To understand if you are a helicopter parent, you have to know what it means to be a helicopter parent. The term “helicopter parent” is used to define a parent who engage in over-parenting his/her children. Helicopter parents often are obsessed with their children’s education, safety, extracurricular activities, and other aspects of their children’s lives. When other parents inquire about the overprotection, helicopter parents defend their parenting practices saying they are looking out for their children’s safety and education.
Here are some ways to know if you’re a helicopter parent:
- You hover.
A helicopter parent stays right by his/her child’s side and doesn’t move. S/he gives instructions, questions, decisions, and moves right in if his/her child shows any signs of distress. Helicopter parents do not give their children any space.
2. Your child is stifled.
A child of a helicopter parent might feel like s/he has to do everything just right otherwise his/her parent will just take over. The child doesn’t get to develop his/her own ideas, likes, or creations because the helicopter parent is always there directing him/her and influencing the choices. The helicopter parent might say “try it this way. Or I have an idea for you. You need to try it this way.”
3. You’re uptight.
If we as parents are on edge, our children will be too. Children watch us and can become fearful and tense. If your child makes a mistake or falls down, watch and let your child pick him/herself up. We can’t protect them from every danger.
4. You live your child’s life.
The helicopter parent includes him/herself in the child’s plan. For example, “We have a science exam. How are we going to get ready for your game on Saturday. What are some steps we can take on work on your service hours’.” Let your child plan more of his/her way and be more of the originator of his/her own life. Your child will benefit from choosing his own path and learning from his/her own mistakes. As long as those mistakes won’t have major consequences, let them happen. Obviously, there will be times when you do need to step in.
5. Your child is not maturing.
Children learn by being taught, but they also learn by doing things on their own, by bringing those lessons to life in the real world. With each year, children should be able to handle more freedom and more choices. If you are still involved with the same level of involvement from previous year, you might be holding your child’s maturity back.
While helicopter parents exist for elementary age children, parenting your preteens and teenagers with these helicopter parenting techniques might affect your child’s self esteem as they reach for more freedom and independence. One of the goals of parenting is raise children who can think for themselves, problem solve, and live independently. There are three innate needs of all human beings for healthy development which are the basic need for autonomy; the basic need to be confident in one’s abilities and accomplishments; and the basic need to feel they are loved and cared for. The closer we are to having these basic needs met the more satisfied we are with our lives. There have been studies that over-parenting undermines the basic needs for healthy development. When parents solve problems for their children, children may not develop the confidence and competence to solve their own problems.
If you have been a helicopter parent, you can break some of those over-parenting habits and hovering to save your relationship with your teenager and help your child to build his/her self esteem.
- Take stock.
Think about things that you have done for your child that s/he could be doing for him/herself. You can make a list.
2. Use a realistic approach to stop over-parenting.
Figure out what things you can give up now and allow your child to do those things now. Then, highlight with color for those items you can give another 6 months until your child can take over. Finally, those items that your child can take over in a year should be highlighted in another color.
3. Accept that their work will not be perfect.
Learn to give feedback when asked and that the work completed will not be perfect when done.
4. Let them fight their own battles.
Let your child handle his/her own battles with friends and others on his/her own. You can be an ear or a shoulder to lean on. Just listen and let your teenager vent. Only when asked to provide some assistance for solutions do you offer your opinions.
5. Let them take risks.
Let your teenager take some risks even if it makes you nauseous and anxious. His/her confidence will grow by taking the risk. If s/he fails, then s/he will learn from the mistakes how to be more successful in the future.
6. Let consequences stand.
If your teenager received a bad grade, do not contact his/her teacher to resolve the grade. Your teenager needs to take responsibility for the grade and work to improve his/her grade in the class.
7. Learn to leave the room.
If you feel the need to jump in to help and take over a situation, leave the room and/or the situation. Let your teenager be and allow him/her to be on his/her own to take care of the situation.
8. Journal the experience.
Write down what you have been experiencing. If you have an impulse, question, struggle, writing it down will help you to process the experience. It will also give you some distance from the situation.
The bottom line is to listen to your teenager. As a parent, we need to recognize we are not our child’s friend, reliving our own childhood, or sanitizing our child’s life by working to keep our child safe and make all of their decisions. If we work so hard to sanitize their lives and live their lives, then they can’t be themselves and live to their full potentials. Parenting is difficult and we want to protect our children especially when they pull away from us to be independent.