A Letter to Helicopter Parents

Dear Helicopter Parents

Dear Helicopter Parent,

As school starts and the kids head out the door, keep this in mind:


This headline from a Science Daily article says it all. The article discusses a study done through Brigham Young University that points out that research (and more research) shows that helicopter parenting – taking an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of a child is detrimental to the self-worth of the child and increases risky behaviors. The study surveyed 438 college students who were raised by overly protective parents. Take a minute to read it: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150601172933.htm.

We all love our kids. We would do just about anything for them. But trying to live your child’s life by solving all their problems and conflicts for them does not really help them to grow into independent, self reliant adults.

As I’m writing this send-to-all letter, I’m thinking it really should go to parents of young children. The attitude and resilience of kids is formed early on. Each time a child falls down, how do you react? When there are disappointments, what do you do?

I had a client who felt that her child was never really responsible for any difficulty that came her way. The teacher criticized the child’s behavior?  Well, it must be that the teacher can’t control the class. The friends said they did not want to come to play because she doesn’t share toys? Well, the kids were just mean, and new friends were needed. It was never her child’s fault.

This mom felt constantly overwhelmed.  She said, “Parenting is a lot harder than I thought.  I have to be on guard all the time. After all, it’s my job to protect my daughter from disappointments – she’s so young, and the real world comes along soon enough.”

I asked when the right time was to allow for disappointments, and she just shrugged and sighed. “What would happen,” I continued, “if your daughter got caught pushing someone on the playground – and you did not make excuses for her? How would she handle the situation herself?  What would it teach her?”

We worked together for several sessions dealing with her concerns and feelings, and slowly but surely this mom began to realize that not always rescuing her daughter was the best parental protection she could give.

Let them Make Choices and Feel the Consequences of Their Own Decisions

Parents, please allow your young children to feel some of those bumps on the road to adulthood. Let them make choices and feel the consequences of their own decisions. Of course, you will be there to offer direction, love, and support but do not fight the kids’ battles or solve their problems.

Help your kids by giving them the opportunity to solve their own problems.

Help your kids by giving them the opportunity to solve their own problems.

Dr. Wendy Mogel, Clinical Psychologist and author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus shares five traits she sees in adults who are the result of helicopter parenting:

  1. They have to call Mom and Dad before making a decision.
  2. They count their parents as their best friends.
  3. While dependent of their parents for many things, they also resent them.
  4. They are incredibly anxious.
  5. They are perfectionists who are obsessed with credentials.   

If your child is already grown and you realize you were a ‘hoverer,’ it’s ok. I know that you were doing what you thought was best to protect and show your love. Just keep in mind the traits listed above as you deal with your adult kids.

And for all of those with young children and who still have the opportunity to parent, try not to launch the helicopter in the first place.  But if it is already in the air, “IT’S TIME TO LAND IT, AND STAY GROUNDED!”

Good luck – and let me know if I can help,


Photo credits: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Aleutie and © Can Stock Photo Inc. / ocusfocus

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