Are you a ‘helicopter parent’?

Are you a ‘helicopter parent’?

Have you heard of “helicopter parents”?

A study published by the American Psychological Association has revealed that overprotective moms and dads who take excessive interest in the lives of their children may be hurting their emotional development.

The study’s lead author, Nicole Perry, PhD, explained that directing a toddler’s every move and decision may reduce their ability to handle emotions and behavior on their own. While it’s important for parents to play an active role, ‘helicopter’ parenting may actually discourage a child’s independence, the research warns.

During the study, which lasted eight years, researchers followed and analyzed the social and emotional development of 422 children at ages 2, 5 and 10.

Parents and their 2-year-olds were asked to engage in activities the same as they would at home. Perry and her team noted characteristics of helicopter parents including guidance in telling their child what to play with, how to play with it, directing cleanup after playtime and being too strict or demanding.

Data were collected from these observations, parent-child interactions, teacher reports and self-reports from the children at age 10.

The 2-year-olds with overbearing parents showed signs of being less able to regulate their emotions and behavior at age 5. Those with greater control of their emotions, however, showed better impulse control and were more likely to have better social skills and performance in school at age 10.

“Parents have a wonderful opportunity—and responsibility—to help children develop confidence and the skills to problem solve and work through frustration. Offering children the space and freedom to make their own decisions and to navigate tasks independently—even when it means that they might fail—is a challenging, but critical role for parents,”says Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a child psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill.

“Of course, we should provide oversight and guidance when needed; however, it is important that parents find a balance between taking charge and taking a back seat,” continued Dr. Roberts.

“Recognize when your child is able to handle a situation independently, or when it is safe to let them try, and encourage them to do so. When our children see that we are confident in their ability to make decisions, it helps them to develop needed confidence in themselves. When it comes to play, it’s okay if they don’t do things exactly as we would—it’s their job to discover their own path.”

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  1. It frightens me that people who write about health and health studies for a living don’t understand cause and effect. Just because helicoptering and dysfunction co-occur does not necessarily mean that helicoptering causes dysfunction. For instance, maybe parents of children who are more anxious to begin with tend to helicopter. Or maybe both are caused by other factors such as family stress and trauma.

    You’d think after the medical/psychological community embarrassed themselves with “refrigerator mothers” causing autism and “schizophregenic mothers” causing schizophrenia, maybe you’d learn to stop blaming parents for everything that’s wrong with children, no?

    And it also frightens me that people who write for a living don’t understand basic pronoun-antecedent agreement. “…who take excessive interest in the lives of their children may be hurting his or her emotional development” s/b “…who take excessive interest in the lives of their children may be hurting THEIR emotional development”.

    • Thank you for speaking up. My thoughts exactly. I don’t blame the author as she is only reporting the typical response from most sources, but it is wrong. Research is showing more and more the role of stress and trauma in social primates. People don’t want to make the connections and see what is happening. It’s easier to blame people for their problems than to deal with the real causes. I would suggest, the next time one diagnoses a helicopter parent, treat the child and stop blaming the parent.

  2. More is also coming to light regarding high functioning autistic and sensory disorders. Such children can participate in mixed settings and benefit from it, but often need extra guidance, beyond what a typically developing child would need. Not all children learn the same. Most kids are supported by normal instincts, normal regulation, normal sensory processes, normal social comprehension. Many kids that *look the same* do have the same normally functioning systems. Parents have to bend over backwards to help their kids with developmental problems that can be overcome with a great parental efforts. You probably know someone that quietly accepts the helicopter parenting label hoping that with enough guidance, their child will one day fit in.

About the Author

Efua Richardson
Efua Richardson

Efua Richardson, health enews contributor, is a senior at Lewis University studying public relations & advertising. In the future, she hopes to work in entertainment, namely in the music industry. In her free time, she enjoys reading, scrolling through Instagram and trying new ethnic dishes. Among her talents is the ability to move her kneecaps in tune to music and wiggle her nose.