Am I a Helicopter Parent?

helicopter1By: Abby Bordner

Lately the headlines have been disturbing. Children of helicopter parenting are more likely to have
anxiety and be depressed. Helicopter parenting is ruining our children’s ability to manage failure. More divorce among helicopter parents.

I was actually called a helicopter parent once. My son was in ski lessons and I saw his class on the slopes. I stopped on my way down the hill to say hello and asked his instructor if I could ride up the chair lift with my son. He told me, “We have a name for parents like you. Helicopter parents.” I was embarrassed. It had never occurred to me that there was something overbearing about my parenting. In my shame, I backed off and let them go on with their class and didn’t return until it was pick up time.

My parenting style started in attachment parenting. It felt very intuitive to me to respond to my children, comfort them and develop a secure attachment. Then I created Relationship Based Parenting to help myself and other parents on the journey to healthy discipline, family balance and independence. I’ve always emphasized the importance of a loving relationship and that connection is your best teaching tool. 

And I happen to adore my children. I love being around them. I love being involved in their lives. Does that make me a helicopter parent?

Upon further research, I see that helicopter parenting is really based in some very unhealthy and unbalanced parenting choices. Here are some signs that you may be a helicopter parent:

You can’t let go. You have trouble letting them out of your sight and releasing them to the care of others. You become consumed with worry.

You’re anxious. You worry about your children in an obsessive way. You don’t have any faith that they can manage difficulty, stress or failure.

You are excessively involved in their school work, extracurricular activities and friendships. You spend money, time and energy to keep yourself included in their growing independence.

You always give in. To see your child in distress automatically sets of alarm bells in you. You’ll do anything to make them happy again. You often just give them what they want instead of setting limits or allowing for delayed gratification.

These types of parenting choices lead me to believe that helicopter parents are not taking care of themselves.   When I imagine them, I see someone who doesn’t have a good understanding of the growing independence of children throughout their lifetime. Parents are required to hold, protect and love their children. AND also let them go; little by little. A parent learns to read the cues of their children in order to hold them when needed and let go, when beneficial. 

I see this as an issue of self-care. Parents actually need to develop skills to manage their own anxiety, trust their children in the learning process and have their own happiness to lean on as their children grow up.

That’s why I’ve found it so important to work with Moms to develop self-confidence, stress management, find their personal passion and integrate spiritual practices into their daily lives. When I work with Moms in this way, they can adore their children but not become obsessive about them. Her children aren’t the only thing that brings joy and satisfaction to her life.

It’s about healthy family balance. Children have the security to grow and become independent. And parents have the joy of raising their children AND building a well-rounded life that brings them fulfillment, even after their children are grown.

What do you think about helicopter parenting?

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