Are You a Helicopter Parent?

By Jennifer LeClaire

June 04, 2008

Are You a Helicopter Parent? Are You a Helicopter Parent?

Do you hover over your kids with anxious anticipation of fulfilling an unmet need? Your intentions may be honorable, but the behavior may earn you an unwanted moniker – helicopter parent.

Helicopter parents are obsessed with their children and become over-involved in their lives. They overstep their bounds, cross the line and downright break the sound barrier of acceptable parental participation.

This conduct was encouraged when your child was in kindergarten, but now that he is in college you may find yourself being treated as persona non grata if you don’t come down to terra firma and let him live his life.

“You must remember that college is a time for your child to become an adult. If you are constantly helping them to avoid any sort of discomfort by treating them like a child, they will still be a child when they graduate. So, as much as you think you are showing love, you are actually crippling them for life,” says Boyce Watkins, a professor at Syracuse University and author of The Parental 411.

Are You a Helicopter Parent?

Maybe you know you are a helicopter parent. Others may be in denial. Still others may not have a clue that their hovering is actually smothering their child and stunting his growth. How can loving, involved parents recognize helicopter tendencies?

“One way to tell the difference between helicopter behavior and just being helpful is to ask yourself if your child can do for herself what you are doing for her,” says Michael Zentman, Ph.D., director of the Adelphi Postdoctoral Program in Marriage & Couple Therapy.

The trouble is, experts say, when parents over-function for their kids, their kids often accommodate by under-functioning. So instead of becoming more self-sufficient they become more helpless and dependent on mom and dad to tackle life’s challenges for them.

Hovering Over Admissions

While your hovering behavior likely started long before your child graduated from high school, college administrators are quick to notice helicopter parents during the admissions process.

“The umbilical cord is severed for a reason. To do a college application for a child is in no way helping foster growth or independence. However, to proof read a college essay or brainstorm topics is productive,” says Dr. Donalee Markus, an education expert and neurocognitive therapist.

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