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Image courtesy of Dibber International Preschools

We explore what helicopter parenting is and its impact on children’s development.

Mastering the art of parenthood is the title of no book ever. There is no manual on parenting, you rely heavily on your upbringing and intuition. Often, we get the balance wrong and fall prey to helicopter parenting.

A fine line exists between nurturing and hovering too closely. Helicopter parenting, characterised by overprotection, micromanagement and excessive involvement, although rooted in love and concern, can inadvertently hinder a child’s development, says Ursula Assis, country director of Dibber International Preschools, a leader in early childhood education committed to providing high-quality preschool experiences that foster children’s holistic development.

understanding helicopter parenting

As Assis explains, helicopter parenting stems from a deep desire to shield children from harm and ensure their success. Well-meaning as this is, this hypervigilant approach can impede a child’s ability to develop crucial life skills, such as independence, resilience and problem-solving.

the long-term impact on children

Assis outlines five significant long-term effects of helicopter parenting on children:

1. Decreased confidence and self-esteem

By constantly intervening and limiting their independence, helicopter parents inadvertently hamper children’s confidence and self-esteem, hindering their ability to navigate challenges with resilience.

2. Inability to cope with emotions and failures

Sheltering children from failure deprives them of valuable learning experiences and coping mechanisms, leaving them ill-prepared to handle setbacks and disappointments.

3. Increased anxiety

The constant pressure to meet parental expectations and the lack of autonomy can lead to heightened stress and anxiety levels among children, affecting their overall well-being.

4. Sense of entitlement

Children accustomed to having their every need catered to may develop a sense of entitlement, expecting success without putting in the necessary effort or facing adversity.

5. Non-existent life skills

Overprotected children may lack essential life skills, such as problem-solving and resilience, making it challenging for them to navigate the complexities of the real world independently.

Studies reported in Psychology Today show that hyperparenting is bad for children’s development. Failures, challenges and the discomforts of childhood create resilient, emotionally mature, independent adults. Children of helicopter parents are not learning to take responsibility or develop initiative and are denied the benefit of learning from their mistakes.

Read on our article on giving children permission to fail.

how to avoid helicopter parenting

Assis offers the following  advice for parents to avoid being a helicopter parent:

  • Empower Independence: allow children to tackle challenges and solve problems on their own, gradually increasing their autonomy as they grow.
  • Encourage resilience: support children in facing setbacks and disappointments, emphasising the importance of perseverance and resilience in overcoming obstacles.
  • Promote life skills: provide opportunities for children to develop essential life skills, such as decision-making, problem-solving and emotional regulation, through hands-on experiences and real-world challenges.

balance the scales

You can still be a supportive presence in your child’s life, providing comfort and encouragement in difficult situations. However, children will benefit from learning how to build resilience and develop confidence if mom or dad acts as a safety net rather than being a constantly hovering presence jumping in to handle the situation before a child has even attempted to find a solution themselves.

“It is important to balance support and autonomy in parenting, giving children the freedom to explore, learn and grow while providing a safety net of love and guidance. By avoiding the pitfalls of helicopter parenting and fostering independence and resilience in children, parents can empower them to become capable and confident individuals, equipped to navigate life’s challenges with courage and resilience,” concludes Assis.

are you a helicopter parent?

WebMD has identified these seven signs of helicopter parenting.

  • You fight your child’s battles
  • You do their schoolwork.
  • You coach their coaches.
  • You keep Your children on a short leash.
  • You’re a maid in your own house.
  • You play it too safe.
  • You can’t let them fail.