A Definitive Guide to Understanding Helicopter Parenting: Signs, Effects & How to Avoid

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Welcome to our definitive guide on helicopter parenting!

Helicopter parenting is rather common in the world today, so much so that some of us parents may or may not be aware it. In this guide, we will go through the signs, the effects and how to avoid being a hovering parent to your kid.

But just what is helicopter parenting? 

Is it always negative? 

Could you be helicoptering? 

Let’s find out!

Chapter 1:

Introduction to Helicopter Parenting

In this chapter, we will talk a little bit about what it means by helicopter parenting.

We will also cover some of the common terms related to helicopter parenting.

Let’s dive in.

Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey

The Case of the Hovering Parent

The phrase helicopter parenting is commonplace today. It is used to describe parents who are so focused on their children it can prevent both the child and the parents from living a normal life. 

Even though the phrase and parenting style are well-known today, it hasn’t always been that way. 

The term helicopter parenting was officially added to the dictionary in 2011 but first appeared in publication in 1969. In Dr. Haim Ginott’s book, Parents & Teenagers teenagers used the phrase to describe a hovering parent. 

What is Helicopter Parenting?

The term helicopter parenting has been around for a while. It was first used by teenagers to describe moms or dads who hovered over them constantly, like a helicopter.

In the second decade of the 2000s, the term made a resurgence, being officially added to the dictionary. The formal definition of a helicopter parent is:

“A parent who is excessively involved in the life of his or her child”

It can be expanded to include terms like helicopter mom or helicopter dad. This refers to when a specific parent is the one overly focused on their offspring. 

Copter mommies, a colloquial spin-off, was made famous by a song parody. The song highlighted the tendencies of hovering parents.

A Definitive Guide to Helicopter parenting | Baby Journey
When you are obsessively watching after your kid and being too involved with their life, you could be helicoptering.

While having some involvement in your child’s life is great, helicopter parents take involvement to the next level, even greater than the love and adoration shown by grandparents. They are overly-involved and engage in over-parenting. 

Think of it as the opposite of free-range parenting. Neither parenting style may be ideal, but helicopter parenting can have deep-rooted causes that can be difficult to change. 

But why would a parent go to such lengths of parenting?

That’s what I’m going to cover in the next chapter.

Keep reading…

Chapter 2:

Causes of Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey
Source: Elyse Kelly
Let’s face it – it is natural to want to protect and shelter your child. When the doctor hands that sweet new baby to you, it is instinctual to want to protect them from all harm. 
 

But as we read from the helicopter parenting definition, sometimes this protection can go over and above. 

The cause? Parents may become overly involved in their child’s lives for a variety of reasons. These are what contribute to helicoptering:

Anxiety

It’s completely normal to worry about your kids. However, anxiety can send your worry into overdrive.
  
You may worry about the economy, your child’s future, stability, and more. This can lead to helicopter parenting; causing you to want to control every aspect of your child’s life to secure a happy and safe future for them. 

Fear of Helplessness and Rejection

Your worries may not only be about the future but about your child’s current happiness as well. Fear of the feeling of helplessness or rejection on the part of your child.

 
For example, if they are rejected from a team or unable to achieve a goal, this may drive helicopter parents to become immersed in their child’s lives.
 
 
In other words, they believe that their involvement will prevent their child from ever having to live through negative experiences. 

Overcompensation

Overcompensation stems from your experience as a child. If you felt unfulfilled, neglected, ignored, or even loved growing up, it is likely you will want your children to have a polar opposite childhood.
 
 
When these parents who lack adequate love and care grow up and have their own kids, they tend to feel the need to make up to their children as they believe their children deserve better.
 
 
This may cause helicopter parents to give an abundance of attention to their children. 

Sense of Purpose

Similarly, helicopter parenting can stem from needing a sense of purpose. Your goals are forced on your child, or alternatively, their goals (no matter their level of commitment) become your goals.

 
For instance, perhaps you’re a doctor by profession. You feel that it is a great career, you love the idea of helping the sick, and you love the job it entails. 

As a helicopter parent, you tend to exert the same ideas onto your kid – by forcing them to have the same goals and vision you have.

