How is it that we sometimes turn out to be exactly the kind of mom or dad we swore up and down we would never become?

We’re pretty sure most of you never planned on becoming a helicopter parent, hovering around your child to be sure they’re happy and safe.

What is helicopter parenting you ask? The term “helicopter parent” is used to define a mom or dad who tends to over-parent their kids.

These parents can be a little obsessive when it comes to their children’s safety, education, extracurricular activities, and more.

Many of us probably grew up more like free-range kids, out playing with the neighbors, riding our bikes to the park, pretty much doing our thing until it was time to come home for lunch or dinner.

But then when we became parents ourselves, something changed.

Somehow we crossed the line from being a supportive and positive parent, to being a little too protective for our own good (or the good of our kids).

What is helicopter parenting? It can be little tendencies that sneak up on you…like staying super close to your kids when they play ‘just to keep an eye on them’. Or putting the polishing touches on your child’s school project to be sure he gets a good grade.

We’re pretty sure nobody sets out to be a helicopter parent. But, if you’re not careful it can creep up on you. And it isn’t a good thing for your child.

Numerous studies show the negative effects of helicopter parenting including raising kids who are anxious, less independent, and have low self-esteem.

Which is why it’s important to notice when these helicopter tendencies start creeping into your own parenting style. So you can nip them in the bud before you become that hovering, overprotective mamma you really don’t want to be.

So let’s dive in and really answer the question what is helicopter parenting. We’ll also share 10 warning signs that might indicate you are one.


What Is Helicopter Parenting?

The term “helicopter parent” has been around longer than you might think. It was first used in 1969 by Dr. Haim Ginott to describe parents who hover over their kids, kind of like a helicopter hovering over traffic.

Nowadays the term is pretty common and used to describe parents who are always looking over their kids shoulders to be sure everything is okay and safe for them.

Some parents actually wear the term “helicopter parent” like a badge of honor, but helicoptering isn’t doing your kids any favors.


“The more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves.” – Ronald Dahl


What is helicopter parenting? It’s more than just a bad habit. It’s getting so involved in your children’s lives that you prevent them from learning the lessons failure has to offer.

Parents today are bombarded with news stories about child abduction, mass shootings, academic competition, economic instability, and more. Naturally these kinds of stories can scare parents, which might account for the rise of helicopter parenting.

Mom watches the news, and wants to protect her children from all the dangers and hardships out in the big bad world.

Keeping kids safe is one thing, but overprotection to the point of stunting your child’s self-esteem or making them feel anxious and unsure of themselves, is something else.


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10 Signs You Might Be A Helicopter Parent

How do you know if you crossed the line into helicopter territory? Here are 10 signs to watch out for.


1. You Constantly Help With Small Tasks

You see your child struggling to zip up their jacket, so you rush in to do it for them. Your child has trouble getting the fitted sheet on their bed so you take over and make the whole thing for them.

Seems innocuous, but it isn’t. Performing everyday tasks for children instead of letting them try and do it themselves sends the message you think they aren’t competent enough to do it.

This can erode a child’s self esteem. It’s better to let them struggle a bit and work through the problem.

You can always offer guidance and lend a hand if they still have trouble, but many times your child will resolve it on their own. And get a confidence boost in the process.

Related: If You Want To Raise Resilient Kids Don’t Make These Mistakes


2. You Step In To Negotiate Conflicts With Their Friends

When a bullying situation happens, it’s obvious a parent should step in and get involved.

But if you find yourself stepping in when your child has a disagreement with a friend about what game to play, or who sits with who at recess, you might be taking it a step too far.


3. You Rush To Make Them Happy

When your child feels sad or frustrated are you first on the scene to cheer them up and make them feel better?

Kids learn valuable life lessons by working through the so-called negative emotions like anger, sadness, frustration, and grief.  

Comforting is one thing, but if you’re always quick to jump in and try to “turn that frown upside down” you may be guilty of helicoptering.


4. You Do Their Schoolwork

OK, confession time. Who really stayed up late putting the finishing touches on that science fair project?

If it was you, and this kind of thing has happened more than once…you’ve crossed over into helicopter territory.


5. You Coach Their Coaches

Are you the parent shouting advice from the stands during your kids’ games or cornering the coach to talk after every practice?

If yes, it might be time to put yourself in the penalty box.

Sports can teach your child how to work toward a common goal, deal with conflict, lead others, and cope with defeat. But it has to be your child’s team, not yours.


6. You Fight Their Battles

If your child feels like they got an unfair grade on a paper, are you the one that calls to argue with the teacher?

Of if they didn’t get picked for the school musical, are you immediately trying to convince the drama coach to give them a part?

If this sounds anything like you, it might be time to take a step back.


7. You Keep Them On A Short Leash

Are you that one parent that sticks around after drop-off at birthday parties?

Do you insist on driving your tween to a friend’s house that’s a short (safe) walk away?

Is your high schooler required to make frequent text check-ins with you when they’re out with friends?

If you’re nodding yes, it might be time to let your child off leash a little so they can build some independence.


8. You Clean Up After Them

Are you acting like a maid in your own house?

If your kids are old enough to make their bed, clean their room, or do their own laundry…they should be doing it!

Giving your kids chores isn’t “mean”, it teaches them responsibility and valuable life skills.


9. Can’t Let Them Fail

When people ask, what is helicopter parenting? This is the core definition.

Helicopter parents do not want to see their children fail. So they step in as soon as a mistake is being made and take over.

Related: Fun Books That Encourage A Growth Mindset For Kids

Trouble is, great things come from failing and learning to dust yourself off and try again. This is where problem-solving, resilience and grit are born.

Instead of focusing on not making mistakes, try shifting the focus to learning from mistakes when they happen.

Kids get more from failing and being encouraged to try again then they do from being rescued.


10. You Have A Safety Obsession

If given the opportunity, would you bubble wrap your child before they go out to play?  You might be a helicopter parent.

Taking practical safety precautions, like looking both ways and wearing a bike helmet, is all well and good.

Issuing warnings every 15 minutes, “slow down”, “don’t touch that”, “put on a jacket” could be helicopter overkill.


So there you have it. We’ve answered the question, “what is helicopter parenting?”  And we’ve shown you some signs that might indicate you’re slipping into helicopter territory.

What’s next? Taking a step back and letting your child try to resolve some of their own issues can go a long way towards encouraging a growth mindset and raising a resilient kid that can overcome setbacks and thrive.


Related: The Secret To Raising A confident Child


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