What is a helicopter parent? What are the key characteristics, and why do some parents become helicopter parents? Let’s take a look.
You may have heard the phrase flying around — but what exactly is a helicopter parent?
And what are the pros and cons of being one?
As the name suggests: helicopter parents hover.
(Imagine yourself in a chopper, with a bird’s eye view, watching everything.)
This parenting style is all about staying close to your kids so that you can monitor, manage, and intervene in their lives almost all the time.
The term usually comes with fairly negative connotations, but there are often caring and loving intentions behind helicopter parenting.
And there may be some benefits, too.
Let’s take a look at what it’s all about.
And before we dive in, know that we’re approaching this issue with zero judgment.
Parenting is not a competition and there are no styles that are 100% right or wrong.
Ultimately, trust your instincts and do what you think is right for yourself and your family.
With that in mind, let’s explore.
In this article: 📝
- What is a helicopter parent?
- What makes someone become a helicopter parent?
- Are there advantages to being a helicopter parent?
- What is the opposite of a helicopter parent?
What is a helicopter parent?
Helicopter parents tend to be incredibly focused on and overprotective of their children.
They’re likely to try and take control of many aspects of their little ones’ lives, even when they’re old enough to manage certain things themselves.
The term was first used in [Dr. Haim Ginot’s 1969 book, Between Parent & Teenager.
In it, teens described how their parents hovered over them “like a helicopter.”
And, just like that, the phrase was born.
Your child doesn’t have to be a teenager for you to be a helicopter parent, though.
Helicopter parents might hover around their toddlers and not let them play on their own.
Or interfere in their seven-year-old’s life by dictating which hobbies they should pick up and how intensely they should engage with each one.
(Helicopter parenting can come with an air of perfectionism — often, things have to be done just right.)
Here are some other telltale signs:
- Scheduling every activity and event for your little one
- Making all decisions on your child’s behalf
- Prioritizing high levels of success
- Never allowing your child any solitude and actively overseeing time with friends
- Doing homework and other tasks for your child
- Resolving conflicts for your child rather than letting them manage these moments themselves
- Focusing all your time, energy, and finances on your child — perhaps to the point of neglecting your own or your partner’s needs
What makes someone become a helicopter parent?
Helicopter parents don’t necessarily want to smother their little ones.
In fact, the reason why they take such an active role in their children’s lives is that they want what’s best for them.
It’s just that, in the execution, their children aren’t given the opportunity to make their own mistakes and to learn, grow, and find their own way.
Here are some of the common motivations behind helicopter parenting:
Being a better parent
Adults who had absent parents often want to be better parents to their own children.
But in this, they can sometimes overcompensate and become overly involved instead.
Wanting to help
Maybe you just want to make sure that your child does their best and keep them safe from physical or emotional harm.
These are perfectly healthy parenting instincts.
But there’s a line between helping your little one grow up in a safe and supportive home and not letting them do anything independently.
Fear and anxiety
Parents who worry that their children might have achieved a better grade on a test, or made the football team, if only they had intervened are more likely to become helicopter parents.
As they try to protect their child from life’s inevitable pitfalls, they may not allow them to learn the important life lessons that come from struggling through something and not always getting what they want.
At times, it’s almost as though helicopter parenting can be contagious.
If you belong to a community of people — your family, maybe, or your children’s school, or a religious group — that prioritizes certain types of success, you might feel pressured to make doubly sure that your children succeed, too.
Are there advantages to being a helicopter parent?
Helicopter parenting isn’t all bad.
The children of helicopter parents tend to be organized, punctual, and certain they have support if needed.
They’re also likely to get help quickly if they’re battling with a particular subject at school or being bullied, which can prevent problems from worsening over time.
But children need to learn how to problem-solve, make their own decisions, and manage mistakes to become strong and resilient adults.
So perhaps the goal is to strike a balance between being concerned about your child’s welfare and being involved in their lives — while still giving them the space to figure out who they are and to forge their own way.
What is the opposite of a helicopter parent?
There isn’t one specific opposite of a helicopter parent.
But free-range parenting, which gives children certain responsibilities and freedoms, sometimes from a young age, is certainly on the list.
This type of parenting (like every parenting style) isn’t without its critics, and some feel that letting children run free can verge on neglectful.
At the end of the day, there are many different ways to parent a child.
(Yep, unfortunately, kids don’t come with an instruction manual!)
It’s no easy task — but as long as you’re trying to strike a balance between offering care and support and encouraging individualism and independence, you’re on the right track.
And if you need support along the way, remember that your Peanut community is there for you.