Similarly, that sense of purpose could be the other way round – you shoulder all your child’s goals. If your child aims to be a great musician, you make all the effort to study music as well, with the hopes of assisting your child to excel as a musician in every single step.

 
In short, the identity of the parent becomes fully invested in seeing their child succeed. 

Competition and Peer Pressure

Seeing other parents being involved in their children’s lives can trigger a sense of competition in parents. They want to do the most and be the most for their kids.
 
 
Even if other parents are too immersed in their children’s lives, peer-pressure can make us feel as if we don’t do the same, we aren’t good moms and dads. 

Child’s Personality and History

There is also a possibility that you weren’t a helicopter parent from the start until certain events during parenting happen, that trigger you to go into heliparenting to be in control of the situation. 

Maybe your child’s character or past experiences naturally drove you to helicopter parenting. 

Perhaps you always had to be very hands-on with your child to prevent meltdowns or shelter them from a bully.

 These tendencies could evolve into helicopter parenting.
A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey

Now that you know the various causes, let’s talk about the signs.

Chapter 3:

4 Obvious Signs That You're A Helicopter Parent

Knowing the causes isn’t enough – you should be able to identify the signs of helicopter parenting as well. 
 
Helicopter parenting can be present differently depending on the age of the children. However, the characteristics of helicopter parenting largely remain the same. 
 
The common tendencies of helicopter parenting include the following: 
Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey
Source: Flintobox

#1
Fighting For Your Child

Fighting for your child means fighting for their rights. This means that you don’t allow them to fight their own battles, whether it be a dispute over a toy with a friend or a grievance with a teacher about a grade. 

Helicopter parents largely take their child’s side and will fight for them no matter what. This can be to protect their kid’s feelings, protect their future, or both. 

#2
Always Having Disputes with Teachers and Coaches

More often than not, helicopter parents are the ones that are always in the school office. 

Not because their child is in trouble, but because they have a complaint. They are typically guilty of reprimanding their child’s teachers and coaches. 
 
Think about the parent yelling in the stands that their child should play more, or is being treated unfairly. These public displays of helicopter parenting can sometimes make us cringe. 

#3
Doing Work For Your Child

Another common sign of helicopter parenting includes protecting your child’s future at all costs. 
 
This can look like you doing their schoolwork for them so that they won’t have to deal with the outcome of bad grades. 
 
You never allow your child to fail, even if it would be best for them. 
 
Or, perhaps you become their maid. You clean up after them and take care of their messes so they don’t have to deal with any of the tough stuff. 
 
You keep carrying their schoolbags and textbooks and sports equipment all the time just so they don’t have to lift a finger to carry any of the burdens.

#4
Overprotective of Their Safety

Being overprotective is a major habit of helicopter moms and dads. They become their child’s shadow, constantly sticking with them all the time. 
 
Helicopter parents believe by being at their child’s side 24/7, they are able to protect them from safety hazards at home and outdoors, or anything that could hurt them physically, socially, or emotionally.
Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey

Not sure if you’re a helicopter parent after reading through those signs? Here, we further divide the parenting style into for different stages.

Helicopter Parenting at Different Ages & Stages

Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby JourneyNewborns & Infants

While the newborn and infant stage often requires attachment parenting to improve parent-child bonding, sometimes parents can go overboard when thinking about the potential dangers their little ones may face. This may then lead to helicopter parenting. 

In this stage helicopter parents may be overprotective of their child. They won’t take them out of the house, let others hold them, or even let their child leave their sight. These parents also tend to install baby monitors to watch over their child without miss. 

Some may consider these behaviors as just postpartum anxiety, but helicopter parents act on their worries on a more aggressive ground. They refuse to go on date nights, refuse to transition their child to a separate bedroom, or even take a shower for fear of letting someone else watch their baby.

They may also control what their child does, plays with, and eats obsessively. And they would do anything just to make sure their babies will not cry or get upset.
 
It is natural, and a good idea, to protect curious infants. But helicopter parents often spend too much time one-on-one with their child for fear of leaving their side. 
Toddlers
Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey
 
It may be a bit easier to spot a helicopter parent of a toddler. The characteristics largely still center around protecting their safety. 
 
Think about the mom or dad at the playground who is always within an inch of their child, ready to grab them should they stumble. Either at home or at the playground, their little one is never allowed to play by themselves, even if they are placed in a toddler playpen. 
 
