Don't Be a Helicopter Parent!

Kathy Masarie MD, author of Raising our Sons and Raising our Daughters, explained what "helicopter parenting" means and how parents can learn to let go a little bit. To get to Kathy's website click here.

1. What is helicopter parenting?
I love Wikipedia’s definition:
“….a parent who pays extremely close attention to his or her child’s experiences and problems. These parents rush to prevent any harm or failure from befalling their children and won’t let them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children's wishes. They are so named because, like helicopters, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach of their child.”

2. What are some examples of what helicopter parents do?
a. Turn what every parent’s job is – to nurture and support our kids to an extreme sport.
b. Think good parenting means our child never fails and never has a bad day.
c. Wrap your own identity and self worth in the accomplishments of our children-especially at school and in sports
i. Are embarrassed when your child fails- that it reflects poorly on you
ii. Fight your child's battles for him/her, such as protesting an unfair grade
iii. Take over your child's school projects
iv. Start sentences about your child with "we," as in "We are trying out for the classic soccer team.”
v. Equate "love" with "success"
d. Are preoccupied and overly involved with the details of a child's activities, practices, schedules and performances to the point of lurking on social networking sites and reading text messages.

3. What motivates parents to helicopter?
a. We want to be better, more involved parents than our parents were for us.
b. We are worried about our children’s safety.
c. We have the tools.
i. We have 24/7 connection. The cell phone has become "the world’s longest umbilical cord.”
ii. We have enough wealth to focus our energy beyond food and shelter.
d. We want our kids to have a great childhood and be happy- free of pain and struggle.
e. Want our kids to turn out as best as they can be even better than they than they are

4. What does helicopter parenting look like once the kids become young adults?
a. We are paying a lot of money for our kids to go to school and we want to protect our investment. Competition for college spots and jobs is a real problem for our kids.
b. Again- we sometimes take this to the extreme like at my daughters high end college- where one dad called his daughter every day to make sure she got up to go to class.
c. Parents have been caught writing their kids entrance essay or registering their kids for classes, "Black Hawk parents," has been coined for those who cross the line from a mere excess of zeal to unethical behavior, such as writing their children's college admission essays.
d. One mom flew from SLC to Harvard to protest your child’s biology grade
e. Colleges and now even companies are actually hiring extra staff to ward off helicopter parents.
f. How can a 22-year-old who can’t address setbacks, disappointments, goals and progress at the university level, adjust to a complex job situation and an independent adult life?

5. What is the message we are giving our kids when we helicopter?
a. “You are helpless and fragile and need me to run interference for you.”
b. “You can’t make it in life without me”

6. What can happen to helicopter parents themselves?
a. Stress and sadness
i. A study by the Society for Research in Child Development determined that helicopter parents reported "more sadness, crying and negative beliefs about themselves, and less joy, contentment and life satisfaction," whether the children were succeeding or failing.
b. They don’t get the results they want-
i. kids become more incompetent as they grow, cry “HELP” for the littlest problem and are not successful in life
ii. Jim Faye of Love and Logic goes so far as to list  “helicoptering” as a parenting style that does not work
c. They get so exhausted they just quit- drop the ball completely and abandon parenting. One young adult said: “I am the adult child of helicopter parents. Believe me, life is no picnic. They have spoon fed me everything my whole life but they are finally tired of it and now I am supposed to figure things out on my own and make a life for myself. I honestly can’t. I don’t have any real life skills and abilities to even pretend to be a capable adult….Helicoptoring is very damaging to development. Don’t do it.”

7. How can a parent learn/back off/change when we see our kid struggling or unhappy?
a. The most important lesson a child can learn from his/her childhood
i. My life is the result of my choices.
ii. If I don’t like how it is going, I can change what I do or what I want or both
iii. I am resilient and capable of making my life work for me
b. As their parent
i. Ask yourself daily- “Is what I am about to say or do going to lead to my child becoming independent and competent.
ii. Allow every opportunity for your child to practice making his/her own decisions.  Think of yourself as a life coach who provides structure, and gives suggestions. However, your child needs to “step up to the plate.” Start small when they are young and gradually give them more responsibility as they grow.
iii. Allow kids to make mistakes- the earlier you start letting them make decisions- the smaller the consequences. The kid learns from mistakes that
1. I am ok if I make mistakes
2. I can “make it right” when I make a mistake
iv. Offer support rather than rescue. Communicate that you are not going to step in every time a child needs help. We can ask our kids, “What are you going to do to solve this problem?"
v. Model healthy listening and conflict skills. If a parent “bullies” a teacher or administrator into doing what they want, the message the kids learn is: “Might makes right.” 
c. Connect and communicate with your child. When your kid complains about an unfair math grade, get curious about what your child sees as the problem behind it rather than storm the school. It may be s/he just wants to vent or that your child doesn’t realize the value of completing an unpleasant task in realizing a long term goal (of getting into the college he/she wants).
d. Be involved in your child’s education. 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. Communicate regularly with the teacher, volunteer on projects the teacher or school needs in ways that don’t stress you out.

8. Jane Nelson, author of many books on Positive Discipline says it best
“Never do for a child what a child can do for themselves.”


Raising our Daughters Parenting Guide and Raising our Sons Parenting Guide
by Kathy Masarie MD, Kathy Keller Jones, MA and Jody Bellant Scheer MD
Offers elaboration on this topic and hundreds more. A great resource for parents. For more information click here.

Mom Needs an “A:” hovering, hyper-involved parents the topic of a landmark study By Kay Randall  Click here.
8 ways to avoid-helicopter parenting. Click here.
Dear Parents” Please Relax – Its Just Camp. Click here.
Helicopter parents hove when kids job hunt. Click here.

 Tucking the Kids In -- in the Dorm: Colleges Ward Off Overinvolved Parents. Click here.       


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