Chances are, if you identify with the Millennial generation, and grew up during the early 2000’s, you may have encountered the experience of “helicopter parenting”. The term, which came into fashion at about that same time period, describes a parenting style that takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child(ren).

Dr. Haim Ginott first coined the term helicopter parenting in his 1969 book, Parents & Teenagers, and gained enough popularity over the years that by 2011 it was officially entered into the dictionary.

While on the surface, it may seem that parents willing to spend extended time with their children is a good thing… it often backfires and turns into an enabling behavior that can have dire consequences for the children as they reach adulthood

Let’s take a look at what happens when parents micro-manage (helicopter parenting) their children.

WHY Parents Hover

Transference from their own childhood – Adults who feel like they were neglected or that their parents weren’t involved in their upbringing often approach their own parenting style by starting with, “I’ll never do what they (their parents) did.” They attempt to overcompensate by hovering over their own children.

Fear and anxiety – Parents of children who have grown up in a post 9/11 world tend to take a much more controlling role in their children’s lives in a misguided attempt to protect them from the uncertainties of this era.

Attempted avoidance of their own mistakes – If an adult struggled with poor grades, or missed out on the job of their dreams, they sometimes micro-manage their children to help them achieve what they couldn’t in their youth.

Let’s be clear: engaged parenting is a good thing – helicopter parenting is not. Engaged parenting offers children many benefits including increased feelings of support, love, and self-confidence.  The problem occurs when those parents allow their decisions to become motivated by fear, or the need to overcompensate for their own experiences. Their desire to remove failure from their children’s experience inadvertently causes consequences that, in the end, inhibit the learning experience of the child altogether.

Consequences of Helicopter Parenting

Coping skills are bypassed – When a parent steps in and cleans up any mistakes, or worse yet – prevents the mistakes from ever being made, the children grow up in an environment where they begin to feel entitled. Once the child leaves the over-nurturing environment of home, they have no foundation for how to handle the real world of loss, challenge, and struggle.

Undeveloped life skills – Everything from doing their own laundry, preparing (and cleaning up after) their own meals to budgeting and succeeding in the workforce is thwarted by a parent who wishes to do all of these things for their children.

Increased anxiety – The sudden surge in young adults requiring ‘emotional support animals’ indicates that children with parents who hover do not have the coping skills to handle all that life dishes up. A study from the University of Mary Washington backs this up concluding that over-parenting is associated with increased levels of anxiety and depression in youth.

Dr. Deborah Gilboa, M.D. offers some advice for those who have slipped into helicopter parenting. She says, “As parents, we need to keep one eye on our children now – their stressors, strengths and emotions – and one eye on the adults that we are trying to raise.”

Practically speaking, that means allowing our kids to make mistakes, stumble… even fail. Because through those experiences, children learn who they really are, and what they are (and aren’t) capable of.

If you or someone you know is struggling with over-parenting your children, we are just a quick phone call away. It would be our pleasure to work through the issues that both drive the parents and affect the children. Feel free to contact us here.  A New Outlook Counseling Services provides offices across the front range of Colorado.


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