“Helicopter parenting” is one of those terms we’ve heard a lot about lately. Are you a helicopter parent? Would you know if you were one? Here are 10 things you do that might be making you a helicopter parent – and what to do about it!
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There is a big difference between intensive parenting and helicopter parenting.
Intensive parenting is where you put a lot of thought, energy and time into raising your children. Being a helicopter parent, on the other hand, is where you are overprotective and oversteer every aspect of your child’s life, leaving little to chance.
One of the toughest lessons we parents have to learn is how to take a step back and let our kids learn from their mistakes. If you don’t you risk developing a child who lacks resilience to deal with life, and is also completely unequipped for life when they leave home.
So have you unintentionally become the helicoptering type?
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Are You A Helicopter Parent?
#1. You Worry Constantly About Safety
I sometimes wonder at the difference between our parents’ generation and ourselves. What must it have been like to say “Off you go and don’t come back until teatime”? We live in a culture nowadays that says the overarching thing is safety. We must keep our kids safe because the world is a scary place. Yes there is more traffic about, yes there are less places to play freely, but we bubble wrap our kids way too much.
If you are guilty of telling your child “Don’t climb up there” or “Hold my hand” or “Don’t ride so fast” then it’s time to stop and think.
Mild risks are good for kids, it helps them learn things like “ok next time I won’t cycle so fast as I’ll bump and scrape my knees”. If we take away these learning opportunities we are stunting their development quite honestly.
After all, hovering about worrying only makes them anxious and more likely to trip or fall!
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#2. You Restrict Your Child More Than Their Peers
Is your child complaining that they don’t get to do stuff that their friends do? Of course we need limits and children shouldn’t be in situations that aren’t age appropriate or where they might be exposed to things they shouldn’t be.
But simple things like letting them walk with their friend to the shop together or go over to a friend’s house for a sleepover shouldn’t pose a threat, as long as you are happy about their age to cope, and the surroundings they will be in.
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#3. You Feel Anxious About Things They Face Like Tests
Do you feel anxious when your child is going to school facing a test? It’s natural to feel a bit nervous on their behalf, but if your anxiety is high you may be a helicopter parent.
There are two scenarios your child faces with each test in life. They are either going to pass or fail. Helping them deal with failure and celebrating passing tests is a much better use of your time and energy.
We have to stop feeling like our children have to be perfect. As the old saying goes, “Perfect is the enemy of good”.
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#4. You are Tempted to Do Their Homework – or Actually Do!
Your child is stuck on a maths problem or can’t do their spellings. You are tempted to step in and finish it for them. Stop and think.
They need to work it out for themselves or go back into their teacher to say “I didn’t know how to do this one”. Of course you can give little bits of help like a hint or point something out they may have missed if you want, but don’t do their work for them.
Praise them instead for sticking at it, even when they get frustrated if they can’t do it.
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#5. You Intervene At The Drop of a Hat
Your child comes home in tears because they fell out with their friend. Is your first instinct to pick up the phone to the other child’s mum and intervene?
It’s part of life’s experiences to fall out with your friend and either make things up or realise that they aren’t going to be a friend after all.
Of course there are sometimes that you do need to intervene, particularly if bullying is involved, but if it’s just a normal fall out then let your child work through it.
Talk to them about how friendships change over time and that you will either come back to being friends or make new ones. Tell them about your experiences and what worked for you in handling the situation.
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#6. You Worry or Panic About Amusing Them
Your child has free time and they come to you saying “I’m bored”. If your first response is to worry or panic about having to amuse them, then stop. It’s good for kids to be bored. It makes them creative and start to amuse themselves.
Despite what your child may think, boredom is good especially in these days of constant stimulation. The brain can get overloaded and it’s good to have some down time.
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#7. You Pick Their Outfits/Food/Activities…
Are you guilty of picking what your child wears all the time? Or choosing what they have when you go out to eat? Or generally choosing everything for them?
Getting to make choices is an important part of growing up and being an independent person.
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#8. You Do Everything For Them Around The House
I’ll put my hand up to this, I’ve definitely been guilty of this, especially when my eldest has been studying hard for her final exams. But if you do everything for them around the house, how are they getting the chance to learn those important life skills?
Obviously chores are age dependent, but it’s important that everyone pitches in to help around the house. And you don’t want your teen to leave home not knowing how to put the washing machine on or how to cook a simple meal for themselves at least!
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#9. You Stick Around Too Much
Are you staying when you take your child to a drop off birthday party? Are you driving your teen to a friend’s house when they could walk or get the bus?
These could be opportunities for you to help your child or teen be more independent. Take a look around – are other parents staying at the party? If not, don’t hover. Let your child tell you all about it afterwards rather than feeling like you are shadowing their every move.
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#10. You Shield Them From Problems
Are you guilty of hiding problems or any negative emotions you might have? Are you facing difficulties yourself but not speaking to them about it? Kids aren’t stupid, they know when things are going on.
And life can be challenging. You can foster resilience in your child by, firstly, not shielding them from problems or negative emotions, and secondly, talking to them about how you are going to approach or tackle or react in a calm way to the issue at hand.
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Have you recognised any of these signs of being a helicopter parent? What has been your biggest challenge in taking a step back? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!