Five Ways to Know If You’re a “Helicopter Parent”

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Jesse Thomas

Chief Problem Assassin

By Jesse Thomas

Everyone seems to agree that overprotective parenting is obnoxious. Even most psychologists agree that it is probably not good for children. And yet, the trend toward “Helicopter Parenting” (hovering over your child and overseeing every tiny move) grows more rampant each year.

Over the last thirty years the way we parent has changed. The social standards have changed and the safety laws around childhood have become increasingly rigid.

Seatbelts for example. When I was a kid there were few laws about seatbelts. I remember long road trips spent lying down in the backseat of the family car with my favorite pillow, watching the moon. Now obviously, that’s not safe but it’s such a far cry from today’s standard of the huge, air-bag lined SUVs with anti-lock brakes, booster seats and rear-facing, 5-point harness carseats that only a trained fireman can install.

And let’s look at today’s playgrounds. Playgrounds these days are so highly regulated: strict fall zones, no metal materials, no concrete asphalt under playground equipment, all equipment must be spaced at least 3 feet apart, shade structures are required, no structure can be more than 12 feet high, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The playground at my elementary school had concrete slabs under all the equipment, monkey bars, a metal dome, manual merry-go-rounds, high metal slides, rows and rows of see-saws…how did we ever survive!?

All kidding aside, new safety laws and regulations have definitely saved lives and limbs over the years. But when does our intense supervision of our kids become too overbearing?

Here are five ways to tell if you’re moving into the “Helicopter Parent” zone.

  1. You do whatever you can to keep your child from failing.

Failing isn’t fun. In fact, none of us want to “fail.” Fear of failure in general means that at times, we go above and beyond to make sure that our children don’t fail either. Realistically, we are all going to fail at one point or another. Our kids are going to mess up, fall down and just plain get it wrong from time to time. AND THAT’S OKAY. Let her experience failure and watch her learn from it. Trying something out and seeing that it doesn’t work is one of the best ways we learn to problem solve. Learning to problem solve and manage the stress of not succeeding and perhaps most importantly, learning to try again is one of the most valuable tools your child can take into adulthood to ensure success.

  1. You do everything for your child.

You wash her hands, pick up her toys, put on her socks and shoes, make up her bed…and on and on and on. Honestly, it’s a lot easier and faster to just do all of these things for your child. On the flip side, however, you’re taking away a vital part of growing up and that is taking learning to take responsibility for yourself. Even the youngest child can pitch in and help out while learning the valuable lessons of responsibility.

Take the time to teach your child how to clean up his dinner plate, pick up his legos and put his clothes in the hamper. In fact, you may even find that your child actually enjoys helping!

  1. You over console your child.

It’s heartbreaking when our children are upset. It could be a tiny boo-boo or a bite from another child or that moment when we have to drop them off at school. It’s a natural instinct to want to fix your child’s hurt feelings. Most of the time that means we overdo it when we go to console them.

When we do this, we rob them of the opportunity to self-soothe. That doesn’t mean you can’t kiss the boo-boos or give them that big, warm hug. It just means we have to give them time and space to work through their emotions. If your child is upset because they fell down on the playground, help them work through what they are feeling. “You’re upset because you fell down and got a boo-boo on your knee? I’m so sorry. I know that hurts. Let’s go get a band-aid.” Just don’t overdo it with a trip to Sky Zone and a new toy.

  1. You keep your child from branching out.

Your kiddo wants to try soccer but you know he is a natural born genius at music. He wants to take swim lessons with his best buddy but you now he’s scared of water.

Sometimes we block our kids from branching out because we have preconceived notions of the outcome. It’s okay if he tries soccer and isn’t that great at it. It’s okay if he wants to take swim lessons because his buddy will be there.

We have to let our children make some decisions on their own so that they learn to be independent thinkers.

  1. You go overboard doting on your child.

You regularly call your kid’s school during the day to check on how he’s doing. She can’t spend more than an hour with grandma without you sending a text to see how she’s doing. You’re constantly asking her how she’s doing and if she needs anything.

It’s so great to have a loving parent. And if that’s you, you’re doing a great job! But sometimes we can overdo it. This can lead to them feeling smothered and you freaking out whenever they are out of sight.

You should absolutely call and check on your child if you feel the need and encourage grandma to send you a photo when she’s babysitting. Just balance it all out so that you’re not making yourself and everyone crazy with a constant need for reassurance.