How many times have you experienced sleepless nights worrying about your child’s future?
Or refuse to let your child participate in activities with their friends out of fear for their safety?
If the answer is “a lot,” you might be a helicopter parent.
Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about helicopter parenting and understand why parents must strive to kick the “hovering” to the curb.
Then, we’ll explore unconventional ways to help you raise brilliant, unique children that you may not have considered.
What Is A Helicopter Parent?
The term first appeared 50 years ago in the book Between Parent & Teenager authored by Dr. Haim Ginott.
The teens in the book said their parents would “hover” over them like a helicopter.
Later, it became popular enough to gain a dictionary slot in 2011.
Helicopter parents “hover” over their child’s shoulders and excessively intervene in their life.
They seek to protect their children against any pain and challenges.
This kind of overprotective environment leads to what’s been dubbed the snowflake generation.
Am I a helicopter parent?
There are some distinct behaviors associated with helicopter parenting. Ask yourself these questions to identify whether you’re a helicopter parent.
- Always think your child will be in danger if left alone?
- Feel extremely worried about your child’s future?
- Frequently check-in on your child; call or text your child to find out their whereabouts, what they’re doing, and who they’re with?
- Contact your child’s teachers and lecturers to resolve an issue or ask questions on their behalf?
- Help your child do their homework assignments?
- Feel afraid that your child might not be able to solve problems by themselves?
- Think your child needs you by their side all the time?
- Think your way of doing things is better than your child’s?
- Speak on behalf of your child whenever someone asks them a question?
If you answered “yes” to a majority of these questions, you’re likely a helicopter parent.
It may sound reasonable to hover over your child because they’re young and you feel you must protect them.
But have you ever stopped to ask yourself what’s made you want to hover?
What Does It Mean To Be A Helicopter Parent?
The birthplace of hovering impulses is belief.
Helicopter parents unconsciously caught them from their ancestors and the culture around them. And many of these beliefs are disempowering and difficult to detach from.
John Sharp, a Harvard Psychiatrist said, “Many of us hold deeply ingrained beliefs about ourselves that are simply not true. You can start to free yourself from them by editing your narrative.”
So, we’re going to debunk the top 3 disempowering beliefs that are plaguing parents worldwide.
Belief 1: You are greater than and the child is lesser than
A child is here to follow, and you have the supreme control.
As a parent, you have more knowledge and experience; hence, you believe it is your right to instruct and discipline your child.
This belief is manifested when the child starts to fight for their freedom.
Example: Mary [the parent] banned Kim [the child] from staying overnight at a friend’s house because Mary is afraid Kim could be kidnapped or do drugs. Kim begged for a few days, but the pleas were thrown into a wall. Hence, she rebelled and went to her friend’s house against her mother’s wishes.
In a helicopter parent-teen relationship, the child’s decision and emotions are out of the equation. What matters most is what mommy and daddy say. That’s it.
Belief 2: Your child belongs to you
You own the child, and you have the right to shape the child in any way you want.
As the saying goes, a child is a blank piece of paper. You can draw anything you want on that piece of paper, and it’ll flourish by your design.
True story. I have a friend, a mother of a teen, who embodies this belief. She once told me:
“I don’t want my child to be successful because he might fail in the process and be hurt. I don’t want him to suffer.”
My jaw dropped when I heard her. I asked again in case I misheard it.
What if the child wants to be successful and is willing to endure failures?
Belief 3: The world is cruel, unequal and dangerous
Helicopter parents are fearful for the child.
A C-grade means jail and homelessness. Failing exams means failing in life. Not wanting to go to school means being jobless.
Dr. Shefali Tsabary, #1 NYT Bestselling Author, Clinical Psychologist, and renowned international speaker says:
Parents are too attached to their children’s future.
Each small mistake a child makes is the biggest failure in life.
Thus, the child must excel. They must get that top grade, that top school, that top career.
Millennials are trapped in a constant pressure cooker their whole life.
When can they ever enjoy simply being alive?
How Does Helicopter Parenting Affect The Child?
Helicopter parenting at a very young age is necessary to ensure the survival of the child. Because, literally, their lives are dependent on you. If you left a baby on its own for 48 hours, it would likely not survive.
But as the baby grows up, helicopter parenting does more harm than good. If pain and challenges are filtered, parents are robbing children of experiences that could help them gain autonomy, confidence, and independence.
And you know, life is the greatest teacher on Earth.
It means falling and getting back up, learning how to tie shoelaces, overnight trips with friends, and negotiating with teachers about grades and assignments.
Parents who rob their children of these challenges raise children who are unable to cope with discomfort and failure. They’re often unable to think for themselves, socially anxious, depressed, and unable to communicate effectively.
In short, the child will not be able to function successfully by themselves.
Now, what about the parents?
How Does Helicopter Parenting Affect The Parent?
Helicopter parents are driven by constant anxiety because they’re worried about the child’s future.
They believe the world is cruel, unequal, and scarce, so their child needs to fight for happiness and success.
So, they join in the fray and fight their children’s battles on their behalf.
Fighting your child’s battles takes a monumental amount of energy and time.
Add to that the constant worry and fear for your child’s well-being and you’ll have a recipe for non-stop guilt, stress, and anxiety.
How Do I Stop Being A Helicopter Parent?
What you can do today is to replace disempowering beliefs with better beliefs.
So, here are the 3 empowering beliefs you can practice that will flip the way you see your children and the world.
New Belief 1: You and your child are in a symbiotic relationship
“The parent-child relationship is a symbiotic relationship where you are simultaneously — as you are teaching — you’re definitely more of a learner,” says Dr. Shefali.
This unique relationship is not only a top-down but bottom-up approach as well.
It’s not a one-way but a two-way communication and respect.
New Belief 2: Your child does not belong you
“The premise of a child is not to fulfill the parents’ needs but to become a fully evolved, independent and unique being,” says Dr. Shefali.
Your child does not belong to you. They’re not blank pieces of paper.
Each baby is born with unique, innate abilities, and they’re meant to fulfill their own life’s calling — not yours.
New Belief 3: The world is abundant
Instead of looking at the world as scarce and competitive, why not choose to see it as a place of abundance?
The economy has more than enough money for everyone. Companies have more than enough jobs for millennials. The world has more than enough love, joy, and fulfillment to be shared with everyone.
There is enough for everyone.
Choose to see the abundance and you will begin to see how life overflows on a daily basis.
How to let go of your children
Letting go of your child sounds like an absurd idea.
But what does it mean to let go?
It means to guide, not do. Ask, not tell. Listen, not speak. Inspire wonder, not fear. Let go, not control.
Imagine the following:
- Your child glows with confidence and wears a big smile while taking their first steps in new environments. They have faith that they’d be okay.
- Your child is independent and able to take care of themselves while you enjoy doing the things you love.
- Your child ventures into the unknown with courage.
- In every interaction, your child communicates effectively with other people.
- You have faith in your child that they’ll become successful human beings on their terms.
Wouldn’t it wonderful to watch your child live a happy and successful life defined by themselves?
Letting go is beautiful, and you’ll be awed by how fast your child learns to spread their wings.
HOW ABOUT WE [PARENTS] ALLOW AND DON’T DO ANYTHING? WE STAY AWAY, OPEN UP SPACE, AND KEEP THE EGO OUT.
—DR SHEFALI TSABARY, AUTHOR OF MINDVALLEY’S CONSCIOUS PARENTING PROGRAM
Whether a parent or not, discover a radically new and empowering model of parenting in this FREE Masterclass by Dr. Shefali. Sign up for the Masterclass below:
So, what is your biggest takeaway from this article? Let us know in the comments below.