helicopter parenting

Helicopter Parenting: What It Is and How Can You Stop It

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Parenting is a fine balance between instilling core principles, helping nurture children all while allowing them the freedom to grow into a productive adult. As parents, our love and desire to protect our children can sometimes cause unintended damage or consequences.

Are you talking to your young adult every single day? Are you intimately involved in your young adult’s life decisions? Are you telling your young adult what decisions they should make? Are you protecting your young adults from negative experiences, no matter how small they may be? These behaviors are symptoms that you may be a helicopter parent and could have negative consequences in your child’s life, especially as they try to navigate the world on their own.

Helicopter Parenting: A Definition

Helicopter parenting is when a parent is so entangled in their child’s life, the child is relieved from responsibilities and negative emotions because the parent hovers, ensuring they can swoop in at a moment’s notice. This is usually done with the utmost love and concern but can do more harm than expected.

Here are 4 Signs You’re a Helicopter Parent

1. Daily Phone Calls

You expect to have a daily phone call, or more, with your adult children. When they don’t return your calls or answer the phone, you feel angry, stressed, or anxious. If you do not talk to them every day, you may take it personally and worry they are making poor decisions or are hurt.

2. You Want To Be Involved In Their Decision Making Process

When your child is presented with life decisions, such as buying a new car, finding a new job, scheduling routine health procedures, do you expect them to consult with you before making a decision? If a child does make a decision without talking to you first, you may feel as though you do not have value with them or that they made a bad decision.

3. You Always Rescue Them From A Tough Situation

You try to prevent your child from feeling any type of negative feelings.  This can vary from a simple unhappy outcome of not getting what they want or to more harmful feelings such as enabling a substance abuse user because you don’t want to see them ill or unwell. If you can help ease your child’s discomfort then that’s what you will do.

4. You Make Phone Calls/Send Emails On Their Behalf

You help your adult child make appointments. It’s easy for you to just make the call with the family doctor.  You also would rather know what is going on with them medically. You may also reach out to college professors to get more information on an assignment or reschedule a test. Some helicopter parents may also reach out to their child’s job and let them know when their child needs to take a sick day.

Why Is Helicopter Parenting Bad?

Those who have been raised by a helicopter parent will experience a variety of outcomes. Depending on each experience, the severity of the side effects can be dramatic.  The reality of being raised by a helicopter parent is that there will inevitably be long-term effects that negatively impact our children.  The most impactful disadvantage of this type of parenting is creating a child/young adult with an inability to be self-sufficient.  A helicopter parent is incredibly involved in every decision, movement, and action that a child takes. Because of this, the child gets accustomed to the parent making all their decisions. The child slowly loses the ability of agency and skills necessary for effective decision-making. When they know the parent will control every outcome, they stop thinking for themselves and taking accountability for their life.

Another common outcome of those raised by a helicopter parent is significantly increased levels of anxiety. Most children who have a parent who controls every aspect of life end up living in fear that they will not make the right decision on their own. The child fears that any wrong decision will bring disappointment, anger, or even a lack of love from the parent. 

Other unintended side effects of a helicopter parent may include:

  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Low-self esteem
  • Poor coping skills
  • Higher levels of narcissism
  • Sense of entitlement

If these symptoms sound familiar, it’s important to remember you can start making positive changes in your parenting style now. Just because you have spent years being a helicopter parent does not mean you can’t amend your methods. Any time is the right time to start working towards a more positive parent/child relationship.

Try This Instead: Effective Alternatives To Helicopter Parenting

At our core as parents, we want our children to be healthy, happy, and successful.  One of the most difficult tasks as a parent is to teach our children and then let them free into the big wide world. You’ll need to learn how to support your child while not taking over and controlling their life. So what can you do to stop being a helicopter parent? Here are two things to start doing today.

Allow Failure

First and foremost, allow your children to fail. This is by far the hardest task but is invaluable to your children. Failure teaches us so many beneficial lessons that will only strengthen us.  Failure teaches us how to navigate through negative feelings of being let down, disappointed in ourselves, frustrated, and more. But when we learn how to move through those feelings in a healthy way, pick ourselves back up from the failure to try again, we build self-confidence, improved self-esteem, and safe coping mechanisms that will benefit us the next time we are presented with a similar failure.

Ask Questions, Don’t Give Answers

If you have already raised your child to adulthood as a helicopter parent, they will be inclined to come to you for guidance or even to make a decision for them. To change your ways, you need to draw the line at making decisions for them.  When they come to you with something that needs to be discussed, begin by asking questions that provoke thought processes on their side.  Never share your opinion, but rather ask them the questions they need to consider in order to make a decision. Even if their final decision isn’t the one you would have chosen, know that the fact that you allowed them the control in decision making is a gift that will teach them far more than if you had given them all the answers.

Love Big

Our children want acceptance and love that comes at no extra cost.  Regardless of how you parented or what choices your adult child has made at this time, always love first. Tell them you love them. Never assume they know.  End that sentence with a period. I love you. Do not add a “but” or “if” or “I wish”. We can love our children (and they can love parents) when our core values don’t align when poor choices are made when frustrations build up, or when they seemingly stop caring about life. It is possible. It is necessary. And always love big.

examples of helicopter parenting

Pure Life Adventure can be your partner in overcoming the effects of helicopter parenting. We will work with your young adult to teach them how to be independent, trust their decisions, build confidence and increase their self-esteem.  Our adventure therapy will provide them with opportunities to be independent and see just how capable they really are. Our adventure therapy will also include individualized therapy with our licensed therapists and when applicable, may include family visits for therapy as well.

Parents’ love can come in all forms, shapes, sizes, and methods. Even when our intentions are good, sometimes the outcome isn’t quite what we had hoped for. Contact Pure Life Adventures today to see how we can help you and your young adult progress towards a happier, healthier, and more independent, and productive life today.

More On Adventure Therapy from Pure Life Adventure…

Wilderness Adventure Therapy
What is Adventure Therapy and Who Can it Help?
PARENTS: The Key Is To Help, But Not Helicopter

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