our everyday life

The Dangers of Helicopter Parenting

by Erica Loop, studioD

If you have heard the buzz phrase "helicopter parenting" but aren't entirely sure what it means, this not-so-beneficial parenting style doesn't have anything to do an actual aircraft. Helicopter parenting refers to the ways in which some parents seem to hover -- like a helicopter -- over their children. This includes everything from disputing your child's grades to making decisions for your teen and almost anything in between.

Play Interrupted

While play may seem like something that a parent couldn't interfere with, helicopter parents can dull the fun by overinvolving themselves in what their child is doing. This may take the form of directing the child in how to use toys or taking charge of play scenarios. For example, a preschooler and her friends are playing in the sandbox with shovels and buckets. The preschooler starts to use the bucket as a drum, hitting it in a rhythmic motion with the shovel handle. The "helicopter mom" swoops in -- or more likely moves in from her seat, which is only a few feet away -- and instructs the child on the proper way to shovel sand into the bucket. This hovering action interrupts the child's imaginative use of toys and may even make her feel wrong or "bad" about herself.

Lack of Independence

There are many stages of a child's life in which his independent nature is growing and developing. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that toddlers are becoming more aware of the fact that they are separate from other people, leading to a sense of independence. Likewise, older children and teens also experience new levels of independence. The helicopter parent's constant hovering can put effectively squash this growth. By always "doing" for the child, the hovering mom or dad doesn't give the child a chance to fully develop his sense of independence and figure things out for himself.

Lack of Assertiveness

Although you don't want a defiant child, some degree of assertiveness is beneficial. Assertiveness includes the ability of a person to speak up for herself -- not necessarily talking back, but rather communicating in an straightforward, honest and respectful way. A helicopter parent can shut down a child's assertive tendencies, making her feel that she either shouldn't or doesn't need to speak for herself. Hovering moms and dads may continually speak on behalf of their child, asserting their own opinions instead of allowing the child to express herself.

Education Interference

There is no doubt that parental involvement in a student's academic career is beneficial. According to the Michigan Department of Education, parental involvement can boost grades, increase test scores and improve a child's self-esteem. That said, there is a happy medium between involvement and hovering. Parents who constantly monitor online sources for their children's grades, take up academic disputes with teachers or complete assignments for their kids are interfering with the student's ability to think and act independently. This is particularly true of the teenage years, in which the child should develop the ability to negotiate conflicts, take responsibility for her own actions and manage her academic course load with only minimal help from others.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images