Helicopter Parenting: Helping or Hovering?

Dr. S. K. Rathor

Founder and Chairman, Sanfort Group of Schools

Gone are the days when children played outside until sunset, came home with muddy clothes and bruises. Today, we live in an era where playing in the mud is ‘unhygienic’ and getting a scratch on the hand is scary. The definition of play for a 3-year-old has changed to sitting on a couch scrolling through the app store for new gaming apps as parents fear to send them outside.

What has gone wrong down the lane? Is it our parenting style? And to no surprise, the answer to that question is YES. According to recent research, 75% of the Indian parents are knowingly or unknowingly adopting “Helicopter Parenting” as their parenting style.

What is helicopter parenting?

It is a highly overprotective and over-controlling parenting style. A helicopter parent, just like a helicopter, hovers closely over their child and is rarely out of reach.

As a parent, it is natural to have those mama bear instincts as soon as we sense our child is in danger,

Protecting the child from any possible danger and taking complete control over their life hamper the child’s overall development. Parents should not constantly shadow their child and should not dictate to them what to do, what not to do, and how to do.

Causes of helicopter parenting

Helicopter parenting has various facets that impact the physical, psychological and social well-being of adolescents and emerging adults. To ensure their child's well-being and success parents consciously or unconsciously become over-involved in their child's life and tend to take all the decisions on their behalf.

They often do not consider their child an independent individual and treat them as a part of their being, which adversely impacts the development of the adolescent.

Parents see their own reflection in their children and at times, try to fulfil their lost dreams and ambitions through their children, regardless of what their child desires to achieve. They try to ensure their child's academic success to maintain their social standing.

Negative impact of helicopter parenting

  • Lack of Independence
  • Children find it difficult to do a task independently (e.g., eating food, holding a glass) as they are entirely dependent on their parents.

  • Inability to cope with life’s challenges
  • Lack of autonomy in early years has long-term effects on a child’s coping skills. It is commonly seen that kids of helicopter parents find it challenging to cope with life situations like success or failure.

  • Impact on physical well-being
  • Helicopter parents restrict their child from outdoor play as they feel the environment is not safe or the child may get hurt, which in turn hampers a child’s physical growth.

  • Lack of confidence
  • Children of helicopter parents are not confident about the abilities they possess as they are rarely allowed to explore them. Due to low self-confidence, children might also lack communication skills.

  • Anxiety
  • Children growing up in an overprotective environment, generally, experience uneasiness, nervousness, and uncertainty as they lack confidence.

    How to stop being a helicopter parent?

  • Gift them independence: Sit down with a cup of tea and analyse all the basic activities your child is unable to do independently. Help them become more self-reliant like letting them eat on their own even if it means spilling the food all over the table.
  • Let them take risks: We all grow up falling, getting hurt, and standing back on our feet again, so stop fearing and let the children grow naturally. Allow them to go outside and have a muddy and grassy play with their friends. Don’t panic if they get a little hurt. In fact, tell them to get up and dust themselves off.
  • Let your child struggle: Allow the child to face their own challenges and let them experience both the happiness of success and the disappointment of failure.
  • Give them responsibility: Early years are perfect for teaching children to work independently and develop the skills they will need later in life. Start giving your child small responsibilities like arranging their toys after playing, cleaning their face after eating, etc.
  • All in all, parents should never impose their dreams and ambitions on their children. They should treat the child as an individual and should involve them in every decision-making, whether it is selecting a school or clothes.

Dr. S. K. Rathor

Founder and Chairman, Sanfort Group of Schools