for them.
Do: Give them a share of the housework to do, relative to their age and ability. You may think that they are too young or that it could be dangerous, but what happens when they move out without knowing how to use a washing machine, dishwasher, or stove?
4. You don’t give them physical space.
You insist on driving your child to their friend’s house, even if they’re only a short walk away. You don’t allow them to take public transit home from school. You insist on needing to know where they are at all times.
Don’t: Constantly monitor your child.
Do: Set reasonable boundaries and curfews for them to follow. Be communicative about where they are going and what they are doing for safety, but give them independence and privacy. This builds trust between parents and children.
5. You pounce on their teachers.
Your child got a B on their essay that you definitely thought deserved an A+, and you take it personally.
Don’t: Visit your child’s classroom to berate or patronize their teacher.
Do: Review their work together and figure out what they can do next time to get that A! (Remember, don’t do their work for them). Children are resilient, they learn from both success and adversity.
6. You constantly call or text them.
The rise of technology means kids are getting cellphones earlier and earlier. Parents can call and text to check up on them; however, this becomes unhealthy when you use it as a tool to constantly monitor them – maybe you’re even using it to track their exact location. A University of Georgia professor, Richard Mullendore, stated that cell phones are “the world’s longest umbilical cord.”
Don’t: Expect your child to always be immediately available.
Do: Call or text your child for reasonable reasons, and communicate that you expect the same in return. Maybe they’re late for dinner and you want to know where they are, or you’ve gone out to get groceries. If you can’t give them this independence, you may want to hold off on getting them a phone for now.
7. You project your own goals and dreams.
An injury might have left you unable to continue playing your favourite sport, or you didn’t end up mastering an instrument after years of practice. You weren’t able to fulfill your dream as a child, so now you want your child to achieve the same goal you had, and you believe it’s what they want.
Don’t: Set your child’s goals for them or force them into specific extracurricular activities of your choosing. This can lead to resentment towards the activity, and even you, for making them do something they do not enjoy.
Do: Help them discover their own interests and passions. Expose them to a wide variety of activities. Support them in their growth and journey towards adolescence and adulthood.
Some of these situations may have sounded all too familiar to you, or maybe there was someone you were thinking of while reading this who might be a Helicopter Parent. Parenting is no easy feat, but you may be making your job more difficult than necessary.
Whether you’re a helicopter parent, or even a lawnmower, snowplow, or tiger parent, take a step back and evaluate some of the potentially detrimental parenting habits you have perhaps fallen into. Focus your energy on being present, supportive, and loving to your children, as opposed to being invasive or overly protective.
Author: Hillary Lee