We want the best for our children. We want them to be smart; we want them to be creative; we want them to be successful. And we do what we can to ensure they cultivate these qualities. But some parents take this natural, healthy inclination too far, resulting in a not-so-healthy parent-child dynamic. Helicopter parenting, bulldozer parenting, over-parenting — whatever you want to call it, this style of parenting is on the rise. Psychology Today describes helicopter parenting as the result of “typically well-meaning but over-involved parents who engage in protective behaviors that are not appropriate for their child’s age and ability level.”
According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers Sofie Rousseau and Miri Scharf identified three types of people who are prone to helicopter parenting: those who are prevention-focused, promotion-focused, or regretful. Prevention-focused individuals attempt to dodge failure and disappointment because they view these things as evidence of a personal shortcoming. They, in turn, project this fear of failure onto their children. Promotion-focused individuals place a heightened emphasis on achievement and progress, which translates directly into what they value for their children. Regretful people — especially regretful women — make choices for their children because they believe they made the wrong choices for themselves as adolescents and hope to spare their kids from the same mistakes.
Although often derived from a place of love, parenting like this can be detrimental to children’s development. We spoke with clinical child psychologist and author of Parenting in the Real World Stephanie O’Leary about the dangers of helicopter parenting.
As intended by prevention-focused parents, helicopter parenting shields children from failure. “I see helicopter parenting as a challenge because it robs children and teens of the opportunity to learn from failure and setbacks,” O’Leary says. This lack of exposure to failure renders children helpless when confronting it for the first time because they do not possess the resiliency and adaptability necessary to cope.
Helicopter parenting can lead to lowered levels of self-assurance too. “When parents hover and micromanage, kids also begin to doubt their instincts [and] struggle to form their own perspectives and opinions,” O’Leary comments. Because these children’s parents have insisted upon making decisions for them, confidence in their own decisions drops. This may cause children to seek out relationships with equally as domineering people in their adulthood to fulfill the role their parents held throughout their youth, according to O’Leary.
This lack of resilience and increased self-doubt related to helicopter parenting has a “lasting impact on the child” in his or her navigation of the real world, O’Leary warns.
The balance between being caring and overbearing is challenging to perfect, but it proves essential to a child’s development. O’Leary’s advice? “My favorite suggestion for parents is to ‘trade bubble wrap for band-aids,'” she remarks. “Begin allowing your child to fall, make mistakes, and learn how to get up again while you support from a bit of a distance.”
How do you find this balance? Tweet us @BritandCo!
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