The recent college admissions scandal, leading to the arrest and incarceration of celebrity parents who had bribed college officials at high-profile colleges to admit their children, might be the most famous example of helicopter parenting gone wrong.
Helicopter parenting most often occurs in middle-to upper class families where stakes are high for parents to show off their children’s successes. Recent research indicates that this style of parenting leads to low mastery, self regulation and social competence among their children.
The stakes, in these cases, were different than the ‘average’ family, but the fear that they would no longer have access to the spotlight or the college was not prestigious enough, wouldn’t have been aligned with the parents’ lifestyles. The motivation for the ‘right’ college seems to round out the career guidance of helicopter parents, who will likely force a child to study medicine when the child wants to be an artist.
Helicopter parenting isn’t done for what the child wants, but what the parents want. Children tend to take these things to heart and that undermines a child’s self-concept and ability to self-regulate. Children might figure out what’s best for themselves and figure out problems on their own, but parents swoop in before they have the opportunity to do so.
Children can otherwise learn for themselves with a sense of autonomy to do so, but the negative effects of overarching parenting and the child’s lack of autonomy could be heightened anxiety and internalization of problems. This could lead to the child’s belief that they are incapable of living independently and that outcomes are primarily shaped by external forces instead of their own decisions.
Some children may require more oversight than others, but it varies from family to family and even from child to child within a family. Not to worry, parents, children tend to do just fine and will learn to ‘adult’ themselves just fine, without your creating a ‘hothouse’ situation.
Though it is true that people tend to repeat the parenting they receive, it doesn’t have to be that way. Children of helicopter parents will probably act in kind when they become parents. The biggest takeaway to helicopter parenting, is that children need to be allowed to make decisions on their own in many situations, and as long as decisions won’t present danger of physical or psychological harm. Allow your child to self-determine and learn to follow their own sense of right and wrong, good and bad and make wise choices versus poor ones.
Competent, self confident children motivated by their desire to follow their own unique dreams, exist when parents sometimes step back, recognize who that child is, and do not step in the way of who that child wishes to be. The ultimate goal, when acting in your child’s best interest, is that he or she is happy. When children are allowed to develop and discover their gifts and talents, all they need from you is support and positive guidance. Parents are better to present options and provide access to opportunities to pursue their own unique interests.
Being a helicopter parent will most likely do more harm than support your child’s development and growth as competent, self-assured people. It is a dangerous proposition if you overshadow your child’s ability to pursue their potential. Don’t forget that being a parent means to be guided by your child’s needs, not your own. You don’t want to be the parent whose child grows to resent, but the parent whose child grows to respect and appreciate.