Helicopter parents usually try to prevent any accidents, spills, or injuries, which means they stop their child from taking any age-appropriate risks. 
 
This may impede developmentally appropriate independence, which should be encouraged, not hindered.
  
Additionally, helicopter parents will start to be hyper-focused on their child’s future. They may constantly hound teachers or care-givers for updates, progress reports, and check-ins. 
Elementary Schoolers
Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey

Helicopter parents of elementary schoolers may exhibit more pronounced tendencies. 

Once their child enters grade school the threat to their future becomes more tangible. They will advocate for their child by filing grievances with the school, having disputes with teachers and coaches, and even try to hand-select their child’s teachers. 

They may also want to handpick their child’s friends. This can include enrolling them in groups or activities that their child may not show interest in, often signing their kid up without their input. 
 
Many helicopter parents complete a large portion of their child’s school work for them. They won’t allow their child to take risks or problem-solve, they would rather take care of everything for them. Not only that but heliparents also continue the use of baby monitoring systems when they should have stopped such use by this time.
Teens & Older
Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey

Since teens originally coined the phrase helicopter parenting, you can imagine that at this stage the characteristics are quite apparent. 

At school, parents fight teachers, staff, administrators, and coaches on their child’s behalf. They continue to complete schoolwork and projects for their child. 

They may even go as far as contacting colleges and universities for their kid. 

They also attempt to settle disagreements with those outside of school, including their child’s friends, peers, or employers. 

They don’t allow their kids to make age-appropriate choices, which includes taking age-appropriate risks and learning valuable life lessons. 

They become immersed in sheltering their child from any disappointment and preparing a way for a smooth future.

By and large, helicopter parents want to know where their child is at all times. If they aren’t physically near their child to protect them they will take steps to make sure they are still safe by involving themselves with their kid’s school, friends, groups, and teams. 

Their goal is to protect the child physically, emotionally, and socially.

 
You may wonder, it can’t be all that bad right? Is helicopter parenting entirely bad – are there any advantages to helicopter parenting?
 
Well, there are some benefits…

Chapter 4:

Are There Benefits to Helicopter Parenting?

Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey
Source: Drone Fest

Protection can’t be all bad right? 

As bad as it sounds, there are a few positive aspects of helicopter parenting.

When their children are young, the fact that the parents know where their child is at all times is a beneficial safety consideration.
 
While limiting all risks generally isn’t healthy, protecting your child from serious risks is a good thing.

The Good Side of Helicoptering

As helicopter kids they are generally the ones who do well in school, show up on time, and report for activities and games. 

Thanks in part to their parents, these kids typically do well academically and may succeed in sports and extracurricular activities. 

Their parents do their best to support them academically, socially, and emotionally. If their grades start to decline, they are being bullied or dealing with other issues their parents will likely know about it. This can have some advantages. 

Finally, helicopter parents are usually involved in their child’s activities and interests. To keep up this level of involvement they may volunteer for many of their child’s events. 

Coaches, teachers, and others can benefit from the time and energy helicopter parents are willing to invest. But at the same time may wonder, how to deal with helicopter parents when it comes to them butting into their children’s lives. 
 
However, the disadvantages may outweigh the advantages.

Chapter 5:

Dealing With The 6 Consequences of Helicopter Parenting

With every perk, there will be a downside. 

In this case, there are more bad consequences of helicopter parenting than good ones though. 

We listed the six effects below:
Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey
Source: Giphy

#1
Lack of Independence

Helicopter kids can suffer from a range of issues due to their hovering parents. The most obvious is the lack of independence. 
 
Some kids may resent their parents taking over every aspect of their lives and long for independence. Others may come to rely on their parents for everything and never feel the need to be independent.
 

#2
Poor Problem Solving and Coping

This reliance and lack of independence can lead to failure to cope with people and problems. They may turn to their parents at the onset of every difficulty and trust that their parents will fix everything. 
 
This may result in avoidance of problems, lack of problem-solving skills, and inability to deal with issues. 
 
Subsequently, this could lead to major problems later in life when the child must deal with college professors, coworkers, employers, and the general struggles of life.
 
