Are you helicoptering?

Last week my parenting class explored the topic of helicopter parents. There is a significant amount of research that states the negative impact helicopter parenting has on a child’s development. The research states that children raised by parents that heavily helicopter lack the following:

  1. 1. Grit (The ability to persevere over an extended period of time to reach a goal)
  2. 2. Resiliency
  3. 3. The ability to problem solve
  4. 4. Confidence in their own ability to handle themselves and their world
  5. 5. The ability to take risks

From time to time, we all have helicoptered – it’s hard not to. We all want our children to be happy and we feel the need to fix things for them – We don’t want them to struggle.

Healthy struggle, however, builds grit, resiliency, problem solving abilities and allows for children to gain confidence in their ability to handle “hard stuff”. I stress “healthy” struggle – continuous struggle can also hinder one’s development, creating in the child a lack of caring (i.e. I don’t care about you, school, etc.), high stress levels, high anxiety and at times depression.

So what’s the healthy balance and are you helicoptering too much? Here’s some things to think about:

  1. 1. Do you fight your child’s battles? Meaning you jump in to solve your child’s problem.
  2. 2. Do you do your child’s homework? Do you put on your preschooler’s shoes, solve your teenager’s math problems or write their essay for them? Remember healthy levels of stress actually boosts a child’s problem solving skills and children need to know that you believe in their ability to do their work (whatever that work is). Remember providing support looks and feels very different from doing.
  3. 3. Do you “coach” their coaches or “teach” their teachers? Please don’t “yell” from the sidelines. Coaches and teachers may have a different approach or goal than yours, and that’s a good thing. Children need to know that you have faith in their “village”. They need to know that you support them and the villages/classrooms/teams they are a part of.
  4. 4. Do you put your child in a bubble? Are you too safety conscious? Do you not allow them space – meaning that you’re always there. Do you attend drop off birthday parties, drive or walk your child to their friends, even though they live only a few houses down the street? Children need freedom to explore to develop independent skills.
  5. 5. Does your child do chores around the house? Children need to learn responsibility and what it means to be a part of a community. Give your child a job within the home and give them a shout out for effort put into those responsibilities.
  6. 6. Do you rescue your child – hindering the opportunity for failure? Children need to know that they can fail and it’s okay. The greatest learning happens through one’s mistakes. Problem solving skills are developed through one’s failures.

If you answered a resounding yes to the questions above, you may be helicoptering too much. It may be time to step back and re-evaluate. Helicoptering is exhausting and not healthy for a child’s development.

At Clariden, we teach our students to take risks, give them opportunities to create, design, build and thus learn to problem solve. We see failures as great learning opportunities! As the author Roald Dahl states, “The more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves.” Independence is definitely a worthwhile goal!

Sallie Wells, Head of School

Photo by Diana Măceşanu on Unsplash