Helicopter Parenting:Good or Bad?

Helicopter parenting which is frequently referred to as “over-parenting” began trending in the mid 1990’s. This sort of parenting, where parents are involved in the minutiae of all aspects of their teens lives, make choices for them, solve their problems and even encourage competitiveness between the teens and their peers has been getting a bad rap lately.

Sorry to say this to all of the well-intentioned parents out there but I think helicopter parenting deserves the reputation that it is finally getting. Listen, being involved in your teen’s life is one thing but hovering from above like a helicopter is yet another ball of wax. And, parents, you may not be doing your growing teens any favors. After all, they will be in college at some point, and how will they function effectively without you nearby? Yes, I know many of you even call their college professors and text your college students frequently but for goodness sake this is supposed to be the stage in life where they become independent. That means that moms and dads you ought to think about things other than your teens or young adult children.

You all know who you are. You are that parent who calls the high school or college if your child gets what you consider to be a less than a stellar grade. You move obstacles for your child. You solve problems for them. You do not want them to experience any disappointment so you move boldly ahead clearing the path for them. You may even and probably do assist them in their choices of classes, sports and even colleges. In fact, assist may be too gentle. Many helicopter parents make the choices for their kids. I know. I’ve seen this happen repeatedly. You just can’t resist feeling that you must make sure that your teen has that competitive edge in life.

I’m sorry helicopter parents but both my experience as a clinical psychologist who works with teens and their well-intentioned parents and the research suggest that you may inadvertently be raising kids who end up feeling incompetent and inadequate when it comes to solving problems on their own. This makes sense since you’ve mostly been solving their problems.

A recent study by Chris Segrin of the University of Arizona which will be published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology has found that over-parenting may be linked with less than positive outcomes such as anxiety and difficulty coping with the various stressors that life offers up on a daily basis.

Yet another study found similarly disheartening results. This study by Holly Schiffrin and colleagues published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found a relationship between increased parental involvement in school work and influencing their teens’ choice of college majors and decreased satisfaction among the kids when asked about their college lives. These college students who reported being overparented also reported higher levels of depression and anxiety.

Yes, parents, you should and must be involved in your teens’ lives. It is important,though, to know where to draw the proverbial line in the sand. I suggest teaching your kids how to handle and problem solve on their own so that when they are on their own they will feel competent and adequate. We all want to raise resilient kids, right?