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The Impact of Helicopter Parenting

Are you too focused on your child? There is a term for that and it was The term “helicopter parent” was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter.

Most parents have this deep rooted urge and instinct to protect their child. From padded knees whilst on the monkey bars to holding their hands whilst crossing the road when they are ten years old, helicopter parenting is something a lot of parents indulge in.

Focusing on your child is important. But how far is too far? How do you know when you have crossed the line?

Latest research suggests that there are detrimental effects to a child’s development caused by helicopter parenting. Let’s go into a little more details on what this style of parenting actually is.

What is Helicopter Parenting?

In a nutshell, a helicopter parent is someone who is too focused on their children and their activities more than normal. These are the parents who make sure the problem does not occur in the first place. They eliminate the issue before it reaches the child which results in the child not getting the opportunity to experience it.

Here are some examples:

  • Toddlers – Extreme helicopter parenting is when it comes to toddlers can be anything from making sure they don’t fall off a bike to not allowing the child to do anything on their own.
  • School-Age Children – Intervening their children’s relationships or choosing their friends for them, enrolling children in activities or extracurricular classes without their input, trying to do their homework or solve their problems.
  • Teen and Adult Children – Interfering with their decisions or making decisions for them, being overly involved with their academic life, and interfering with their relationships even when no intervention is required.

All of these actions are a sign of helicopter parenting. Parents who hover over their children don’t have any malicious intentions. They truly believe they are keeping their son or daughter safe. Some awareness can help change their perspective and adopt a healthier approach to parenting.

Impact of Helicopter Parenting on Children

Hundreds of childcare experts have commented on helicopter parenting and almost all of them agree that it can be detrimental to a children’s overall development. Several studies have shown that children suffer from short-term and long-term effects like:

  • Prolonged Childhood or Adolescence – A study conducted in 2010 by Neil Montgomery by Keene State College in New Hampshire indicated that overprotective and indulgent parents prolonged childhood and adolescence, stalling the onset of emotional maturity.
    (https://www.livescience.com/10663-helicopter-parents-neurotic-kids-study-suggests.html)
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  • Inclination Towards Narcissism – Another study conducted by the University of Wollongong determined that children of such parents had higher traits of pathological narcissism. They had an unrealistic sense of entitlement and impaired autonomy.
    (https://bpded.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40479-020-00125-7)
  • Issues with Self-Confidence and Independence – Regular intervention and excessive assistance can cripple a child’s self-confidence as well. They believe that parents don’t trust them to complete a task on their own and it alters their perception of how difficult the task truly is.
  • Maladaptive Perfectionism – A University of Singapore study showed that children of intrusive parents were also more self-critical, depressed, and anxious. They focused more on perfection and gained less satisfaction after completing a task, which had a big impact on their overall development.
  • Social Issues and Anxiety – The Cognitive Therapy and Research journal published a study that showed increased hovering worsened anxiety in children who were already struggling with social issues. The parental intervention increased anxiety and diminished the child’s confidence in their results.
  • Poor Self-Regulation – Another study concluded that helicopter parenting negatively influenced children’s ability to self-regulate. They weren’t able to control their own emotions, reactions, and behaviour as effectively as peers with less intrusive parents.
    (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29911876/)

All of these factors show just how detrimental helicopter parenting can be and how the effects can last for a long time. While children do benefit from parental intervention sometimes, it is important to develop a balanced approach that allows children to develop their own independence.

Impact of Helicopter Parenting on Parents

Some studies suggest that this form of parenting does have a positive impact on adults. Moms and dads who are overly involved in their child’s life sometimes enjoy a greater sense of happiness and meaning, especially because they see the child’s successes as a consequence of their protectiveness or intervention.

However, other studies indicate being overly-involved can cause additional stress, anxiety, dependency, and can have long-term consequences for adults after their children are independent. These parents live centre around their children which means they could struggle when empty nest syndrome kicks in.

A recent study found that parents that adopted the respectful approach were less stressed and felt more competent. Parents who were allowed to continue with an overprotective approach were significantly more stressed and also more self-critical, but they were less competent. The study suggested that a respectful approach that allowed children a little more independence improved everyone’s experience.

Respectful Approach Intervention

The Respectful Approach Intervention encourages parents to treat their children as independent human beings who can learn from their experiences in a safe, nurturing environment. It is an approach that allows children to explore their world freely as long as they don’t sustain any material harm.

For example, you can allow your child to walk and run around in a grassy lawn. You can let them stumble, fall, bump into different installations, just so that they can learn how to avoid different obstacles and remain balanced on their feet. An experiment conducted by Edith Cowan University’s School of Medical and Health Sciences showcases the benefits of a more respectful approach to parenting.

1. What Was the Experiment?

The experiment involved a class of infants and toddlers with their parents. They were observed for six weeks and divided into two groups. One group of parents were asked to observe their child play and interact with peers without intervening at any point. The other controlled group was allowed to intervene and rescue their child every time they felt the need to assist.

  • The sample size involved 38 individuals. There were 15 parents with infants and nine parents with toddlers in the class.
  • The control group had 23 parents with children under the age of two.
  • Infants were between four to eight months old and toddlers were between sixteen and twenty months.
  • Infants and toddlers were kept separate.
  • The groups were observed for six weeks and the same parent had to attend all of the sessions.
  • Parents sat at the same place every day throughout the class. Children were allowed to go to their parents whenever they wanted to.
  • Infants were placed on a comfortable play mat on their backs and allowed to explore as well.
  • Parents provided weekly feedback and asked questions when necessary.

The class provided a safe environment with all age-appropriate toys so the children were in a comfortable environment. They didn’t seek out their parent’s assistance when they encountered challenges and weren’t in any undue stress.

2. What Were The Results?

Many parents reported that they felt less stressed and didn’t experience much performance anxiety. The controlled group felt their stress increase significantly over the six weeks.

3. Did Parents Struggle?

Parents did struggle to hold back at first but after observing their child resolve all challenges without any intervention.

4. What Were the Long-Term Effects?

Parents reported a change of perspective and a renewed confidence in their child’s ability to deal with different challenges. Many changed their approach to parenting, allowing their children a little more freedom to explore and grow.

A healthier approach to parenting is beneficial for both adults and children. It helps improve communication, sets healthy boundaries, and ensures children develop into well-adjusted adults. It also helps parents reflect on their emotions as many indulge in helicopter parenting because of underlying issues like childhood neglect or abuse, excessive peer pressure, lack of self-confidence, issues with fertility or conception, etc. Adults need to pay proper attention to these underlying issues and get help to resolve them.

The idea is to create positive communication between parent and child. Hovering and over-protectiveness often leads to a strained relationship down the line. It’s best for a child to have some level of independence and freedom as that will boost their confidence levels and make them more self-reliant.

At Clovel, we have now started to slowly get back to regular school schedules and find that most students are eager to attend. We have various sanitation and cleaning procedures in place and our educators and staff are careful with following all the guidelines related to post-pandemic work measures. We are just as eager to help our students get back to normal routines and learning.

For any more information, call Clovel Childcare and Early Learning Centre, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. For any information about our Educational Programs, give us a call at 02 9199 0294 or fill in this contact us form.

Thanks for reading,
Clovel Childcare
1300 863 986