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Helicopter parents cause more problems than they fix

Original cartoon by Amanda Im

Original cartoon by Amanda Im

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They’re hovering over your shoulder. They’re creeping into your emails. They follow you everywhere, waiting for an opportunity to jump in and “fix” your problems.

“They” are helicopter parents. And they might be wrecking your lives.

A lot of people think helicopter parents are overprotective and overzealous moms and dads who micromanage their children’s every move, texting them constantly asking about updates of their day or doing final projects for them.

But it’s not always this extreme.

During my first year teaching, I had a mother of a freshman boy who insisted I write her daily emails outlining what we had done in class and whether her child had participated, had done well on a quiz, even whether he had asked to use the bathroom.  When I told her that I couldn’t possibly guarantee such detail, she told me, ‘Well, I think parent communication has really gone downhill.  When Josh was in kindergarten, I got a note home every day.’”

— Mrs. Hinshaw

The term “helicopter” comes from the idea that the parents “hover” over their child, ready to fix issues at the first sight of a problem or disappointment. This term includes a parent intervening for a child in an inappropriate manner, even if they just want to help them.

If a kid forgets his lunch or his homework, and his mom or dad swoop in with a gourmet meal or a laminated paper, the kid doesn’t have to deal with any negative consequences.

Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t have a safety net. Kids must learn to be resilient enough to solve their own problems.

If kids haven’t learned true maturity and problem-solving abilities in high school,  college can be a rude awakening. Students can crumble under the pressure because they’ve been shielded their whole lives.

They can’t call mom anymore to print out their paper for them, and their professors rarely care if they have a cough.

A dad who constantly emails his son’s teachers for daily updates or a mom who butts into friend drama are conditioning their children to look to someone else to take care of anything that might be difficult.

In more serious cases, parents can cover up big issues like cheating or underage drinking. Their children can develop a false understanding of personal responsibility and  disrespect for authority.  This promotes a narcissistic attitude– “Nothing will happen to me because my actions carry no consequences.”  

Helicopter parents are not only harmful to their kids’ autonomy, but are also harmful to their mental health.

A 2013 survey found that college students with inappropriate levels of parent intervention had higher levels of depression and decreased satisfaction with life. Younger kids were also more likely to be depressed, plus they had less of a chance to take control of their own lives and succeed on their own.

Just because a parent is super interested in their child’s life doesn’t mean that he or she is going to cause irreparable harm to that child’s mental health or that their kid is going to fail at life. There’s a fine line between interest and over-the-top.

Sometimes the best option might just be to watch their child make their own decisions and recover from their own mistakes.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Give me some space!”

  1. Denise Sebastiano on December 5th, 2015 7:07 am

    Thank you for addressing this issue. I have been teaching a long time and I can tell you that the parents who do this are doing a great disservice to their children. They need to realize that true learning in any form comes from mistakes made, responsibility and consequences. Love this article!

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