 
Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey
Helicopter children may lack problem solving skills.

#3
Decreased Confidence and Self-Esteem

Because helicopter parents hinder age-appropriate risk-taking and decision making, their children may have decreased self-confidence and self-esteem. 

Parents fixing everything and paving the way for their child may not make the child feel more successful but instead less successful. 

They may believe that they can’t do anything for themselves and suffer from poor self-image. 

#4
Lack of Life Skills

This lack of self-confidence, coupled with their parents doing everything for them can leave some helicopter kids with a lack of life skills. 
 
This can include both practical life skills, like cooking and cleaning up, as well as social and emotional life skills, like overcoming struggles. And this can greatly affect children in the real world. 

#5
Sense of Entitlement

Children of helicopter parents may suffer from entitlement, making them less grateful for things people have done for them. 
 
They may become used to their parents solving all of their problems, taking care of their work and grades, getting them onto teams and into the best schools.
  
Unfortunately, kids who feel entitled may not fare well in the real world and the smallest setbacks may come as a huge shock. 

#6
Lack of Empathy

Lack of empathy is another consequence of helicopter parenting that will also not help these children as they grow. 
 
If parents only aim to please their children and hide or disguise their true emotions, their children may grow up with a distorted sense of reactions and consequences. 
 
They may not be able to read other’s emotions and as a result, lack empathy.
 
 
Ultimately, the effects of helicopter parents are largely negative. At its extreme, it is a distorted version of the parent-child relationship and isn’t beneficial for either the parents or the children.
 
Keeping that in mind, how do we avoid from such a trap?
 
Let’s now go through the ways you can avoid being a helicopter parent.

Chapter 6:

How to Avoid Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey
Source: Pinterest
It is completely normal to worry about your child. Parents naturally want to help their children succeed.
 
 
But sometimes we need to keep our instincts in check, both for ourselves and our children. 

Let Them Fail

Allowing your child to fail is one way to avoid controlling your kid’s life. Let them take age-appropriate risks and make age-appropriate choices. 
 
This is true even if it means they might fail. As long as your child won’t get seriously injured, allowing them to fail can teach them perseverance, problem-solving, and build confidence. 

Teach Them to Fish, Not Give Them the Fish

There is something we can learn from this famous proverb: 
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. 
 This is true with parenting.
  
You should guide your children to solve their own problems instead of fixing everything for them so they can further develop these skills. Some of the safe ways to slowly educate your children to think for themselves include providing them educational toys that encourage problem-solving, such as puzzles and interactive toys.
 
By doing so, you are setting them up to be self-sufficient and independent adults. 

Give Them Space

Provide them with adequate space to do things on their own. This can be playing in the outdoors by themselves, having to clean their room, or even trying out for a team. 

You can help teach them, encourage them, and give them the skills to be successful but then take a step back and let them shine. 

This way, when they have a disagreement or a setback, they know how to act and respond. They can problem-solve, think for themselves, and know how to talk to people. Also, teaching them life skills and practical skills prepares them to be independent adults.
 
 As parents, we love taking care of our children and we want them to know that they can rely on us.
 
However, we don’t want them to rely on us too much. They should feel confident in their abilities but know that we will always be supporting them.

Even so, having ideas or references to help you parent your child is always a welcome thing. Here are some great self-help parenting resources to help you out.

Chapter 7:

The 5 Best Self-help Parenting Books to Reduce Helicoptering

Parenting can be tough but not anymore when you have some form of support. 
 
Looking for a few great reads on helicopter parenting? We suggest: 

#1
The Overparenting Epidemic: Why Helicopter Parenting Is Bad for Your Kids . . . and Dangerous for You, Too! By George S. Glass M.D.

The Overparenting Epidemic: Why Helicopter Parenting Is Bad for Your Kids . . . and Dangerous for You, Too!

Authors George and David outline the characteristics of overparenting and the consequences for the children, as well as how to avoid helicoptering and its ill effects. 

#2
How To Raise An Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims

How to Raise an Adult

Author Julie Lythcott-Haims uses research combined with interviews and firsthand conversations to show the negative consequences of helicopter parenting, both for the parents and their children.

