Can parenting become ‘over-parenting’?

Or is it just another term to label parents? Here at m&i, we don’t like labels or stereotypes, especially when it comes to children and their mums and dads. One term that’s been flying around a lot recently is ‘helicopter parenting’. We’ve got the ins and outs of it, from where it came from to how it’s defined in real life.

What is it?

Helicopter parenting, though it seems like a term that could have been coined yesterday, was actually first used in the 1960s, albeit with the same meaning it has today. ‘Helicopter’ parents ‘hover’ around their kids, often taking too much part in their child’s actions and taking responsibility for both their failures and successes. It’s also described as ‘overparenting’, where a parent is over controlling, over perfecting, and overparenting in a way that is not responsible and ultimately detrimental to their children.

Who are helicopter parents?

Helicopter parents usually emerge when their children are a bit older, when they begin to do things for themselves. Helicopter parents ‘keep their children young’ in a way, completing small tasks for them like packing their lunch, making their bed, and managing exercise habits.

What drives a helicopter parent?

Fear

Fear for their children is instantly recognizable in all kinds of parents, but helicopter parents feel this fear more acutely. They desperately want their children to succeed and avoid all feelings of failure and rejection, and so take pains to ensure their children never experience hardships in life.

Anxiety

With most anxiety disorders the victim will often present solutions to their anxiety in the form of control. Anxiety usually develops from a lack of control of a situation. Or a feeling that a situation in life is out of control.

Peer pressure

Contrary to popular belief, peer pressure doesn’t disappear once we leave school; a fact parents know all too well. When parents see other parents getting overly involved in their child’s life, it can create feelings of guilt; guilt that they’re not as involved in Tara’s football team, or Johnny’s drama club as other parents are. This guilt drives them to become more and more involved in their child’s activities.

Overcompensation

Adults who experienced neglect as a child can cause them to overcompensate when it comes to their children.

What are the consequences of helicopter parenting?

While all helicopter parents start off with good intentions, it rarely works out that way for the children on the receiving end. Children whose parents indulged in ‘helicopter’ behaviour are more likely to suffer from:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Undeveloped coping skills
  • Increased anxiety
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Undeveloped life skills

What can you do?

Parents these days have the very difficult jobs of toeing this increasingly fine line between being labelled a helicopter parent or a neglectful parent. And it isn’t strictly fair to give parents such a slim margin in which to error. On top of this parents are required to see the full picture – to care for the child that their son or daughter is now, but to also influence the adult that they will become. And most parents want to give their children every opportunity in childhood so they succeed in adulthood.

Growing up isn’t easy, parents remember this and want to make life easy for their kids. But making a thirteen-year-old’s bed isn’t making life easy for them. It’s teaching them that they don’t have to make their bed in the morning.

Try to find those opportunities where you’re compelled to solve your child’s problems and take a small step back. See how the child goes about figuring it out and offer assistance when the child has done all he or she can to solve the problem. It may arise that the child needs guidance on what to do, but this doesn’t mean you should spoon feed or do it for them.

maternity & infant
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