Everything You Need To Know About Helicopter Parenting

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Picture this: you’re sitting in your college lecture hall, and it’s filled to max capacity. You just bombed your midterm exam and you’re feeling pretty low. Next thing you know, your mom comes bursting through the doors and goes after your professor in an embarrassingly loud manner.

Sounds mortifying, right? Although my example was a bit intense, unfortunately, this is a pretty common parenting practice. There’s a term society uses for this called helicopter parenting.

What Is A Helicopter Parent?

Helicopter parenting goes by many names. Some of these include bulldozer parenting, snowplow parenting, and lawnmower parenting, to name a few. While this concept has many different names, they all mean the same thing.

Parents are classified as helicopter parents when they’re overbearing and tend to take over every aspect of their child’s wellbeing.

This term was initially used in a book from 1969 and was used to describe parents who would “hover” over their child’s life. There are a few different reasons why some parents will helicopter around their children.

Fear Of Failure

As parents, we only want what’s best for our children. Unfortunately, that makes it easy for parents to fall into the habit of overbearing their child. Failure is a scary concept, especially when all you want is for your child to succeed. 

The fear of failure may cause a helicopter parent to chastise teachers for giving the child a bad grade. They may also confront their child’s coach or other activity coordinators when their child is sitting for a game or other activity.


A parent may also be overbearing due to their mental health. It’s easy for parents with anxiety to psych themselves out over situations. Their worries cause an amped-up need to keep their child safe no matter the cost.

Something as little as their child getting a bad grade, or as big as the struggling economy, can trigger anxiety in parents.

parent and child

Fear Of Repeating History

Not everyone has an amazing childhood. People deal with abuse and neglect, and other issues far more than they should. A parent with this kind of negative past may not want to give their children the same childhood they had. Therefore, they try to do everything in their power to help their child succeed.

Unfortunately, this tends to have the opposite effect than what was intended. Instead of feeling neglected and totally self-reliant, children won’t be able to make decisions for themselves as they get older.

Pressure From Other Parents

There’s this wonderful concept in the parenting world called “mom guilt” that causes parents, especially mothers, to feel self-conscious about their parenting techniques. When someone sees another parent with overbearing tendencies, they may feel self-conscious of their own decisions.

Don’t Be “That Parent”

At some point, we all become the parent who watches their child a little too closely. We don’t want to be the bad guy, but we also don’t want to raise entitled brats. So how exactly can you prevent yourself from becoming “that parent” while still keeping our kids safe?

Don’t Hover

First and foremost, don’t hover. For your child to grow into a unique person, you need to let them experience things on their own. Even if this means they fall sometimes, your only job is to be there to help them up and encourage them to keep going. After all, they won’t learn if you’re always there to save the day.

Researchers have found that both experiencing traumatic events and not experiencing tough situations at all can have detrimental effects in adulthood. If a child grew up with helicopter parents, they might experience issues performing regular adult tasks. Children of helicopter parents may experience the following:

  • Difficulty finding a job.
  • Trouble coping with problems, both minor and more serious.
  • Being told, “No.”
  • Anxiety and depression stemming from the above issues.

It’s important to let your child make mistakes while they’re young. These mistakes turn into lessons that they can carry with them into adulthood and ultimately help them cope easier during tough times.

parents with child

Let Go Of The Negatives

When your child experiences pain or failure, try not to fall into the negative mindset and continuously ask if they’re doing okay. When you use negative wording while your child is struggling, they’ll be more likely to develop a hesitant inner voice. A negative mindset may discourage them from trying new things in the future.

Instead of asking “Are you okay?” or “Do you really think you can do that on your own?”, consider more positive encouragement. Positive encouragement sounds like “Let me know if you’d like some help” or “I know it hurts, but it will feel better with a little time.”

Get A Life Outside Of Your Children

If you’re spending every waking moment focusing on your kids, you can start to lose your sense of self. Having other friends or a hobby will help ensure you’re spending less time worrying about what your kids are doing. Plus, having your own life shows your children that there is more to life than being a parent.

Don’t Run From Your Issues

Your kids shouldn’t be an excuse not to take care of yourself. Your kids are their own person, and they shouldn’t serve as an escape from your real-life issues. If you’re suffering from anxiety, find a doctor and get help. Your kids will benefit much more from a mom or dad who takes care of problems as they arise.

Back Up A Few Steps, Please

Parenting is a tough business. We’re tasked with raising kids from birth into adulthood and we’re expected to mold them into productive members of society. It’s certainly a stressful concept to ponder, which makes it easy to overthink and over-worry about our kids.

Helicopter parenting is an all too common issue when it comes to making parenting decisions. After all, we want our kids to be successful. Unfortunately, helicopter parenting has the opposite effect on their growth, and it’s a habit we need to break.

If you find yourself hawking down your child’s teachers and coaches on the regular, it may be time to reevaluate your parenting techniques. So back up a few steps, please.

Howard is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice. When he isn't spending time with his wife, Kristin, or his two children, he can often be found running around on the tennis court.