#3
Stop Parenting: One Helicopter Mom's Life-Changing Transformation by Karen R. Tolchin

Stop Parenting: One Helicopter Mom's Life-Changing Transformation (1)

Author Karen R. Tolchin uses her own struggles with being a helicopter mom and her ensuing conversations with her life coach to share how overparenting can negatively affect both parents and children.

#4
Kid Confidence (Help Your Child Make Friends, Build Resilience, and Develop Real Self-Esteem) by Eileen Kennedy-Moore

Kid Confidence: Help Your Child Make Friends, Build Resilience, and Develop Real Self-Esteem

Author Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a licensed clinical psychologist and parenting expert, offers plenty of practical advice on how to raise a confident and self-sufficient child. These strategies are helpful in reducing the effects of overparenting.

#5
Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children by Sara Zaske

Achtung Baby

Sara Zaske reflects on her time in Berlin and her realization that German parenting is a lot different than American parenting. She shares personal lessons learned about how this parenting style excels in raising independent, confident, and self-reliant children.

While you may not be a helicopter parent, it is good to understand the other types of parenting so that you are aware of the way you parent your child.

Chapter 8:

Understanding Other Types of Parenting Styles

Helicopter parenting isn’t the only type of parenting style. It may share some commonalities with other parenting styles though.
 
 
Let’s look at the following example of a child who wants to go play on the playground. 
Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey
Source: Giphy

Authoritarian parents

What is it: These parents have strict rules, high expectations, and aren’t afraid to reprimand or punish their children. 
 
Their response: “You can go to the playground after you clean your room and do your homework”. 

Authoritative parents

What is it: This is usually the most praised type of parenting style. There are rules and boundaries but they are consistent, reasonable, and clear. They value their child’s feelings, input, and have open lines of communication. 
 
Their response: “I understand you want to go to the playground, that sounds fun. Let’s take some time to clean your room, and then we will go but remember you still have homework to finish later”. 

Permissive parents

What is it: Permissive parents act as their name implies. They typically let their kid make the rules and call the shots. Their kids can make their own choices and decisions and the parent is just there to love and support them. 
 
Their response: “Sure! Go ahead!”

Neglectful parents

What is it: These parents may be uninvolved by choice or by necessity. Sometimes they are too busy to be involved in their child’s life, other times they may feel indifferent about their child. They can be distant, absent, or just dismissive, only meeting the child’s most basic needs. 
 
Their response: “I don’t care what you do”…if they are around to even be asked. 

Free-range parents

What is it: Free-range parents try to let their child become their own person through gentle guidance. They allow their child to explore, make decisions, and test out their freedom. But they also have rules and consequences through which their child learns self-control and responsibility. 
 
Their response: “You should finish your homework first and clean your room”, the child can decide to stay and complete the tasks or go and then deal with the consequences. 

Lawnmower parents

What is it: These parents are similar to helicopter parents, but perhaps a bit more aggressive. They are characterized by mowing down any obstructions, obstacles, issues their child might face so that their kid is ensured success. 
 
Their response: “Sure you can go, I will take care of your room and homework!”

Tiger parents

What is it: These parents are very close to authoritarian. They have very high expectations for their children and place a lot of pressure on their kids to meet those expectations. Usually, these expectations are academic and extra-curricular based. 
 
Their response: “Not until you clean your room, do your homework, and get started on next week’s homework”. 

While one parenting type isn’t perfect, some are better than others. Most generally agree that an authoritative parenting style works best.

Helicopter Parents, a Recurring Trend

Helicopter Parent | A Definitive Guide to Helicopter Parenting | Baby Journey
Helicopter parenting has been around for some time, and it is unlikely to go away anytime soon. 
 
While some level of helicoptering can help to keep your child safe and happy, too much can have the opposite effect. 
 
Next time you feel you are hovering a little too close, take a step back. Allow your child some space as you gently guide and encourage them. This will have benefits for both you and your kid. 

That’s it for my guide to helicopter parenting.

Do you have any of the signs of a hovering parent? What is your parenting style?
 
Let us know your thoughts with a quick comment below.

Last update on 2021-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Author

Megan Moore

Megan is a mom of three who enjoys researching and writing during nap times and whenever she gets a free moment! Aside from producing content as an author on Baby Journey, she also loves running and gardening.

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