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How to Stop Helicopter Parenting

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We've all heard the term "Helicopter Parent," but what is it and could we be one without knowing it? Certified Parent Educator and Family Coach, Kim DeMarchi, M. Ed., stopped by to help us stop hovering. Get more great tips from Kim on her Passport to Parenting Facebook page and on Kids in the House.

Who are these helicopter parents?

No one sets out to become a helicopter parent. In fact, most helicopter parents set out with the very best of intentions: They want to be involved in their children’s lives, after all, and they want their children to feel loved, safe, confident, and supported.

But somewhere along the line, this well-intentioned style of parenting becomes “over” parenting—when moms and dads are too involved, too controlling, and constantly problem-solving on a child's behalf.

What is the problem with this hover-and-swoop approach to parenting?

When we’re overly involved in our children’s lives, activities, art projects, or social interactions, we’re communicating to a child that she isn’t trusted or able to do things on her own. If we’re always there to fix the mistakes or prevent a problem from happening, a child may begin to feel incompetent—or unable to handle mistakes, which of course are inevitable. (We’re all human after all.) Helicopter parenting discourages self-reliance and independence, and undermines confidence and resilience—traits most of us would like our children to exhibit in adulthood.

What are some examples of how a helicopter parent operates, how it ends up making a child feel, —and a more positive approach?

Do any of these apply to you and your parenting:

  1. Are you quick to provide the puzzle piece to your child upon the slightest struggle? It makes him feel like he can’t solve his problems. Let him tackle some things on his own to find a solution - he’ll learn accountability and responsibility.
  2. Do you cut up all your child’s food? It probably makes him feel incompetent in his own skills. Allow him to use child appropriate knives, fail, try again, and repeat until successful - he’ll learn resilience and autonomy.
  3. Are you answering questions the preschool teacher is asking your child? It actually makes him feel unheard and not valued. Let him use his own voice, with his own words and own opinion - he’ll learn the value of being heard and valuable.
  4. Do you retrieve your child’s toy from another child who snatches it away? Doing so will make him feel he is lacking in his own abilities. Let him fight his own battles - he’ll learn the power of problem solving.
  5. Do you hover while your child is climbing on the play structure at the park? It actually makes him feel more fearful and unwilling to take risks. Allow him the freedom to explore in a safe environment - he’ll learn competence and confidence.

Here is a helpful quote to remember during parenting: Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.