8 Mistakes 'Helicopter Parents' Are Making With Their Kids

8 Mistakes 'Helicopter Parents' Are Making With Their Kids

Parents may hover in the name of love, but they might also be stifling their kids’ growth.

By Judy Koutsky

We all want the best for our kids. But there’s a fine line between showing concern for your child and asserting too much control. Telling your kids to do their homework is good parenting. Calling the school to see how your child did on his test, and then demanding to talk to the teacher may be going too far. Of course, you care for and love your child, but being a “helicopter parent” ultimately limits the way your child can grow and develop. Here’s why this style of hyper-vigilant parenting may not be best for your kid after all.

1. Puts limitations on kids. It’s hard for parents to let kids make mistakes or try something we think might not work out well for them. Say, for example, your son is physically small, so you don’t want him to try out for the football team and get hurt. Or maybe, your daughter is sensitive, so you fear the debate team will reduce her to tears. “As parents, it is our job to prepare our children to become self-sufficient, but we sometimes find it difficult to take a step back to allow our children to flourish on their own,” Donald Mroz, PhD, president of Post University in Waterbury, Connecticut. Maybe your son will make a fabulous addition to the team because he’s fast, or your daughter will learn amazing negotiating skills through debate. The only way to help your children grow is to let them try things, even if you don’t necessarily agree.

2. Teaches kids to be fearful. By doing too much for your child -- planning school activities, organizing her wardrobe, suggesting what movie she should see with her friends – your child may become fearful when she’s put in a situation where she has to make her own decisions because she has no practice or experience doing that. Helicopter parents can actually create anxiety and phobias in their kids, says Mary Jo Rapini, LPC, a psychotherapist and author of the book Start Talking. “Your child may begin to withdraw from novel activities,” says Rapini and become fearful of anything new and different.

3. Hinders self-confidence. Kids who don’t have the chance to experiment on their own -- by making their own decisions and dealing with the consequences -- are less confident in their overall abilities. If their parents have always selected their classes, chosen their sports, and picked their musical instruments, it leaves the child feeling less empowered and more controlled. “It is easy for parents to experience an urge to assume control over their children, especially academically, but it’s important to let kids prioritize on their own and build their own path towards triumph,” says Mroz.

4. Displaces your child’s interests. By being too involved, you may be passing down your own dreams and pushing your own interests instead of allowing your child to pursue hers. Signing her up for violin or making her play hockey because you did those things is making her a mini you. Your job as a parent is to be “supportive of a child’s interest, but not responsible for it,” says Rapini.

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5. Discourages independent thinking. Children learn to be independent thinkers when their parents are not hovering over them; they learn to think critically about the situation and the best road to follow. “It’s psychologically healthy to know they can survive in the world without Mom or Dad making every decision,” says Mroz.

6. Stunts curiosity. If every decision is made, and every path is outlined, there’s no room to be curious. If you don’t let your kids climb the tree, play in the dirt and dig for worms, or run for homecoming queen, they won’t gain the sense of wonder and excitement that is part of dealing with the unknown.


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7. Passes on parents’ insecurities. You don’t want to pass along fears to your kids -- fear of trying new things, fear of eating new foods, fear of going outside your comfort zone. When children try something new, they often look to you for a reaction. “If they see a loving parent who embraces the new, while having confidence in their child’s ability to master it, they will be empowered to soar,” says Rapini.

8. Gets in the way of learning. The reality is that you won’t be able to be with your child every minute. The only way to keep them safe is to let them make decisions -- both good and bad -- and let them learn from that. Rather than thinking about protecting your child, think about empowering them. “Kids who grow up anticipating mistakes take more risks, are less fearful, and feel more confident about themselves,” says Rapini. So if your son wants a scooter, buy the protective gear and then let him try it out in an empty parking lot. Falling will teach him balance and the importance of going at a safe speed. Often, mistakes translate into the best life lessons.

Do you think you’re a helicopter parent?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.

Image ©iStock.com/zeremski

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