Are you a helicopter parent? Have you even heard of the term? Well, it’s parents or a parent who take overprotective or excessive interest in every aspect of their children’s lives, and although it may sound caring and loving, this in effect can be hurting their emotional and mental development. Ouch!
A new study by lead author Nicole Perry, PhD, revealed in essence that by being an over involved parent, you are actually discouraging your child’s independence. That’s right. You read correctly. They can potentially grow up lacking confidence in making decisions. But I didn’t really need a study to tell me this. I experienced some of it firsthand. Failure is a part of life and it allows individuals to problem-solve and work through issues, which is a muy importante life skill.
The results of this study that lasted eight years and followed 422 children concluded that one of the main effects of a helicopter parent or the new coined term “lawnmower parenting” were kids who have a harder time learning to regulate their emotions and behavior and that the effects can follow them all the way to adolescence. In addition, they may have a difficult time navigating through life challenges such as the demands of growing up and the forever changing school environment.
But as a single mother who works full time, I really struggled with this. You just have this relentless guilt that your child is missing out on what other children have and so you overcompensate, overcompensate, overcompensate. Stop it! Not to mention, I was killing myself from pure exhaustion in things I could not and should not control. There are times when I feel invigorated on this journey of being a newly independent mother and other times when I feel out of whack and I ask myself can I really do this? When I feel this way, I immediately go into self-care mode. I took some suggestions from the new study on how to overcome this tendency and I have made the following adjustments in my approach:
- I reassure myself that these feelings are completely normal and is part of the healing process as I transition to my new normal.
- I try and set a good example for my daughters of controlling my own emotions by showing positive coping strategies like retreating to my “ME” room for deep breathing, listening to music or my water feature.
- I talk with my children on a regular basis about how to identify what they’re feeling and what consequences can result from different behaviors.
- I have accepted each of my children’s strengths and weaknesses and I help them learn how to use their talents to succeed at their goals.
The intention of a helicopter parent is not all bad. We love our children and want to protect them. So how can you know if you are being a supportive and a loving parent or one that hovers? It often depends on the child’s age and the circumstances.
- Do I allow my child to make age-appropriate decisions?
- Do I swoop down to help on the first sign of trouble?
- Do I get involved in conflicts between my child and their friends often resolving the conflict?
- Do I oversee my teen’s homework?
- Do I do things for my teen that they can do themselves like cleaning their bedroom?
As parents, we are to provide guidance, oversight and even a little gentle pushing, if necessary. We want our children to succeed, but we must allow them to fail in order to teach them how to get back up and then try again. When you know your child can navigate a task safely, take a back seat, let go and watch the fruit of your labor.