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August 16th, 2017

So much has now been written about helicopter parenting that the term has now become a dictionary entry. First described in Dr Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Parents & Teenagers, it stemmed from teenagers who described their parents hovering over them like a helicopter. More and more cases of extreme helicopter parenting are being reported, from parents doing their child’s homework or choosing their child’s university degree and writing their tertiary assignments for them, through to parents wanting to accompany their child to job interviews and calling companies to negotiate their child’s salary. We all want the very best for our children, and it is natural to want to be closely engaged with them, but why is helicopter parenting becoming more common?

Research indicates that helicopter parenting may develop for many reasons, including;
–    A fear of consequences – for example, worrying about their child’s low academic grades.
–    Anxiety – for example, worrying about their child’s place in the future job market.
–    Overcompensation – for example, adults who were denied opportunities as children sometimes overcompensate with their children.
–    Peer pressure – for instance, observing other overprotecting parents and feeling guilty they are not involved enough with their child.

Helicopter parents have the best intentions, that is to try to protect children from negative experiences. However, children can fail to develop the appropriate autonomy for their age, which is particularly critical during the adolescent and young adult years. Studies have shown that helicopter parenting is related to young adults failing to develop the decision-making skills and independence to succeed at university and in the workplace. These young people, who have had their parents intervene on their behalf all their lives, believe that someone else should solve their problems for them.

Deborah Gilboa, M.D., founder of AskDoctorG.com offers this advice “As parents, we have a challenging job. We need to keep one eye on our children now – their stressors, strengths, emotions – and one eye on the adults we are trying to raise. Getting them from here to there involves some suffering, for our kids as well as for us. Remembering to look for opportunities to take one step back from solving our child’s problems will help us build the reliant, self-confident kids we need.”