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How Helicopter Parents Affect Their Children

by Liza Blau, studioD

'Helicopter parents' is a description of parents who are always hovering over their children in a state of extreme concern. They always show up to solve their child's problems, protect him from real or imagined harm, resolve stressful situations, offer unsolicited advice and get him out of trouble, even if he misbehaved. Although they might believe such hypervigilance is out of love and concern, it can have adverse effects on their child's emotional development and future autonomy.

Never Learns Accountability

Helicopter parents often believe their little angel can do no wrong. When their child gets into trouble, they're always there to bail him out. But when over protective parents constantly intervene to right their child's wrongs, he never learns accountability for his actions. For example, after their child gets into trouble at school for misbehaving, the helicopter parent might convince the teacher that a punishment would be unfair. As a result, their child gets away with it. Helicopter parents deprive their children of learning natural consequences for their behavior, according to Mike Gurr, clinical director at Cooper Canyon Academy. As an adult, the child might continue to believe he can behave any way he pleases with no repercussions.

Fear of Failure

Children learn through their mistakes. Trial-and-error helps them hone their problem solving skills and develop the confidence to overcome even the most insurmountable challenges. But if you intervene at the first sign of struggle and finish your child's homework, complete a challenging puzzle or apologize on his behalf in front of Grandma, he'll miss out on valuable learning opportunities. You're sending him the message that he needs to be perfect and failure is not an option, otherwise you wouldn't always take over for him. As he matures, he might become so afraid of failure that he avoids taking risks altogether, which could prevent him from achieving career goals, and developing and maintaining emotionally fulfilling relationships.

Lack of Confidence

By constantly rescuing your child from stressful situations, you're sending him a message that you don't believe he's capable of fending for himself. Children develop self-esteem by learning how to complete challenges on their own. Although they might stumble at first, through perseverance they discover they're able to overcome most obstacles. But if you're always intervening, he's denied this vital stage in his growth. As a result, your child may lack the confidence necessary to do well in school, pursue hobbies and interests, and develop friendships.


If you're always taking care of everything for your child, it'll be more difficult for him to become self-sufficient. As an adult, he might find it hard to take care of himself, because he never developed coping skills to deal with life's challenges. He might suffer from irrational fears, anxiety and depression, which could lead him to drop out of college or frequently change jobs, according to Dr. Michele Borba. Instead of developing healthy relationships, he might seek a partner who will take care of him or is controlling, like his parents were.

Landing the Helicopter

You can help your child become more independent by allowing him to tackle tasks and challenges on his own without your intervention. Even if he fails at first, don't interfere -- encourage him to start again. Show that you have faith in his abilities to succeed without your help. Instead of making excuses for your child when he misbehaves, allow him to learn natural consequences, such as losing television privileges or becoming grounded. Even small things can help him become more independent -- making his own bed, preparing his own lunch, shopping for his own clothes and doing homework without your help.

About the Author

Liza Blau received a B.A. in English from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in fiction anthologies from Penguin Press, W.W. Norton, NYU Press and others. After healing her own life-threatening asthma by switching to a whole, natural foods diet, she founded the NYC Asthma Wellness Center. Blau counsels individuals on healing their own asthma and allergies with dietary and lifestyle changes.

Photo Credits

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