Helicopter parenting…good intentions gone awry!

It seems like the last time parents were actually happy seeing us fail was as toddlers, as we were learning to walk. As a child learns to walk, it trips, it stumbles and it falls down. But parents encourage the child to stand up and try walking once again. They know that by always holding on to their child’s hands, the child is never going to be able to learn to walk on his own. But why do parents forget this as the child grows up? The child does need parental guidance and support, but not to such an extent that it starts become hovering. 

The word “helicopter parenting” first appeared in Dr. Haim Ginott’s book-Parents and Teenagers, where teens felt their parents constantly hovered around them, just like a helicopter. Anne Dunnewold, a Ph. D holder and licensed psychologist, terms helicopter parenting to be “overparenting”. As parents, it is pretty natural for them to care and be worried about their child. But that doesn’t mean they exercise control over their child and start involving themselves in even the smallest of tasks, in ways that are excessive and deprive the child of his/her freedom to learn and grow into an independent person, capable of taking their own decisions.

One of the largest causes for this kind of behaviour in parents is guilt. They feel that if they don’t completely immerse themselves in every aspect of their child’s life, they are not being good parents. A low grade or not getting into a particular job may seem disastrous to these helicopter parents, especially if they feel it could be avoided with their involvement. Helicopter parents are obsessed with failure and preventing it all costs. But what they don’t realise is that this well-meaning gesture of theirs, most often, just backfires. By constantly involving themselves in all that the child does and stepping in to assist at the slightest hint of a problem are not going to help the child. The child is going to grow up with a mentality that failure is NOT ok!! Most of what these parents are trying to prevent, such as not excelling or unhappiness serve as great teachers for a child. As it is said, failure is the stepping stone to success. A child learns from his mistake and knows where he has gone wrong, and the next time he is faced with a similar situation, he knows exactly what has to be done in order to come out victorious. 

Another cause for this kind of behaviour in parents is parental pressure, or pressure from fellow parents. To throw some light on this topic, I would like to give an example from my own life. In 9th grade, which was a crucial stage in all our lives, most parents and children were trying to make up their mind on what courses their child had to take up and what extra coaching it required. I had always been a student who studied pretty well and would come in the top 3 of my class. This was something that my friend’s parents also knew. But at this stage, when my parents and I sat and discussed about what I should be doing next, we realized that I had no interest in pursuing either engineering or medical. Instead, my interests lay in English. When this news reached the ears of other parents, they were almost horrified. They couldn’t believe that a student like me was not going to be taking up one of the two major fields. They told my parents to advise me and also suggested to send me to a counsellor! Had my parents been the hovering, helicopter parents who got influenced by what the other parents around them were doing, they would have probably forced me into one of these two career paths, much against my own interests. But instead, they let me take this informed decision and supported me it. Because of this, I did not spend my holidays at a tuition centre, preparing for the competitive exams. Instead I spent this time on writing and by the end of the holidays had successfully published my first short story on Amazon! A helicopter parented child doesn’t know how to make judgements or take decisions in any situation. Their parents have always been the main decision making factor and they have never had an opportunity to learn how to make judgements in any situation.

I would like to conclude by saying that parents should always remember to take one step back and let their child deal with the situation at hand. This is not being irresponsible but instead helps build confident children, ready to stand strong in all situations. Making a 3 year olds bed is not hovering, making a 13 year olds bed is…

Sneha Ganesh 😊

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